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Recognized as one of the originators of the neo-soul movement in contemporary r&b, Maxwell's brand of lush, romantic music has earned him both critical and commercial acclaim while helping to turn the tide against the crude sexuality of much of his peers. 

Born to Puerto Rican and Caribbean heritage on May 23, 1973, his childhood was marked by the death of his father when he was three years old.    Throughout his youth, he was perceived as extremely shy, which made it difficult for peers to understand interest in music.  Undaunted by their criticism, Maxwell eventually signed with Columbia in 1994.

His debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, turned heads with its committment to classic soul themes of romance and fidelty.  Featuring collaborations with Wah Wah Watson, Leon Ware and Stuart Matthewman, the record went platinum on the strength of the singles "Ascension" and "Til The Cops Come Knockin'," and Maxwell was considered a sex symbol, often described as a more sensitive Prince.

An appearance on the MTV program Unplugged was the basis of his next record.   Replaying the concept of Urban Hang Suite in a live context and sprinkled with covers of rock musicians, the disc was nominated for a Grammy.

As he was approaching superstar status, Maxwell's next release was 1998's Embrya.  Compared to the straightforward direction of his debut, Embrya was far more conceptual, leading some to claim that his desire to create ambitious music had turned him into a self-absored artist.  These comments were eerily similar to those faced by Terence Trent D'Arby upon the release of his Neither Fish Nor Flesh, but unlike D'Arby, Maxwell retained his fan base with Embrya, another platinum record.  He also contributed to the soundtracks of The Best Man and Life, with the latter producing his biggest hit in "Fortunate." 

In a move that suggests he may have taken the criticism surrounding Embrya to heart, Maxwell's third full-length, Now, was praised for its similarity to Urban Hang Suite.  Debuting at number one, it became his became his best-selling release, launching hit singles in "This Woman's Work," "Get to Know Ya" and "Lifetime."  

Maxwell's Deepest Grooves

Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (Columbia, 1996)
Hailed by some as revelatory upon release, this album helped to define neo-soul as a return to "real" soul music. Frequently compared to Marvin Gaye's I Want You, this album is a celebration of love and meaningful relationships. "Ascension" will be remembered as one of the classic neo-soul tunes, with "Sumthin' Sumthin" and "Whenever, Whatever, Whoever" not far behind.   

MTV Unplugged (Columbia, 1997)
An abbreviated performance of the debut, this release proved Maxwell could deliver on stage as well as in the studio. His decision to remake material from Kate Bush and Nine Inch Nails threw many for a curve, yet it solidified his reputation as a critical darling.

Embrya (Columbia, 1998)
The sophomore slump eludes Maxwell as he crafts a more expansive song suite that garnered comparisons to Smokey Robinson for his mastery of ballads.

Now (Columbia, 2001)
Five years after his national breakthrough, Maxwell's music remains the textbook definition of smooth soul.  Pessimists will say that the atmospheric production is a mask to cover his lyrical defiencies, but there were few albums released in 2001 that could eclipse Now.

Copyright 2003  All rights reserved.

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