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It's Uniquely Maxwell

*** 1/2 MAXWELL "Embrya" Columbia

June 28, 1998|Connie Johnson

Maxwell is a different breed of love god. While he's most frequently compared to the late Marvin Gaye--who also possessed a dreamily eccentric style--this New York native is too much of an original to wholly compare to anybody else.

Lapsing into Spanish on one track, then calling on Hawaiian musical references on "Drowndeep: Hula," Maxwell finds more than one way to seduce listeners. And while he undoubtedly has his share of male devotees, let's be upfront about this--any guy who's quoted as saying he pays homage to the female gender by singing in falsetto definitely has one specific fan base in mind.

Maxwell's 1996 debut, "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite," was somewhat derivative of Gaye's languid, atmospheric '70s-era sound. But tracks here, ranging from the wildly romantic "Luxury: Cococure" to the reverential "Matrimony: Maybe You," are pure Maxwell. Comparing him to any other urban artist, past or present, would be foolhardy. With each record, he breaks new ground and grows more confident.

Like Gaye, Maxwell is hard to pigeonhole, tough to do justice to in a capsulized description. He's definitely an artist to whom others will one day look for ideas and inspiration.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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