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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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine