Maxi Priest, “Easy To Love:” The Return of Lovers Rock

He’s so easy to love.

Tuesday afternoon around 3PM, my Editor and I were still awaiting confirmation for SiriusXM’s exclusive listening party for Maxi Priest’s upcoming album, Easy To Love. Needless to say I was excited, and we received confirmation late Tuesday evening. The next day I had so much to do, I made sure to prepare myself early on before rushing out at 1PM to handle business and catch lunch with my bestie. By the time I arrived home at 4:45PM, I quickly freshened up and was back out the door in under 10 minutes, something that never happens, unless you don’t mind me going out with flip flops and a yellow blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Yes, I will leave the house in a blanket if I don’t have time to get ready (ask anyone that knows me). Did I mention I was late for my breakfast-turned-lunch date? This is just to give you an idea how determined I was to get to this event on time. I was ready early. The only downside was since I was without my phone charger all day, I noticed while heading out for the second time, that I only had 15% battery. I hurriedly grabbed my charger and rushed out the door.

I arrived at SiriusXM radio’s offices at 6PM sharp, and it was a pleasant mixture of people mingling and eating food catered by The Door restaurant, which is located no more than five minutes from my home in Queens. It was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and guests were dressed comfortably. In desperation I scoped the main sitting room for any outlets, and realized I was out of luck. I, then, went to grab a quick beverage and snack from the selections. The Door did the damn thing! Guests were served corn bread, rice and peas (or peas and rice depending on what part of the Caribbean you’re from), festival, beef and chicken mini patties, jerk chicken wings, and a tofu vegetarian mix. Since I’m partial to spicy cuisine, I have to say that the jerk wings were slammin’. I could go on about the food, but I won’t, after all, everyone was in attendance to see Maxi Priest.

After finishing up quickly, I finally found a charger in the ladies room foyer and managed to get my phone to 50% before they opened the press room for the event. I walked toward the press room with my Red Stripe in hand, but was told I could not enter with it and had no problem leaving it with the security. Seating was reserved for press, and once the door was closed we were enclosed in a sound proof bubble with a large audience on the other side of the glass. After a short time, Maxi Priest entered the press room, and so did his amazing aura of humility. He stood in front of us and gave the room an once-over with a wide, genuine smile. You could “feel” he was happy to be there and that he appreciated us all. In fact, so much that before we [the press] could welcome him, he applauded US. I was in awe already. His presence was a blessing, as not many people can walk into a room and do such a thing.

We then stood up, clapped, and welcomed him in turn. Once everyone settled in their seats, Maxi Priest and DJ Baby Face were formally introduced by Host Pat McKay. I have to say Pat was an amazing host. She asked all the questions fans would want to know and while Maxi’s answers were inevitably deep, she kept the evening light-hearted.

Our Re-Introduction

Maxi Priest started off the evening by sharing initially, he didn’t know what a listening party was. He then stated, “This is an experience that I’m hoping everyone will enjoy with me. Take that ride with me, with my brand new CD, and we can all enjoy it. You know, first and foremost I want to give thanks and praise unto the most high. Jah! Jah Bless, you understand, because we have to give thanks and praises every time, because without him nothing in this world is possible. Then, I want to say thank you to SiriusXM for allowing us to all gather here. At the end of the day, you know, we all need to support this thing, because this thing called Reggae Music is us. It’s our thing. It is us. We are the cog in the wheel, and we have to kind of like, start the roll so that the wheel rolls and we can all progress.” This intro was one of many highlights throughout the evening.

Another highlight was when he passionately says “All I bring to the table is love, and if anyone has a problem with that, they’ll have to take it up with God.” To which he asks, “Am I right?” Then asks “How unna sound so low?” Mi talk to my people dem and mi nah get a yay or a nay, am I speaking foreign?!” and everyone resounded with laughter, woops and other inaudible calls. “He wants us to turn up”, someone behind me commented. It was pure entertainment. This made me think of how times have changed since the Lovers Rock generation. I grew up listening to the music of that era, and it couldn’t be more different from the music we blast through our sound systems at gatherings, and parties today.

