THERE'S NOTHING terribly heavy about either Maze or its mastermind, Frankie Beverly, nor is there meant to be. This band presents mainstream black pop on its most basic terms, keeping the groove strong, the melodies lush and the textures smooth. Which is, no doubt, how Maze has maintained such a consistent and loyal audience. For despite its lack of adventurousness, this is a band that always delivers the goods.
Granted, sometimes there are secondhand goods: "Can't Stop the Love," the group's latest album, leads off with the hit single "Back in Stride," which owes much to the sound of Sly Stone; "Reachin' Down Inside" is a falsetto ballad strongly reminiscent of the Isley Brothers; and "I Want to Feel I'm Wanted" finds Beverly working out over the bouncy bassline in much the same way Luther Vandross might.
Vocally, Beverly is well equipped for such impressions; his voice ranges easily from a gruff baritone to a sweet falsetto, lending itself to a wide stylistic and emotional range. But the bottom line of Maze's appeal is the way the rest of the band fills out Beverly's vocal visions with solid, tuneful funk, making this album utterly enjoyable without bothering it with any heavy content.