Maxwell has never quite fulfilled the promise of his lavish debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, an anatomy of a love affair that helped shape the neo-soul movement. Twenty years on, the New Yorker’s voice remains a potent instrument – supple, vulnerable and seemingly effortless – while his songs, for all their electronic touches, are still anchored in soul’s 70s golden age. That’s fine when the end result is as memorable as the ballad Lake By the Ocean, all stop-start drums and Maxwell’s smooth falsetto. But where his debut was part Marvin Gaye, part Prince, blackSummers’ Night is light on funk, making its creator, in the era of Frank Ocean, look like the yesterday’s man of R&B.
Paul Mardles is a subeditor on the Observer New Review