Maxine Miller

Showcase

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Because of her many early tours with Sugar Minott, Maxine Miller is often considered a Youth Promotion discovery though in fact, the vocalist began her career at Wackies in the early '80s. There she cut a stream of excellent singles for producer Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes, several of which would feature on a variety of the label's compilations, while six, in their extended "disco mix" format, were gathered together on her Showcase album. Barnes released a slew of these Showcase sets, but none better deserved the title than Miller's, for the songs not only beautifully display her phenomenal vocals, but also Barnes' sensational riddims. Of them all, arguably "Wake Up and Live" best epitomized his work, a luminescent version of Alton Ellis' "I'm Just a Guy." Built around a muscular one-drop rhythm, the arrangement drenches the riddim in melody, smoothly gushing forth from the brass section, and bounding dizzily from the piano and organ. Miller's sweet, stirring performance on that number is a revelation, leaving Barnes, who duets with her, in the dust. "One Love," is also a conscious number, but here Miller shows off her best soul styling, equalling it on her cover of "C.C. Rider." It's the romantic numbers "So I Can Love You" and "Confession," however, that best display her inner strength. In contrast, the lovelorn "How Many Times" is offered up in lovely R&B fashion, while the backup singers doo-wop behind her. Miller's star quality imbues this entire set; in her, Barnes had found an equal to his stellar riddims. Every one of them is worthy of note, each of the arrangements is inspired, the musicianship fabulous throughout, while the extended mixes provide the opportunity to appreciate Barnes' own genius. Miller would go on to greater fame, but her work here laid the foundation for it, while the album itself remains one of Wackies best vocal sets.

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