Labyrinthine Soul

Their music has been called passionate, distinctive, deeply honest, old school and soulful. Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly, has been making its own style of simultaneously mellow and funky sounds for close to 30 years now. Since 1976, the group, which started life under the name Raw Soul, has been playing to a seriously devoted cult audience. While Maze may have never had the monster pop crossover hit that would have made it a household name, it has sustained a long, successful career as soul's best-kept secret.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Frankie Beverly relocated to San Francisco in the early '70s. His band Raw Soul was a favorite of Marvin Gaye, who suggested they find another name -- Raw Soul, he said, didn't really represent the sweet, harmony-filled soul sounds the group made.

The eponymous first album of 1976, from Capitol Records, yielded a batch of R&B hits, including "Lady of Magic" and "Workin' Together." Throughout the band's career, it would be the R&B charts that primarily saw Maze action. Later, a two-CD "Anthology" set collected all their favorites, including the classics "While I'm Alone," "Southern Girl," "Back in Stride" and "Love Is the Key."

Despite front man Beverly having his name in all the ads, this has never been a one-man show. Several members of the band have been in the organization since the '70s. Vocalist and percussion player McKinley Williams has been part of the sound from day one. The vocalist and conga beater who goes by the name of Roame came along soon thereafter. Bass thumper Robin Duhe followed Roame, and all three have been at Beverly's side ever since.

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David Gofstein