NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ With nearly four decades of music behind them, Frankie Beverly and Maze are still considered one of the recording industry's best kept secrets.
Beverly's son, Anthony, is working to change that.
In August, he'll pay homage to his father and the group with the release of “Silky Soul Music: An All-Star Tribute to Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly.'' Anthony Beverly, an accomplished drummer and one of the producers along with Rex Rideout and Donald Lawrence, developed the project, calling it “long overdue.''
“I just wanted to honor my father,'' said Beverly, who's releasing the album through his independent label Brantera Music Group Inc. “I want to properly honor my father's contributions to the industry.''
The urban contemporary, funk, soul and R&B group has never received one of the industry's coveted Grammy Awards or American Music Awards but they continue to perform to sold-out audiences. Their relationship with fans has evolved into an almost cult-like experience.
“I don't believe there's another artist who can get 60,000 people all moving in harmony and dancing at the same time,'' said Sedrick Thomas, a Beverly and Maze enthusiast from New Orleans. “His music just reaches down inside of you. His passion for the music, his lyrics and his ability to sing from the soul, all of that is what the people respond to.''
Thomas said it doesn't matter that the industry hasn't formally recognized Beverly and Maze.
“One of the greatest assets they have is that their music is timeless,'' he said. “That's also one of their biggest challenges in an industry that's always looking for 'something new.' But I think in the hearts of the people, he's won every award that there is.''
The tribute album will be in stores Aug. 25. It features R&B artists Mary J. Blige, Musiq, Joe, Mint Condition, Raheem DeVaughn, Ledisi and Kevon Edmonds as well as gospel greats the Clark Sisters, Kiki Sheard and J Moss.
“Not only is this an accomplished group of artists, with diverse and distinctive voices, they are all Frankie Beverly and Maze fans,'' said Anthony Beverly.
Blige is recording “Before I Let Go,'' while Musiq is doing a rendition of “Silky Soul,'' the title track on one of the band's most successful releases, and New Orleans native Ledisi is taking on audience favorite, “Happy Feelin's.''
“Frankie is wonderful,'' said Ledisi, who performed at this year's Essence Music Festival, which Maze has headlined and closed since it launched in 1995. “There's a lot of pressure to do it (the song) 'right,' but I had a fun time working on it.''
The single, “Can't Get Over You,'' recorded by Joe, was released in July.
John Smith, Maze's lead guitarist for the past 10 years, said the tribute is well-deserved.
“Frankie's legendary,'' Smith said. “He's still headlining, still drawing them in and doing it without having to be on the radio. That's a testament to how his music affects people. This tribute is so past due. These guys have been consistent with their fans but the industry hasn't been consistent with them. At least he's still here to receive the accolades. He's the baddest cat _ still.''
Drummer Chris Johnson, who's worked with Maze for about a year, said the first time he saw Beverly and Maze perform live, “It changed my life. It's a great feeling to know that real music is still around.''
Anthony Beverly said his father, who rarely _ if ever _ does interviews, was eager to hear the tribute's finished product. “He's really excited about it. He's loving the idea of it.''
Beverly, 62, was born Howard Beverly in Philadelphia but was so impressed by 50's R&B group Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers that he decided to change his name to Frankie. Beverly spent some time creating and singing with other groups before ultimately catching the ear of Marvin Gaye, who convinced him to change his then-band's name from Raw Soul to Maze and in 1977 helped them release their first album, “Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly.''
Since then, they've released “Golden Time of Day,'' “Inspiration,'' “Joy and Pain,'' “We Are One,'' “Can't Stop the Love,'' “Back to Basics,'' “Southern Girl,'' and “Rebel for Life'' as well as a couple of 'live' projects, including “Live in New Orleans,'' where the group's fans are fanatical about them.
“He's just so smooth,'' said Will Bias, of New Orleans. “If I could, I'd be at every show he does and he does quite a few here. His music just makes you want to party.''
At this year's Essence festival, the City of New Orleans presented Beverly and Maze with its Crystal Star Award. Mayor Ray Nagin, a devoted Maze fan himself, described the award as “something special for a special man and his band.''
“It's only once in a lifetime when a voice and band like this comes along,'' Nagin said during a break in the July 5 closing set at the sold-out Louisiana Superdome.
Fans, on their feet from the moment Maze hit the stage around midnight July 5 until the wee hours of the next day, gave him a standing ovation.
Beverly, dressed in his signature all-white pants, long-sleeved white shirt and white baseball cap, simply thanked the mayor and the fans and then did what he does best: Continued singing.
“We're gonna wear you out some more! Let's go!,'' he shouted as he counted down the intro for the next song.
Pictured above is Frankie Beverly.