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R&B/Soul - Released March 3, 1996 | Columbia

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Soul - Released July 1, 2016 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Maxwell spent part of the eight years between his third and fourth studio albums walking the Earth, attempting to experience a life resembling that of a human. One of neo-soul's most visible faces, along with Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo, he had been on the music industry's hamster wheel for most of his twenties and needed some tangible inspiration. At some point he got down to scheming and quite a lot of recording; BLACKsummers'night is the first release of a trilogy, with BlackSUMMERS'night (rooted in gospel, with a twist, apparently) and Blacksummers'NIGHT (promised as a disc of slow jams) to follow. Just as he arrived in 1996, offering an alternate option to the exaggerated masculinity that was dominating contemporary R&B, he returns as the airwaves are stuffed with raging hormones expressed through Auto-Tune. He has made no concessions to them. BLACKsummers'night is all devotion, regret, and heartache, written with Now collaborator Hod David and played by a session band, including a horn section, that sounds closer to a touring band that has been supporting the singer for years. The musicians morph with every shift in emotion through arrangements that are unfailingly exquisite and sensitively nuanced, even when they are briskly played. If the singer got into adventures while he was away, he does not detail them during these 38 unified minutes, but he did go through a serious, failed relationship, just as "Pretty Wings," the album's floating pre-album single, suggested. Like the real-life flip side to Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" -- the song Maxwell performed at the 2008 BET Awards, signaling his return -- it's catharsis through bittersweet elegance, equal in its enamored resentment ("You toyed with my affliction/Had to fill out my prescription") and remorse ("I came wrong, you were right/Transformed your love into like"). Although the rest of the album leaves plenty of space for the most common form of pleading, the disarming "Fistful of Tears" is as impassioned as the steamiest moments and indicates the complexity of Maxwell's relationship: "'Cause I go insane, crazy sometimes/Trying to keep you from losing your mind/Open your eyes, see what's in front of your face/Save me my fistful of...tears." For all its dimensions and progress, the album is simultaneously designed to ensure that devoted fans will feel the wait was worth it. After all, its opening lines are "Make me crazy, don't speak no sound/I want you to prove it to me in the nude," and they are sung in falsetto. ~ Andy Kellman

R&B - Released June 12, 2018 | Columbia

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Now

R&B/Soul - Released August 21, 2001 | Columbia

Maxwell is a gifted record-maker, which isn't necessarily the same thing as a gifted songwriter. He has a nice, sweet voice, a healthy love for classic soul from Marvin to Prince, an appealing arty streak largely missing from contemporary R&B, and he can arrange his self-recorded productions quite alluringly, balancing the guitars, synths, drum machines, and horns nimbly, often coming up with fresh songs. If only his songs were as memorable as his sounds! True, Now is more song-centric than his previous releases, barring possibly his debut, but this is still well-crafted mood music in which the overall seductive sound matters more than what he's saying specifically. That's part of the reason why his cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" (revived here after being debuted on his MTV Unplugged) is so startling -- it's not just that he's picked an unlikely source for a great cover, but it's the one time that he marries his sumptuous sound to a song with substance. That's not to say that Now is a bad record -- it's hard to call anything that sounds this good a bad album -- but it's held back by Maxwell's emphasis on sound over song. If he were just making mood music, that would be acceptable, but he's trying to live up to the tradition of Marvin and Prince, and while his productions often live up to that legacy, he has yet to write songs memorable enough to truly justify those comparisons. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released July 7, 2009 | Columbia

Maxwell spent part of the eight years between his third and fourth studio albums walking the Earth, attempting to experience a life resembling that of a human. One of neo-soul's most visible faces, along with Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo, he had been on the music industry's hamster wheel for most of his twenties and needed some tangible inspiration. At some point he got down to scheming and quite a lot of recording; BLACKsummers'night is the first release of a trilogy, with BlackSUMMERS'night (rooted in gospel, with a twist, apparently) and Blacksummers'NIGHT (promised as a disc of slow jams) to follow. Just as he arrived in 1996, offering an alternate option to the exaggerated masculinity that was dominating contemporary R&B, he returns as the airwaves are stuffed with raging hormones expressed through Auto-Tune. He has made no concessions to them. BLACKsummers'night is all devotion, regret, and heartache, written with Now collaborator Hod David and played by a session band, including a horn section, that sounds closer to a touring band that has been supporting the singer for years. The musicians morph with every shift in emotion through arrangements that are unfailingly exquisite and sensitively nuanced, even when they are briskly played. If the singer got into adventures while he was away, he does not detail them during these 38 unified minutes, but he did go through a serious, failed relationship, just as "Pretty Wings," the album's floating pre-album single, suggested. Like the real-life flip side to Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" -- the song Maxwell performed at the 2008 BET Awards, signaling his return -- it's catharsis through bittersweet elegance, equal in its enamored resentment ("You toyed with my affliction/Had to fill out my prescription") and remorse ("I came wrong, you were right/Transformed your love into like"). Although the rest of the album leaves plenty of space for the most common form of pleading, the disarming "Fistful of Tears" is as impassioned as the steamiest moments and indicates the complexity of Maxwell's relationship: "'Cause I go insane, crazy sometimes/Trying to keep you from losing your mind/Open your eyes, see what's in front of your face/Save me my fistful of...tears." For all its dimensions and progress, the album is simultaneously designed to ensure that devoted fans will feel the wait was worth it. After all, its opening lines are "Make me crazy, don't speak no sound/I want you to prove it to me in the nude," and they are sung in falsetto. ~ Andy Kellman
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R&B/Soul - Released June 12, 1997 | Columbia

The very fact that Maxwell performed on MTV Unplugged indicates that he is more ambitious than the average urban soulster, and that suspicion is confirmed by his covers of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" on the program. Both songs, as well as a selection of songs from his debut, Urban Hang Suite, are showcased on the EP MTV Unplugged, which illustrates that he is a skilled, subtle vocalist capable of more nuance than the majority of his contemporaries. As a result, MTV Unplugged, with its soaring vocalists and sexy, sinewy rhythms, only whets the appetite for his second full-length album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B - Released May 1, 1998 | Columbia - Legacy

R&B - Released October 5, 2018 | Columbia

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R&B - Released June 30, 2008 | Columbia - Legacy

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R&B - Released March 21, 2018 | Columbia

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R&B - Released April 8, 2016 | Columbia

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R&B - Released September 7, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

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R&B/Soul - Released April 23, 2009 | Columbia

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R&B - Released June 3, 2016 | Columbia

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R&B - Released December 16, 2016 | Columbia

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R&B - Released December 8, 2009 | Columbia

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R&B - Released May 23, 2017 | Columbia

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R&B - Released August 17, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

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Ambient - Released February 17, 2016 | Dreamland Sounds

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 16, 2016 | A!K!F!

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Maxwell in the magazine