Christmas belongs to everyone. “It’s that special time of year when people care for one another, and feel love for humanity,” explains Maxi, quoting from the outstanding title track, which he wrote specifically for this project. “It’s when everything stops and we put our differences aside, because I’ve no wish to discriminate against anyone. I’m singing for Christians and non-Christians. I’m singing for my mum and dad. I’m singing for my brothers and sisters in the blues dance and for children all over the world. Singing is my gift, and I have to use it for the good of everyone.”
On his travels across the globe, Maxi was asked many times if he planned to record Christmas material. Those fans’ dreams have now come true and recording his first album in that vein would prove a liberating experience for him, both on a musical and personal level. As a youth growing up in SE London during the late seventies, Maxi embraced Rastafari, which in turn helped him discover more of his true identity. In later years he made the pilgrimage to Ethiopia and now defines his faith as “a cultural way of life, with the substance of Christianity within it” and a sense of fulfillment borne out of personal experience.
Maxi’s hardworking parents struggled to gain a foothold in England after leaving the Caribbean. With nine mouths to feed, they didn’t always have enough money for treats – “you appreciated what you got,” he says – but Christmas would always remain special in other ways.
It was during childhood visits to church where he first sang the carols he transforms here. I say “transforms,” because these tracks aren’t just covers, but reinterpretations brimming with creativity. Listen to how he playfully changes the lyrics to Jingle Bells, My Favourite Things (shared with Sonna Rele) or re-energises We Three Kings with a scorching ska backbeat. Only a ladies’ favourite like him could rewrite Twelve Days Of Christmas to include lines like “three words ‘I love you,'” “two glasses of champagne and a kiss under the mistletoe tree” whilst his take on Silent Night made everyone in the studio feel so emotional the vocals were left as they were, unadorned and full of feeling.
In a career already studded with highlights, Time Of The Year breaks new ground whilst returning this well-loved singer to his roots, both spiritual and otherwise. It’s the kind of heartfelt venture that’s intended to spread joy, and to promote togetherness – qualities we can all share, and especially at such a special time of year.