I feel confident in saying that if you don’t like Maze, then you are no friend of mine. However If you haven’t heard of Frankie Beverly and Maze, I wouldn’t hold it against you. They didn’t really achieve the crossover success by the likes of sayyyyyy … Stevie Wonder.
A few years back I spent the summer in New York and I can truly say that I had … an … a MAZE ing experience. (I’ll let that settle for a bit.)
The second night out my friend took me deep into Brooklyn to a roof top party. On the way there families were barbecuing outside their walkups and as we approached the the party was I could hear the sounds of a very familiar and classic jam cascading down the side of the building.
One morning as I was shuffling around trying to decide what part of Brooklyn or Manhattan to explore next I suddenly heard a familiar rumble off into the distance. It was clearly a sound system booming from a car that was slowly creeping its way towards my apartment window … boomp boom BOOMP, boomp BOOMP boomp … continuing on and on until the car approached my window and suddenly Frankie Beverly screamed out to me “Before I Let Go”. You almost never hear objectively good music coming out of cars with loaded sound systems.
In that moment that I realized something like this can only happen twice in a place like New York.
But probably also in LA, or Chicago, or maybe Detroit.
I’m not going to pretend that I was the biggest Maze fan growing up. I don’t have a rich family background steeped in R&B classics (my dad listened to big band and my mom liked Abba, Boney M and Donna Summer). I had the classic live album that every DJ has and would sometimes end my sets with the live version Joy & Pain.
It wasn’t until much later when I felt more comfortable playing modern soul and slower jams in my sets that I circled back around to Maze, including tracks like “Southern Girl” and “You” into my opening sets.
Bruce Britt over at the TheUndefeated website chronicles the history of this band that continues to tour even after 40 years. Below is the beginning excerpt and link to the rest of the article.
In 1976, a demo tape came across the desk of Capitol Records vice president Larkin Arnold. The clunky reel-to-reel featured songs written and performed by Raw Soul, an unsigned San Francisco combo that had created a buzz opening shows for Marvin Gaye Arnold cued up the tape and was immediately struck by the band’s deft reconciliation of groove-intensive rhythm and blues and California-style singer/songwriter balladry. “It reminded me,” Arnold recalled, “of a black, Eagles type sound.”