Tribute albums can sometimes be naff and cheesy affairs but this one really hits the spot. Its intentions, of course, are laudable – after all, Maze, in the eyes and ears of many soul aficionados, are a seminal group, and proved extremely influential in the soul genre during the late-’70s and early-’80s (for those that don’t know, they were masters of the silky, organic, laid-back, mid-tempo groove). Good intentions, though, don’t always add up to good music but in this case, a clutch of current shiny R&B stars – ranging from the indomitable Mary J Blige and Joe to Musiq Soulchild and the dynamic Ledisi – do a fine job of interpreting some Maze classics, all under the auspices of hot shot producer Rex Rideout, who manages to give the project a welcome sense of stylistic cohesion and unity. The killer cut for me is a gorgeous version of the Maze mid-tempo staple, ‘Golden Time Of Day,’ sung with style, aplomb – and good degree of good old honest soul power and commitment – by young R&B man, Kem. Musiq Soulchild delivers a noteworthy version of ‘Silky Soul’ while the undisputed Queen of R&B, Mary J Blige, is imperiously impressive on ‘Before I Let Go.’ Also worth listening out for are ‘Can’t Get Over You’ by Joe, ‘We Are One’ by Raheem Devaughn, ‘Joy & Pain’ by Avant, a pyrotechnical ‘Happy Feelin’s’ by the dramatic Ledisi and a funk-fuelled ‘Back In Stride’ as rendered by Minneapolis group, Mint Condition. The performances are ear-grabbingly spot-on but the plaudits should really go to producer, Rideout, who approaches the originals with love and respect – indeed, there are no radical makeovers, with Rideout preferring to adhere to the template of Maze’s original arrangements, much to his credit. Don’t let this slip you by – it’s a really enjoyable collection that should please long time Maze devotees while helping the legendary group recruit some new fans. Amazing!