Having reviewed all of Maxwell's studio albums I thought one thing was left and that was to review his excellent MTV Unplugged Live album. I am a huge fan of Maxwell's music and he is one of my favourite male R&B artists. I have had the album for nearly four years and it started my big love for Maxwell as an artist. The album was recorded in New York City as part of the hugely popular MTV Unplugged series which has seen an array of well known artists perform. This particular show was recorded in 1997 and features eight live performances from Maxwell. He performed two covers which were extremely well received, these were the Kate Bush track "This Woman's Work" and Nine Inch Nails "Closer".
**MTV Unplugged Maxwell**
Having released one album there wasn't much material for Maxwell to perform though he combined six songs from the debut release "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite" with two cover versions, one of which he would later record on the album "Now".
1.) The Suite Urban Theme
This is an excellent opening track for the Live show, It is one of the heavier moments from the show but still keeps a lovely smooth neo soul sound. There's some lovely strings in the background which bring the emotion. As does the lovely horn section. Maxwell's vocals are effortless emotive and he showcases the fine falsetto which gets even better on the exceptional "This Woman's Work". The track gets catchier and more up tempo around the middle and the crowd sway along to the music, this part is a real toe tapper and showcases a different side to his music. Good start.
2.) Mello: Sumthin (The Hush)
This is a lovely track which starts instantly as he goes straight in after the end of the opener. The vocals are terrific, not just from Maxwell but also the backing vocalists who are really on form. There's some excellent horn parts here and the music is smooth and soulful. The gorgeous falsetto is there from Maxwell and the crowd integration is a nice feature of his live performance as he interacts with the audience to see if they are enjoying the show so far. This track hints at much more to come and delights with some excellent vocals and musicianship.
3.) The Lady Suite
Another excellent live performance here, this again showcases some fine vocals from Maxwell and shows more of his fine falsetto before the next track which he sings almost all of in falsetto. The music is excellent on this track with some lovely keyboard tones and saxophone. The track ends abruptly and then there is a spoken part leading into the next track where he talks about the track.
4.) This Woman's Work
There comes a time every so often where you hear a cover version of a song you didn't like before but the new version is one you really love and this is one such example for me. I am not a fan of the Kate Bush original but when I heard this version I was instantly hooked. This was my introduction to the wonderful music of Maxwell. The falsetto is amazing and he takes this song into an incredible emotive territory which is just beautiful. This is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard and is also one of the most masterful cover versions too. The live performance is breathtakingly beautiful and one day I hope to witness it in person. Simply stunning and the clear standout from the performance.
5.) Whenever, Whatever, Wherever
This is another beautiful performance, It opens with some lovely strings and then Maxwell's emotive voice comes in which brings a huge round of applause from the audience. His vocals are excellent on this one too and he really builds the song wonderfully well with excellent emotion. This is a real contender for second best track from the performance as the clear best track is the previous track "This Woman's Work". This however is also a beautiful song and the performance is excellently done which ends with a lovely falsetto part and the music fades out wonderfully.
6.) Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)
This track features a short introduction and interaction with the audience. This is another excellent performance which features some decent backing vocals and the music flows well throughout. It's another strong track which showcases the talent of both Maxwell and of course his band which includes the backing vocalists who add a decent part to the overall feel of the track. Good stuff.
7.) Gotta Get: Closer
This is a catchy mid tempo neo soul track which has a good vibe. This is an interesting cover of Nine Inch Nails original "Closer". you wouldn't expect a neo soul artist like Maxwell to cover a band like NIN but again you probably wouldn't have thought he would cover Kate Bush either and look how good a job he did of that. amazing. This is a vibrant version of the Nine Inch Nails track which works rather well and gets the audience up and onto their feet to dance and sway. Good stuff.
8.) Till The Cops Come Knockin
This is a fine ending to the performance and is a lovely sensual ballad about making rather a lot of noise whilst "getting it on". Maxwell's falsetto shines yet again and this track really gives a great example of his talent and the beauty of the music. This is another contender for second best track from the performance as "This Woman's Works" is clearly the best track. I like the way the album ends with this one and the audience response is one of great enjoyment and respect.
This album may only have eight tracks but there's more than enough here to get a sense of what a great Live performer Maxwell is and just how good a singer he is too. The best tracks on the album are amongst the best of his career and this live album is a fine example of his talent and also a fine installment of the well known and very successful MTV Unplugged Live album series. If you like Maxwell then get this album and see what you could be witnessing if he ever comes back to the UK, He's releasing his sixth studio album sometime soon and if it's any good as his five already then it will be an excellent album. I'd love for him to produce another live album too with songs from his whole career.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Suite Urban Theme (The Hush)
2 Mello: Sumthin (The Hush)
3 The Lady Suite
4 This Woman's Work
5 Whenever Wherever Whatever
6 Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)
7 Gotta Get: Closer
8 Til The Cops Come Knockin'