In July 1980 Maze released its fourth album Joy And Pain, my personal favorite by the band. A great occasion to take a closer look at Maze’s career.
Maze, also known as Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly (or even Frankie Beverly & Maze), is an American soul band dating all the way back to 1970. That year Frankie Beverly founds the band Raw Soul in Philadelphia. After a year or so the band relocated to San Fransisco, where, after a few years, they meet Marvin Gaye. Gaye is enthused by the band and takes them on tour with him as his support act. In 1976 he urges the band to change their name into something that’s more indicative of the laid-back melodious soul the band plays. The birth of Maze.
Gaye talks to Capitol Records and praises the band’s strengths, resulting in a record deal. In 1977 Maze’s debut album is released, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly. The record turns gold and provides the band with a fair number of very dedicated followers, who would remain with the band for their entire career, thus ensuring that every consecutive record reached gold status, at the very least.
In 1978 the second album Golden Time Of Day is released, a year later followed by the beautiful Inspiration. In 1980 Joy And Pain is released, my personal Maze favorite.
Joy And Pain
On July 14th (or 18th), 1980, the fourth Maze album, Joy And Pain, is released. It contains a hit single with Southern Girl, but consists of more classics in Maze’s body of work, like the beautiful title song and Changin’ Times.
The reason this record stands out for me, even though it comes close to the rest, are its compositions and its overall feel, that reasonates slightly more powerful than on previous albums. And yet it’s all typically Maze. The combination of soul, funk, jazz, beautiful melodies and subtle playing, makes the album simply irresistible. It was my third Maze album. My introduction with the band was with the album following this one, the live album that contained quite a number of songs from Joy And Pain.
All songs written by Frankie Beverly.
- Changin’ Times
- The Look in Your Eyes
- Joy And Pain
- Southern Girl
- Frankie Beverly – vocals, piano, synthesizer, guitar
- Roame Lowry – background vocals, percussion
- Robin Duhe – bass
- Billy (Shoes) Johnson – drums
- Ron Smith – guitar
- Sam Porter – organ, piano, synthesizer
- McKinley Williams – percussion, background vocals
Having released four studio albums, time had come for a live album. In 1981 the double live album Live In New Orleans was released. The album clearly shows how good the band played and sounded live. By the way, the last four songs were studio recordings.
In 1983 the album We Are One was released, in 1985 followed by Can’t Stop The Love. In 1986 the second live album, Live In Los Angeles, was released. In 1989 the band moved to Warner Brothers and released Silky Soul, followed by Back To Basics in 1993. It turned out to be Maze’s last studio album.
To this day, the band still tours and sells out venues, particularly in the US. Maze has never gained a substantial following in Europe’s mainland. In the UK however, they were huge for a while. In May 1985 the band sold out London’s Hammersmith Odeon eight (!) nights in a row.
It’s quite remarkable that a band that’s rather unknown with a larger audience and has a relatively small base of followers, is nonetheless held in such high esteem amongst music aficionados. One of the main reasons probably lies in the fact that Maze has always been Maze. Contrary to a lot of the band’s contemporaries, Maze’s organic sound hasn’t aged at all and possesses a timeless quality. Even though Beverly was frustrated at times that the band was primarily targeted at the R&B market (in the US), he has never altered his vision in order to be more successful.
Around the time of the debut album’s release, the record company’s art department was ordered to come up with an album cover that had an image of an actual maze. The result was a hand with seven fingers, that was made up of a maze. The seven fingers represented the number of band members. It was the band’s logo from that time onwards.
Why ‘Featuring Frankie Beverly’?
So why is it that Frankie Beverly is separately named? The band is in fact his brainchild. He sings, writes and produces everything and is responsible for the band’s image and sound. Over the years many band members have come and gone, but Beverly has remained through all those changes making sure the band’s future was secure.
What’s your opinion on Maze? Let me know!
Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly – Live 1982 image: fineartamerica.com
Frankie Beverly & Maze image: creativeloafing.com
All other images: spotify.com