Classics: Maxwell – This Woman’s Work (Columbia)
One of the most overwhelming interpretations one can ever think of… ‘This Woman’s Work’ depicts an unexpected and frightening crisis during the normal event of childbirth. It orginally appeared as a part of the soundtrack of the 1988 John Hughes directed film, ‘She’s Having A Baby’.
It was not Maxwell then but Kate Bush takin’ the centerstage. The British Art-Rock singer including it (although in a slightly retouched version) on her ‘The Sensual World’ album the year after. Meanwhile comin’ to reach some rare level in terms of (soprano) art of singing…
It is to say how seeing a man delivering a cover version of ‘This Woman’s Work’ was such of a challenge. But Neo-Soul icon Maxwell made it. And what a performance he did (to me, one of his absolute peaks)! From his 1997 ‘Unplugged’ album, Maxwell gave it a re-recorded studio version 4 years later that features on his ‘Now’ album. Meanwhile, it got further exposure on the soundtrack of the Gina Prince-Bythewood directed film, ‘Love & Basketball’…
Brooklyn, NY native Gerald Maxwell Rivera stands among the Neo-Soul icons along with Raphael Saadiq, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. The tragic loss of his dad in a plane crash when he was 3 most likely sizzled his temper. Shy, if not introverted, Maxwell built up his own universe. He started composing music by the gae of 17, after a friend offered him a Casio keyboard. A fan of artists such as Patrice Rushen, Rose Royce and S.O.S. Band, he started teaching himself to play various instruments.
Getting access to a 24-track recording studio, he recorded a demo which enegendered interest. Eventually performing soon after at the Nell’s club in Manhattan. With the buzz starting to grow around him, he signed a recording deal with Columbia back in 1994.
From then, Maxwell began recording his debut-album with songwriter Leon Ware and Jazz/Funk guitarist Wah Wah Watson. ‘Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite’ would hit the streets a year later though. Most likely because of management issues with the label.
Despite a low profile start, the album nevertheless made its path thru the charts. Spawning 4 singles. From ‘Til the Cops Come Knockin’ to ‘Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)’ and ‘Sumthin’ Sumthin”. Not to mention ‘Suitelady (The Proposal Jam)’.
MTV soon after offered him to tape an episode of the concert series MTV Unplugged in New York City. This resulting in the release of 7 track EP which included his cover version of Kate Bush‘s ‘This Woman’s Work’ among others.
Maxwell released his second album – ‘Embrya’ – by early 1998. Quite strangely, I gotta say, it received mixed reviews when not heavy criticism in the press. And more precisely the Pop one beginning with Rolling Stone. In other words, those people who always find something to write even though not knowing what they’re talkin’ about! Meanwhile, I couldn’t help enthuzing about the purity of gems such as ‘Luxury Cococure’, ‘Everwanting’ or ‘I’m You: You Are Me And We Are You’.
Besides, I suppose I happened to be far from being the only one. The album selling more than one million copies at the end!
Criticism also welcome the arrival of his third album, ‘Now’, back in 2001. Which didn’t stop it from selling close to 300,000 copies during the first week that followed its release. It featured goodies such as ‘Get To Know You’,’W/As My Girl’ and a re-recorded version of ‘This Woman’s Work’.
Maxwell soon after totally disappeared from the radars. After a 6 year hiatus, he went back to recording activities back in 2007. Releasing his 4th album, ‘BLACKsummers’Night’ on Jul. 07, 2009, which happened to be successful. It would take him another 7 years before comin’ back with the second episode of ‘BLACKsummers’Night’ on Jul. O1, 2016…