Eric Johnson
July 01, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a B

In the cult 1986 Disney sci-fi flick Flight of the Navigator,? a young boy is beamed up to an alien spaceship and returned in what feels like minutes, only to find that eight Earth years have passed in his absence. Neo-soul singer Maxwell’s disappearance undoubtedly has a more terrestrial cause, but he too seemed to fall off the edge of the planet for eight long years, following the release of his last album, 2001’s Now — ?and is reemerging in 2009 to a very different musical landscape from the one he left.

Judging by BLACKsummers’night‘s buttery, intimate bedroom grooves,? the Brooklyn-born crooner has changed surprisingly little in the near-decade interim, beyond shearing off his trademark cloud of coffee-colored hair. Still, when he coos wistfully to a recalcitrant lover, ”You come out from nowhere, disappear and reappear/Houdini would be very proud,” on the sinuous, piano-riddled ”Love You,” he could just as easily be referencing his own escape act. Tracks like the mournful, falsetto-?laced first single ”Pretty Wings” and lite-funky ”Cold” perfectly suit his cognac vocals, though at times BLACK is almost too smooth. Maxwell has the vocal chops to stand (or lie, as it were) among the best? pillow-talk maestros, from Marvin Gaye to Terence Trent D’Arby; salacious couplets like ”I want you to prove it to me in the nude/Addicted to the way you move,” on his love-is-the-drug rave-up ”Bad Habits,” are custom-built for baby-making. But his sentiments rarely transcend the boudoir — and listeners lulled by the album’s unvaryingly sleek, high-gloss beats may just drift off to dreamland before they get there. B

Download This: Listen to the song Love You at

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