Today in Music History (April 2): Maxwell arrives, and changes everything

April 2, 1996 – Maxwell’s releases his debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite

Arguably the most celebrated new Soul Music artist to emerge in the mid-90s, Maxwell arose as a curious combination of romanticism and sexuality, of spirituality and sensuality, much like Marvin Gaye a generation earlier.  His studio albums and one live album were huge and he remains a revered, somewhat enigmatic figure decades after his arrival.

Maxwell was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father (who sadly died in a plane crash when Maxwell was three years old). As a teen, he was a huge fan of such acts as Patrice Rushen and Rose Royce, who successfully combined technology with real musicianship. He began to develop a following for his music and for his very personal style in clothing and grooming.

April 2, 1996 – Maxwell’s releases his debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite

Arguably the most celebrated new Soul Music artist to emerge in the mid-90s, Maxwell arose as a curious combination of romanticism and sexuality, of spirituality and sensuality, much like Marvin Gaye a generation earlier.  His studio albums and one live album were huge and he remains a revered, somewhat enigmatic figure decades after his arrival.

Maxwell was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father (who sadly died in a plane crash when Maxwell was three years old). As a teen, he was a huge fan of such acts as Patrice Rushen and Rose Royce, who successfully combined technology with real musicianship. He began to develop a following for his music and for his very personal style in clothing and grooming.

He was signed by Columbia Records and caught the ear of legendary songwriter Leon Ware and guitarist Wah Wah Watson, who worked with him over two years on what would become his landmark debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. Columbia wasn’t sold that the album would find an audience, and the label held the album for a full year, finally releasing it on this date in 1996.

The result was one of the most important and influential albums of the decade. While it was a bit of a slow burner, Hang Suite made up for it with longevity, spending a year and a half on the charts, and landing major hits with “…Til the Cops Come Knockin’,” “Ascension,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” and “Suitelady.” It also established Maxwell as a leading soul man – and artist with a sense of music history but with a feel that was 100% contemporary. The disc became universally acknowledged as a masterpiece, and it remained a power on the charts for nearly a year and half.

Note: Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite with the release of a remastered digital edition of the album. The 25th anniversary digital edition has been remastered for the first time at 24bit Hi-Res Audio with 2021 engineering by Mark Wilder.

Maxwell has stayed relevant in the years since, even though he has recorded extremely sporadically. And his more than a quarter century of fame all began with the release of his auspicious debut album on this day in 1996.

 

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