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Performer: Maxwell (R&B)
Distributor: Sony BMG
Notes: Personnel: Maxwell (vocals); Stuart Matthewman (guitar, baritone saxophone, keyboards, synthesizer, bass, programming); Reggie Hamilton (guitar, bass); Greg Moore (guitar); Gerald Terack, Matthew Raimondi (violin); Veronica Salas (viola); Susan Poliacik (cello); Gloria Agostini (harp); Russell Gun (trumpet); Clark Gayton (trombone); Darrell Smith (keyboards, synthesizers, programming, background vocals); Carl Carter (bass); Gene Lake, Kerri Griffin (drums); Bashiri Johnson, Daniel Sadownick (percussion); Sherry, Mike, Jose, Randy (background vocals). EMBRYA was nominated for a 1999 Grammy for Best R&B Album. "Matrimony: Maybe You" was nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Having established himself as a primary torchbearer for the romanticism of vintage 70's soul, Maxwell uses his third album EMBRYA to tread the same path as Al Green, walking the tightrope between spirituality and sensuality. On selections with some rather tongue-twisting titles, Maxwell takes the business of love and relationships seriously. Awash in Barry White-influenced arrangements, "I'm You: You Are Me And We Are You (pt me & you)" looks at all of humanity combining to form a higher consciousness. Elsewhere, the young vocalist uses "Luxury: Cococure" to bid adieu to a dead affair and greet the possibilities of getting to know himself, as a creamy beat pulses throughout the song. Between his delicate falsetto, innumerable quiet interludes and his re-teaming with Sade sideman Stuart Matthewman, the romance oozing from this record makes Maxwell's EMBRYA the soundtrack to a quiet storm of erotic interaction.
Rolling Stone (8/6/98, pp.67-68) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...EMBRYA is where Maxwell takes his pretensions to the bank...he has the voice and the passion to get away with it; he flexes his charm until over the top feels like the place to be..." Spin (8/98, pp.136-137) - 7 (out of 10) - "...Heavy on lambent surf guitar and hop-a-long wah-wah pedaling, lighter on memorable melodies than its predecessor, EMBRYA comes off as a tad New Agey, art-rock pretentious, emotionally calculated, and sappy. But what great rhythm and blues about the pit of desire doesn't?..." Entertainment Weekly (7/10/98, pp.71-72) - "...In the course of only two albums, Maxwell has vaulted from wanting to recreate the mood of vintage soul to wanting to make his own combination of Marvin Gaye's LET'S GET IT ON and Stevie Wonder's JOURNEY THROUGH THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS..." - Rating: B+ Q (2/02, p.124) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...A sensual, liquid-soul soundtrack..."
In the hip-hop mid 1990s, neo-traditionalist R&B singer Maxwell had the nerve to look back to the aesthetics of '70s soul for inspiration, specifically to the influence of Al Green and Marvin Gaye. More surprisingly, he was able to pull it off, becoming a mega-star after the release of his masterly debut, MAXWELL'S URBAN HANG SUITE, a concept album about monogamy that rejected male braggadocio and instead explored the theme of old-fashioned, romantic love. Since then, he's actively worked toward becoming even more of a latter-day Reverend Green, with songs that walk the tightrope between spirituality and sensuality.
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