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Frankie Beverly and Maze get a CD tribute

Though they have nearly four decades of music behind them, Frankie Beverly and Maze are still considered one of the recording industry's best kept secrets.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Though they have nearly four decades of music behind them, Frankie Beverly and Maze are still considered one of the recording industry's best kept secrets.

Beverly's son, Anthony, is working to change that.

He's paying homage to his father and the group with the release of "Silky Soul Music ... An All-Star Tribute to Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly," which was released digitally this week and will be available in stores Sept. 29. It features Mary J. Blige, Musiq Soulchild, Joe and the Clark sisters, among other acts.

Anthony Beverly, an accomplished drummer and one of album's producers, developed the project, calling it "long overdue."

"I just wanted to honor my father," said Beverly. "I want to properly honor my father's contributions to the industry."

"Not only is this an accomplished group of artists, with diverse and distinctive voices, they are all Frankie Beverly and Maze fans," he added.

Blige does a version of their joyous "Before I Let Go," while Musiq does a rendition of "Silky Soul," the title track on one of the band's most successful releases. The first single, "Can't Get Over You," by Joe, is a cover of another classic hit.

"I tried not to pull too far away from their vibe, because I'm a big fan," Joe said. "But one of the great things about Frankie and Maze is that their sound is still relevant and fresh today. Their concerts remain one of the hottest tickets in town.

"It's kind of sad that these guys have not been recognized as they should and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to jump on this record."

The urban contemporary, funk, soul and R&B group has never received one of the industry's coveted Grammys or other awards, and don't have a platinum album to their credit, but they have several gold albums and continue to perform to sold-out audiences. Their relationship with fans has evolved into an almost cult-like experience.

"His music just reaches down inside of you," said Sedrick Thomas, a fan from New Orleans. "His passion for the music, his lyrics and his ability to sing from the soul, all of that is what the people respond to."

Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner said Beverly and Maze can't easily be categorized, and that can play against them.

"I think a lot of these award shows are interested in what is new and trendy or they stick with what's safe and gets approval from the masses," he said. "Beverly and Maze don't have the same kind of crossover recognition as old-school groups like the Temptations. They're not young, they're not controversial, they're not the flavor of the month either. They're solid R&B performers and they stay in their lane."

John Smith, Maze's lead guitarist for the past 10 years, said the tribute is well-deserved.

"Frankie's legendary," Smith said. "He's still headlining, still drawing them in and doing it without having to be on the radio. That's a testament to how his music affects people. This tribute is so past due."

Beverly, 62, was born Howard Beverly in Philadelphia but was so impressed by 1950s R&B group Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers that he decided to change his name to Frankie. Beverly spent some time creating and singing with other groups before ultimately catching the ear of Marvin Gaye, who persuaded him to change his then-band's name from Raw Soul to Maze and in 1977 helped them release their first album, "Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly."

Since then, they've released several albums, including "Live in New Orleans": In New Orleans, the group's fans are fanatical about them. At this year's Essence festival, the city presented Beverly and Maze with its Crystal Star Award. Mayor Ray Nagin, a devoted Maze fan himself, described the award as "something special for a special man and his band."

Anthony Beverly said his father, who rarely — if ever — does interviews, was eager to hear the tribute's finished product: "He's really excited about it. He's loving the idea of it."

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