Maxwell

Embrya

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AllMusic Review by

Maxwell's ambition was one of the appealing qualities of his debut, Urban Hang Suite, especially since very few of his contemporaries were attempting to expand the boundaries of contemporary R&B. However, blessings can be curses, and that very ambition gets the better of Maxwell on his second album, Embrya. Loaded with pretentious song titles ("Gestation: Mythos," "Arroz con Pollo," "Luxury: Cococure"), the album bogs down in its own sophistication and his desire to make deep, serious music. Like Terence Trent d'Arby -- whose Neither Fish Nor Flesh offers a frightening parallel to Embrya -- Maxwell wants to be so much more than just another soul crooner, but his gifts become obscured the more he pushes them forward. To be sure, Embrya is far from a washout. Maxwell does have a remarkable voice and he can write really good modern soul songs -- it's just that he has a tendency to think that's not enough and then he overstuffs his songs with ideas that lead nowhere. With a little more focus, Embrya could have been an impressive second step. As it stands, it's a bit of a sophomore stumble, albeit one with promising moments.

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