The conventional wisdom is that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in many settings it’s true. Popular music, however, is generally guided by another, more cynical line of thought: Out of sight, out of time. Artists are either consistently releasing new material, performing on awards shows, guesting on talk shows or crisscrossing the nation on tour or they simply don’t exist for much of the short-attention-span general public.
This scenario has played out again and again through the failed comebacks of once white-hot acts who have been greeted by icy indifference following breaks that were ill-timed or simply lasted too long.
The most likely to beat these odds are the legacy artists — the stars who have been in the game for years and have produced a deep, hits-laden catalog. They can rely on the fact that they’re being played by some outlet somewhere in the world at any hour of the day or night.
While he looked to be on his way straight out of the gate with the stunning “Urban Hang Suite,” soul singer Maxwell certainly hadn’t yet achieved legacy status when he went into self-imposed exile at the beginning of the decade. In fact, he’d only released three studio albums. Critics and fans alike spent the ensuing eight years wondering when — and eventually if — the talented singer/songwriter/producer would return…and whether anyone would still care either way.
Now that Maxwell’s long-delayed fourth album, “BLACKsummers’night” (Columbia), has been issued and made its debut atop the “Billboard” chart, those questions have been answered emphatically. So what then of the quality of the record — was it worth the wait?
My opinion is a solid “yeah, pretty much.”
The album was recorded live with a crack 10-piece band and hit lead single “Pretty Wings” is a good marker for the full nine-track set. This is raw, soulful music about grown folks dealing with grown folks’ issues: love, relationships, sex. No poppin’ bottles, duets with flavor-of-the-minute rappers or droppin’ it like it’s hot to be found.
Reportedly, “BLACKsummers’night” is the first act of a musical trilogy to be released in consecutive years. I hope this is true for my sake as well as Maxwell’s. I don’t want to go without another album from him for such a long time, and he ought not tempt fate with another vanishing act.
Erika Jayne’s first two singles (“Stars,” “Roller Coaster”) topped the “Billboard” Club Play chart, now her third release, “Give You Everything,” has climbed into the top 10. It’s a fantastic out-of-the-gate start for an artist hoping to establish herself with her first album. Jayne’s beat-heavy, 14-cut collection “Pretty Mess” (E1 Music) will be released Aug. 11 and promises to continue spinning off hit singles well into the winter. My advice is to jump on the Erika Jayne train early; it’s undoubtedly going somewhere you’ll want to be.