2 The Max
Maxi Priest
Relentless-Virgin Records
December 18, 2005

Track list
  1. Believe In Love
  2. There's Nothing Like This
  3. Tender Touch
  4. Hero To Zero
  5. Fields
  6. Full Hundred
  7. Sweat A' Go Buss
  8. Cry For The Children
  9. Like I Do
  10. Wildfire
  11. Wild World
  12. Sweat A' Go Buss (Maxi Mix)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3
"2 The Max" is the title of Maxi Priest's eagerly anticipated new album, the follow up to his "CombiNation" album from 1999. Widely regarded as the UK's biggest reggae star, Maxi Priest (born Max Elliot on June 10, 1962 in Lewisham, London) was raised in working-class innercity London with his eight siblings. After school he worked as a carpenter and one of his first jobs was building speaker cabinets for Saxon International, the South London sound system that would eventually help bring dancehall to a huge audience. UK reggae artists like Papa Levi, Tippa Irie and Smiley Culture learned their respective trades at Saxon International and it wasn't long before the carpenter with the smooth silky voice was getting stage time in live shows.

In 1984 Maxi Priest made a bit of history after he and Paul "Barry Boom" Robinson produced Philip Levi's "Mi God Mi King", the first UK reggae tune to reach the #1 position in Jamaica. In 1988 he released his debut album "Maxi", and two years later his second album, "Bonafide", achieved gold status. More successful album and single releases followed throughout the nineties, bringing the singer popularity and recognition around the world.

Recovered from his life threatening health scare (in 2004 his life hung by a thread due to a heart attack and a blood clot on his lung), the 'King Of Lovers Rock' is in fine voice throughout, especially on the album opener "Believe In Love", an excellent ballad across one of Donovan 'Don Corleon' Bennett's hit riddims entitled "Drop Leaf". This tune has been embraced by the younger reggae crowd when it appeared on 7" single in 2004.

Next drops "There's Nothing Like This", a superb reading of Omar's British soul classic from 1990, which preserves the mood of the previous track. "Tender Touch" continues to deal with matters of the heart, but now the tempo is raised which makes that you want to move your dancing feet to the skanking beat.

But then you'll have to sit down again for a while to fully enjoy the reflective "Hero To Zero", a wonderful moving song, and his heartfelt adaptation of Sting's "Fields Of Gold", in which he tells us about the times when his foreparents were slaves working the land in the Caribbean.

"Full Hundred" is an effective ballad, followed by two solid recordings he did for Beres Hammond's "Harmony House" label, "Sweat A' Go Buss" and the moody conscious tune "Cry For The Children". Then we're treated to the perky vintage lovers of "Like I Do", a beautiful song which belongs to the highpoints of this album.

'The Crownprince Of Reggae' Dennis Brown and John Holt were two of the artists Maxi Priest admired when he started singing. They strongly influenced him as can be heard while listening to his excellent version of their eighties classic combination tune "Wildfire".

A new interpretation of his popular version of Cat Stevens' "Wild World (featuring the interjections of Wycleff Jean), plus a different mix of "Sweat A' Go Buss" round off a very entertaining and well produced album.