Embrya (Columbia Records)
Hello one and all, the long anticipated sophomore cd from one of the premiere artists of our generation, namely Maxwell, is here! It is entitled "Embrya", or as I refer to it "The Liquid Album" and it is perfect! Perhaps perfect is too modest a word? More along the lines of sublime?
After the phenomenal success of his first album "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite" with it's critical acclaim by many who hailed him as "the next Marvin Gaye". (I Think Not! Two different men with different creative persona's...both wonderful though) Maxwell has taken on a different approach to this album than the first. Gone is the modesty of not having his mug plastered on the cover of his album. What comes with this contribution is what you see now, his full frontal face in all it's glory! Embrya feels like a totally new love experience with Maxwell. This time around he is setting more moods and seems to have gained a vibe of maturation with his lyrics and arrangements. This album, just as UHS, is lined with message and meaning. The message here being, the rebirth of himself, soul inclined. It is said that on Embrya, Maxwell pays tribute to the personal shedding of his past love affair with one woman, a re-affirming of God/Spirituality and of self.
On Embrya he is making an attempt to look towards his future with all involved and finding higher ground and enriching levels. As usual Maxwell remains dedicated to the mission of womanhood, thereby re-creating the word embryo from it's masculine tense to attune it to the affinity of women and our place within the process of life-giving. To say that this album is subtle or direct would be the biggest understatement of all. From the track titles that have double meanings to the lyrics that scream split connotations he takes us on a ride that is at times both enthralling and confusing. The titles alone leave you wondering just where this brotha wants your mind to go, east or west, up or down? His decided play on words and obvious attempt to keep us spellbound is a winner to some of his fans, it lends substance to his sound and persona. To others, it may feel like a slight to their mentality, a ton of double talk with empty meaning and glossy beats.
The album as a whole is a mixture of all sorts, from atmospheric instrumental sets that fall into one another and pour like liquid to the sometimes funk lined tracks that ooze what now is called the "80's sound". Maxwell has a little something for all who will listen.
There are so many high points throughout the album that it seems almost irrelevant to point out the faults. On "Gestation: Mythos", a hidden track, finding it is the biggest thrill I derived from it. It's a cryptic track with overlapping voices, all meshed to tell a story that I personally feel would be best done if he were to speak it himself. On "Everwanting To Want You to Want", Max gets into some of that funk that I mentioned. It is a track that is graced with some of that pure '80s instrumentation that many of us grew up with from the likes of the SOS Band to Patrice Rushen, Max borrows the technology here from a good place in time. Track 2, "I'm You:You Are Me And We Are You (pt me & you)", is where we truly begin to see the track titles that continue to the point of excess. This song is an mid-tempo track laced with great strings and vocals. This is the only song on the album where Maxwell incorporates his bi-lingual abilities by adding a splash of Espanol. It includes that caribbean flavor that exudes throughout almost every song on the 11 track album.
On "Luxury:Cococure", the initial release from Embrya, is another mid-tempo track with Maxwell at some of his vocal best. It is a song bathed in smooth instrumentation. "Drowndeep:Hula" is one of my favorites. It is such a lush song! My gosh, it takes you away with it's mellow flow and carribean textured background effects. It is a really gorgeous song and I think Max is once again at his vocal best here. "Matrimony:Maybe You", great song, wonderful beats. This song has a lot of European/UK sound to it. I can feel London throughout this track. It has a certain groove and it's chorus sticks mental. "Arroz Con Pollo", the only instrumental on the album is straight funk! Tight all the way around.
"Know These Things:Shouldn't You", my favorite on the album, is such a tender and expressive song. You will melt into it and your soul will surely be touched with it's strong and honest lyrics. It moves along the lines of his former "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever" from his UHS and Unplugged albums. "Submerge:Til We Become The Sun", another of those "mood" songs, phenomenal instrumentation, it is like nothing you will hear out of most artists today. Lyrically, vocally, instrumentally enthralling! "Gravity: Pushing To Pull" is simple put...deep! Another favorite. The final track which also happens to be the title "Embrya" is what sounds to be, a amniocentesis session at a doctor's office. It is the sound of liquid. Mysterious indeed.
In all, this entire album deserves and receives a strong 5! "Embrya" is such a well rounded, totally balanced piece of work. It goes by all too quickly while listening, with each song falling into the next gracefully. This album should become like your TV Guide, I feel that everyone should have a copy of it simply because it is truly different from anything you will hear this year, I guarantee that. Maxwell is making himself into the end all artist of this upcoming millennium. He is breaking new ground and setting industry standards on creativity and technical balance within the field of music. There is no one like him thus far and for that I am thankful. He is a trend setter indeed. Pick up your household copy of "Embrya" today!