Maze

Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly/Golden Time of Day

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Music critic Jonathan Gold once compared Maze fans to Grateful Dead fans. That might seem like an odd comparison -- those two bands don't sound anything alike, although both have a Bay Area connection. But then, Gold was comparing their audiences, not their music. And his analogy is a good one because Maze fans have the sort of intense, unwavering devotion that Deadheads are known for. A concert, like the Dead's concert, is more than a concert -- it's almost like a secular revival meeting. Serious Maze devotees will tell you that its music is the essence of soul, and listening to this release, it isn't hard to see why they feel that way. Assembled in 1999, this two-CD set contains its first two albums: its self-titled debut album of 1977 and its sophomore effort, Golden Time of Day (1978). Though Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly is the more essential of the two, Golden Time of Day is also excellent. These are the albums that put Maze on the map and established Frankie Beverly as one of R&B's true heavyweights; gritty yet polished classics like "Happy Feelin's," "Lady of Magic," and "Look at California" made Maze a household word in R&B. When these two albums came out in the late 1970s, it was obvious that Maze and Frankie Beverly weren't bandwagon jumpers. Their distinctive sound -- an appealing blend of Philly soul and Marvin Gaye -- wasn't relevant to the disco scene. And even though this double-CD contains some infectious funk grooves ("Workin' Together," "Colorblind"), it isn't the sort of hard, gutbucket funk that Parliament/Funkadelic, Cameo, and the Bar-Kays were providing -- Maze's funk was a smoother, more laid-back style. Anyone with a taste for 1970s soul should make a point of obtaining this double CD.

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