Think of Maxwell as R&B’s Thom Yorke – a cosmic love man riding open-ended grooves that shift from inner exploration to booty motivation in the blink of an eye. He’s always one kiss away from falsetto-powered interstellar overdrive – just seeing his lady’s face inspires “a thousand races into space” on “All the Ways Love Can Feel,” the opening cut on his most consistent set since his debut, Urban Hang Suite, in 1996.
Maxwell anchors the cloud-eating sweep of these tracks with solid guitar and bass hooks. Sure, on “1990x” his idea of a come-on is “Let’s ride the galaxy and find who we are,” but a timpani-fueled boom-bap grounds the trip. When he proclaims he just wants to dance on “III” and then delivers a groove powered by roller-rink Seventies soul organ, it’s pure pleasure. From the dub-reggae bass line of “Lake by the Ocean” to the sunshine-filled horn blasts of “Fingers Crossed,” the music evokes a tradition disappearing before our eyes – the spiritualized eroticism of Prince, the jazzy soul extensions of Earth, Wind and Fire – without ever being of it. Grab ahold, before it’s too late.