Darlin’, it’s 2014

Lovers rock is a style of Reggae music largely popular from the 1960’s-70’s, distinct for its romantic style and content. Today we have Dancehall, Ragga, Reggaeton, and Reggae Fusion – an exciting mix of music genres with Reggae. We have come a long way. Although Reggae has changed drastically from what it was then, some argue that it has changed for the better since the genre has become more mainstream. Others argue that it changed for the worst because of its blatant sexualization and hardcore lyrics. Despite these views, it’s hard to deny the popularity of Reggae music, then and now. A few questions our host Pat asked were “What’s your favorite Lovers Rock Dennis tune? [Have you] ever used a Dennis Brown song to try and get close to a girl or did you ever sing a Dennis Brown song to impress somebody?” to which Maxi cites Dennis Brown to be his greatest inspiration and responds to our surprise and delight by breaking into a beautiful rendition of “Should I Have Faith” by Dennis Brown.

Another great question was “Who do you listen to today? Name one artist”, to which he was more hesitant to give an answer, explaining that he would rather not single out any artists, as they are all great and do great work but as Pat pressed him for specifics he named [to my delight] Reggae Artist Konshens. Pat also asked what inspired his new album “Easy To Love” and gave us a snippet of a conversation with popular artist Beres Hammond.

Beres’ advice: “We haffa bring back the thing where men and women dance together, with respect.” He goes on to say, “Beres is one of our treasures. You know, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with Beres from way back in the day and got a lot of his guidance as well, throughout this business. It’s actually him that inspired this album. He kept kind of vibin’ me and telling me ‘Boy ,you should do something with VP and them, and keep it grounded’. He’s actually the person that initiated this album. You know and I also want to big up VP, nuff respect for VP! That is the foundation, that is the home, you know when you look, that is the home that is left for our music.”

I agreed wholeheartedly with his sentiment. Throughout the night I had the pleasure of meeting various industry players, but my favorite among them was Pat from VP Records. She is amazing and adorable! Before Maxi arrived, Pat went around greeting guests and made sure everyone was comfortable and had what they needed. VP Records is a beacon in my community of Jamaica, Queens, enduring the test of time and still standing when all other record shops closed their doors after the digital age of music sharing and purchasing took over the industry. VP Records is the only record label that represents the full spectrum of Caribbean music, and that alone speaks for itself.

Reminisce with us, Maxi Priest “Close To You”

Giggle with us, Shabba Ranks feat. Maxi Priest “House Call (Your Body Can’t Lie to me)”

Fall in love with us, Again. Maxi Priest “Easy to Love”

Get familiar

In response to what he’s been doing to keep busy, Priest says he’s been living life and mentioned he just returned from doing a “massive stage show” in Trinidad and Tobago with Super Cat. Truly, Maxi Priest hasn’t missed a beat. If we haven’t heard much from him, it’s only because there is so much noise out there today, and simply because we haven’t really been listening. Maxi Priest discussed coming out of the box and his music not being boxed in to any race, color or creed and classifies himself as a “Worldlion” and his sound as “World music”.

Is Reggae in need of some love? Absolutely. Are we lacking some romance, some foreplay? Without a doubt. The listening was a success, and Maxi’s upcoming album is like a breath of fresh air. His voice is as smooth and infectious as ever and he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s still a lover, ready to sing to the ladies and spread his own brand of love… and yes, Maxi is “Easy To Love”. He also knows what the fans are missing and he supplies it with effortless authenticity. He doesn’t sound dated or forced, because he embodies the era, and years later, he is still the handsome, youthful man we know and love. I honestly believe Lovers Rock will never go out of style, as there is just something about the classics that no one can deny. Just the same, no one can deny Maxi Priest’s new album is just as good as the smooth tunes we jammed to growing up. I’m looking forward to supporting the movement and welcome the “Return of Lovers Rock!”

“Easy To Love” is available now for pre-order: Click this link to purchase. *Listening event by VP Records and The Jamaica Tourist Board for SiriusXM Radio.

For more Maxi Priest, just click here.

Written by Manny King John

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