In June 2007, I wrote this about Maze featuring Frankie Beverly:
They have nine gold albums, nine top 10 R&B albums (though their pop peak was #25), and nine top 10 R&B singles, including a pair of number ones—but I’d bet you that 99% of non-black America couldn’t tell you who they are. Much more so than even Freddie Jackson, Maze and their leader, Frankie Beverly, are the biggest R&B act you’ve never heard of. Each year, they sell out the Louisiana Superdome during the Essence Superfest (a three-day series of concerts and seminars directed towards the African-American community), and they haven’t released any new music in well over a decade.
Maze is, in that sense (touring, I mean), akin to the Grateful Dead: they can sell out anywhere, anytime. What makes them so special? Their music’s a gumbo of Philly soul (think Teddy Pendergrass), ‘70s Motown (think Marvin Gaye), and a soupcon of funk (think Isley Brothers), with even a little jazz influence thrown in (think Weather Report)—these guys have some serious chops. The last of the great R&B bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s (c’mon, who’s George Clinton playing with these days, anyway?), they lock into a groove and work it for as long as they want.
At the very tail end of 2009, Maze and Beverly finally got a much-deserved tribute album, featuring the likes of Mary J. Blige and Musiq Soulchild covering one of the most solid catalogs in R&B. The album’s lead single was this perfect take on “Can’t Get Over You” by Joe, in which he tones down the beggin’-ass-ness in his voice to better match Beverly’s gorgeous tone (it helps that he sings in the same register). Simply put, this is grown folks’ R&B, and it really couldn’t be better.