2016 brought us many new and exciting sounds on vinyl, but it also brought us a 20th anniversary colored vinyl release of a 1996 classic from Brooklyn native, Maxwell.
This iconic record was released when American culture was beginning to come down from the early 90's Grunge wave that had consumed it for years, while Hip Hop was beginning to completely consume the radio airwaves of the United States. The sounds of the ghetto, perpetuated by the Gangsta Rap that had taken over the musical underground in the early 90's, was beginning to seep into mainstream music, by way of Hip Hop artists that began making radio-friendly music that was influenced more on the potential of high record sales than it was on struggle of America's urban youth. Alternative music was also becoming more Pop friendly than the Grunge that had come and mostly gone by 1996.
1996 had its own little unique sub-genres of music, including a revival of Swing Jazz, brought about by bands such as Cherry Poppin' Daddies, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the like, as well as a surge in British Trip-Hop music, fueled by such acts as Morcheeba, Massive Attack, Olive and new sounds from older acts like Everything But the Girl.
In the middle of all the change going on across the radio waves, a soft-spoken R&B act from New York emerged. Gerald Maxwell Rivera was the child of a Hatian mother and Puerto Rican father, whom undoubtedly introduced him to sounds that many American children would have never experienced. After his father died in a plane crash, when the young Maxwell was only three years old, he became a devoutly religious person. As a young church goer, Maxwell began his then amateur singing career in a Baptist church.
As Maxwell matured, so did his musical talents. From his youth through the time he began working on his debut album (which was started when Maxwell was fresh into his 20's), he taught himself a variety of instruments. Along the way, he also began to become familiar with recording equipment and studio tools. Work on the album took place in 1994 and 1995, when it was shelved for nearly a year by Columbia Records, who had signed him early in 1994. The label was not only facing many changes in its infrastructure, but they also lacked the confidence that Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite would be a commercially viable record.
Upon its release, the talents of this amazing young artist not only surprised the record label, but listeners all across the world. With his unique brand of Neo-Soul, mainly inspired by the Soul of the early 80's, Maxwell was poised to mark his place in the world of music.
Soft spoken, sincere and sensual,the music found on this record is fresh and unique. One of the only acts to nail the sound that Maxwell perfected on this album is Sade, which comes as no surprise, as Stuart Matthewman of Sade was also involved with the early albums of Maxwell.
So, do yourselves a favor... turn the lights down low, pour a glass of wine, and sit back and relax to the stirring, soothing sounds of Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. From the Neo Soul sounds to the emotionally intense hit single, "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever", the album is sure to please from start to finish.
For you audiophiles, this album was released on metallic gold 150 gram vinyl. While I am never a fan of solid colored vinyl, this album does have an amazing warm quality full of deep bass and crisp trebles. It is, to my recollection, one of the best sounding solid colored vinyl records I have ever heard.