In just over a month, the Maxayn trilogy (Maxayn, Mindful, Bail Out For Fun!) is released by Cherry Red/Soul Music Records in a luxurious boxed package. This is the first ever reissue of the Maxayn albums, all of which have been unavailable for four decades except as previously-owned vinyl on eBay (and the prices are going up). For more information, including where to order, see my other Maxayn update. This is an artist-approved reissue, with the full participation of the one and only Maxayn Lewis.
Maxayn devotees have come to the group in a variety of ways. Some will have been fortunate enough to catch them in real time when they were recording. Perhaps among that group, there’s an even luckier sub-group who caught their wonderful 1973 appearance on Soul Train, performing ‘Check Out Your Mind’. Others may have become familiar with Maxayn Lewis via her work on other people’s albums in every decade from the 1960s onwards.
My route to Maxayn came by way of one of my favourite albums of all time – Mary McCreary’s Butterflies In Heaven. Mary McCreary (aka Mary Rand, Mary Russell) was a Shelter Records signing who had previously been part of Little Sister, working with Sly & The Family Stone. Mary was (and remains) an absolutely marvellous singer, pianist and songwriter. If you check out her debut album (1973), you’ll see that Maxayn sings on the penultimate track, ‘My Love Is Real’. Although I didn’t necessarily make much of it at the time, the name lodged in my mind; it’s not as if there are many Maxayns in the world. By the time I’d worked my way through Mary McCreary’s catalogue and reached the 1979 album Heart Of Fire (issued as Mary Russell), Maxayn’s name became impossible to ignore. On that album, she not only sings with Mary, but also co-writes some of the songs. It was only a matter of time before I used a search engine and realised the full extent of my ignorance – Maxayn’s musical accomplishments could fill a book. There’s her time as an Ikette, her many guest appearances on other artists’ albums, and – most importantly – her own music as part of the Maxayn group.
So, by the late 1990s, I was listening to Maxayn singing Maxayn. I found a still-sealed copy of the debut on eBay and a used copy of Mindful at Soul Brother in Putney (London). Eventually, the third album found its way to my ears. What a group, what a woman. Maxayn is one of the preeminent voices in soul, rock, funk and pop. She’s also a pianist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. With her vastly talented bandmates, Andre Lewis, Emry Thomas and Marlo Henderson, she helped create a new age in funk and soul. The Maxayn albums don’t sound like they could be by anyone else. Certainly, there are traces of Sly & The Family Stone and other influences make themselves known here and there. But it all adds up to something no one else was doing in quite the same way. So let’s welcome back the Maxayn albums with open arms. They’ve been absent for far too long.