They don’t have shelves groaning with trophies, are the least-flossiest band of their 70s-era peers and their last CD of all-new material dropped nearly twenty years ago, but this hasn’t stopped soul band Maze---along with instrumentalist, lyricist and lead vocalist, Howard “Frankie” Beverly---from amassing eight gold-selling CDs, millions of loyal fans, decades of sold-out concert performances and an instantly recognizable collection of era-defining, heavily-rotated jams. The test of a classic is how many people will jump out of their seats when the first notes ring out; if the goal is to generate a ‘flash mob’ of dancing and cheering soul fans at a wedding, family reunion, cook-out or even a car wash, find a Maze track, crank the volume, press ‘play’ and repeat. Voila, instant throw-down!
If it’s been years since you’ve updated the music library, a cousin moved away with your last Maze anthology or you just want to revisit the classics with digital clarity and portability, then you couldn’t have picked a better time to do it: to commemorate Black Music Month, coincide with an upcoming summer tour and celebrate the 35th anniversary of the seminal band joining the roster at Capitol/EMI Records, the label is releasing Greatest Hits: 35 Years of Soul.
Containing fifteen of Maze’s most recognizable grooves and ballads, Greatest includes their 1989 hit, “Silky Soul,” along with some of the group’s most beloved songs, all as crisp and resonant as the first time you may have experienced them. There’s the supple sweetness that unfolds from “Golden Time of Day,” the plucky and guitar-driven unity anthem, “Workin’ Together” and the lofty spirituality that emanates from “We Are One.” Latin flavor seeps through the mid-tempo seduction-on-the-dance-floor tale, “Silky Soul,” and the pair of live versions--- “Joy And Pain” and “Happy Feelin’s”---should please even the purists, since the smatterings of cheers and applause are the only factors that keep tracks from sounding identical to the studio-generated versions.
Greatest….may fall short for some (“I Wanna Thank You,” “I Wish You Well” and“Never Let You Down,” some of the Philiadelphia native’s most eloquent and understated performances, are omitted), but for fans who enjoy the band’s faster-paced numbers and want to contribute to their success in the iPod era, it’s hard to resist the expertise and exuberance heard in this collection of well-crafted, party-starting nuggets of San Francisco-created soul. Recommended.
By Melody Charles