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It took Maze around nine months to go gold with their debut album but their second set has equalled that feat in just six weeks on the street. John Abbey talks to Frankie Beverly…

ONE OF last year's success stories surely belongs to Maze, whose debut album for Capitol took almost nine months to finally and quietly pass the magical million mark, thus giving them a taste of gold on the first available opportunity.

However, now that the public has discovered the super septet, their recently released second album, "Golden Time Of Day", will suffer none of that slowness. In fact, the album is close to the golden point after just five weeks on the streets and is currently leaping up R&B and pop charts the world over.

The group has a very distinctive sound and that is very rare after such a short recording career. They use no outside help when it comes to recording, preferring to concentrate instead on their own ingrown abilities. Thus, you'll hear no brass, no strings. It's a direction that they have chosen, as leader, Frankie Beverly, explains.

"It isn't something that we'll necessarily stay with forever but if I were to record our next album today, there would again be no strings and no brass. There are other instruments available to us — such as synthesisers and other keyboards — that I would go for in preference.

"We always are aware that whatever we do in the studio has to be able to be done on stage and that is why so far we have avoided anything superficial. The main reason is that we could not duplicate it on stage and we want our stage show to reflect our records exactly.

"As time goes by, though, I'm sure we will experiment with all kinds of things but they will always be things that can be done on the stage. And we have no plans to expand the band beyond its current seven members."

The Maze line-up is Frankie Beverly, vocals, rhythm guitar; Ronald 'Roame' Lowry, congas, vocals; McKinley 'Bug' Williams, percussion, vocals; Wayne Thomas, lead guitar; Robin Duhe, bass; Sam Porter, keyboards; and the newest recruit, Ahaguna G. Sun, drums.

Frankie feels that the return of Ahaguna — he was with the group prior to recording their previous album — makes the septet 'perfect and complete'.

With their album tucked neatly in behind the leaders — and climbing! — you would expect Frankie to be perfectly satisfied with it. However, in his constant search for perfection, the eloquent gent has some reservations.

He points out: "It didn't really come out as planned. I can't really explain really what is missing but I was looking for just a litle more flair. Still, in comparison with the first one, it does show growth so I'm certainly not displeased with it."

As well as being the front man for Maze, Frankie's name adorns everything they do and the group's actual title is 'Maze featuring Frankie Beverly'. Since he writes the material and handles lead vocals, it isn't unfair to the rest of the band to acclaim him as their leader.

"But I have always built my career around the group's," he is quick to stress, however. "Sure, I am the singer, the songs are generally mine and I handle production but I have never thought of myself as being separate from the other guys. Every song is written specifically for the group and I could never think in terms of being separate from them."

In a recent conversation with Larkin Arnold, the brains and driving force behind Capitol's entry into the Soul Big League, he related how the first Maze album had been such a frustrating but finally satisfying situation and Frankie confirms this point from the group's standing, too.

"I guess it was because we have never sounded like your normal R&B group and it took a little time for what we were doing to sink in. At first, too, I know a lot of people simply didn't hear what we were doing. Happily, Larkin did!

"He persevered even when some station jocks admitted they didn't believe in us. And the album kept going up and then down the charts as it broke in various markets. And though we had a couple of singles from the album, it was essentially an album without singles.

"A whole new approach was used, a new sound and we didn't concentrate on getting one good track and filling the album with makeweight cuts.

"I guess that our distinctive sound — as you call it, and thankyou! — is down to the fact that we have been together for so long that we have developed something all of our own. We kept going against all odds and we had the heart and the inspiration to fight our way through and stick to it even when things weren't going right.

"Sure, we could have given in; or we could have gone for something that was blatantly commercial. But then we would have had to pay for it so our way has turned out to be the best way."

Though too shy to mention it, one of the strongest reasons for the acceptance of that first album came via the band's trans-American tour. On stage, they really are dynamic. No frills, just good, simple music and executed to perfection.

Our British readers will be pleased to hear that Maze is expecting to leave the U.S.A. for the first time during the early summer to embark on a European tour and it will definitely embrace the U.K.

And so, after a good decade of fighting, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has finally attained that 'golden time of day' and all of the signs suggest that their days will continued to be golden.

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