Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Random Review #91 Maxwell - MTV Unplugged

C7S8CD12 Anyone remember MTV when it used to play music? Not necessarily good music all of the time but it did play music some of which I haven’t heard before and every now and again with MTV Unplugged a platform that could really change people’s opinions of a band.

Unplugged was a studio based concert with an audience with the artists stripping down their music using acoustic instruments, Springsteen famously failed to conform and broke out the electric guitar after one song but some artists took the opportunity to do something different, Neil Young, Nirvana, and 10,000 Maniacs are 3 worth checking out. I guess the most famous is Eric Clapton and although I would say the format was easy for him, the stripped down versions of his classics including Layla, and Tears In Heaven struck accord with the general public and I’m guessing a large percentage of the mid forties households have a copy of his Unplugged album.

I haven’t heard of Maxwell prior to stumbling on his MTV Unplugged appearance, I tuned in to see a guy looking very slick in light blue suede shirt and matching trousers, braided hair and a smile wide enough for me to know this guy was going to enjoy himself so I stopped flicking through the music channels and settled down to watch the show.

Maxwell had only released one album prior to this appearance Urban Hang Suite, which had been a bit of a success in the USA. Prior to this I was an old school soul man, assuming that these young pretenders masquerading under the banner of ‘Nu-Soul’ were a watered down version of the soul mastered I loved and therefore they were not worth listening too, how wrong I was! Maxwell I discovered was delivering modern soul with an old soul attitude. I hate to make comparisons but I will, Maxwell has a bit of Marvin Gaye about him. His vocal range and the material, which has a funk edge to it has reminds me in parts of ‘The Master’.

The album feels like the best house party ever and the stage has a couple of settee’s on it and at one point Maxwell is dancing on the settee, the song is called, ‘.....til the Cops come Knockin’ and you get the feel that this gig could have gone on until the Police were at the door!

This album is 35 minutes of funk/soul broken up with one unexpected cover which floored me at the time and still does now. Maxwell introduces track 4, as being 6 or 7 years old and by an artist who in his words is ‘The Bomb’. That artist is Kate Bush and the song is This Woman’s Work. The cover is truly amazing and Maxwell recorded it on his next album such was the reaction from the audience. I was surprised that a ‘Nu-Soul’ would even know about Kate Bush never mind want to cover her music, the fact that he does such a great version just blew me away.

I have all on Maxwell’s albums however I have to say this is the album I play the most, I keep coming back to it, time and time again, it makes me smile and that’s can only be a good thing in my book!

 Mark 9/10

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