Well, it's no "Embrya," Maxwell's 1998 modern symphonic R&B masterpiece. No matter how good Maxwell's new album is, that's the gut reaction it solicits. "Now" is chock-full of great songs that perfectly capture Maxwell's sensitive lyricism and musical craftsmanship. But within the context of his four-album career, it seems more of a step back for the artist than anything else.
Judged on its own merits, "Now" is a very good R&B album. Any doubt that Maxwell can jam with the best of them is erased the moment the first single, "Get to Know Ya," comes on. Over a bouncy bass-guitar lick and accentuated by funky horn lines, the artist comes out of the box grooving, and he stays that way for the rest of the album. Whether he maintains a steady tempo on a cut like "No One" or slows it down to a simmer on a song like "Lifetime," Maxwell seems determined here to move listeners back and forth and get them out of their seats. There are 11 songs on the disc, and each one is a ready-made single.
Problem is, Maxwell is so much more than a singles machine.