Named for the similarly titled 1975 Smokey Robinson album, Quiet Storm mixed the sound of that LP with a little Al Green, Marvin Gaye at his smoothest, Philly soul, and a huge helping of smooth soul to produce the sort of snail-paced romantic ballads that many find relaxing, some find pretty, and still others agree are just plain dull. Whatever the case, the movement, which most folks agree began at Howard University's WHUR in the early 1970s, when Cathy Hughes was general manager, gave rise to the 1980s careers of chanteuses such as Sade, Chaka Khan, and Anita Baker. Although Baker hasn't released an album of new material in almost a decade, she headlines a national tour this year to pump up recognition of last year's greatest-hits compilation. One can hardly be surprised that Baker's recording career has fizzled. With the rise of hip-hop, Quiet Storm went the way of the dodo in favor of R&B styles with a little more flair. But Baker and her ilk still have their fans, and with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly joining Baker at Office Depot Center, those fans should be out in force.
Fans of Baker's should be at least familiar with Beverly and his backing band. Frankie Beverly's birth name was Howard, but the man changed it to Frankie during a childhood infatuation with the music of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" fame). Beverly's backing band was a funky outfit known as Raw Soul that became Maze. So Maze is what happens when you take a decent funk band and turn it into a slow-moving soul band. The result sounds, well, less than funky.