Maxi Priest to get ‘Close to You’ Sunday in Honokaa

  • courtesy photo Reggae superstar Maxi Priest is playing a Father's Day concert, 7:30 p.m. at Honokaa People's Theatre.

British reggae superstar Maxi Priest is making a “Housecall” for a Father’s Day dance party, 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Honokaa People’s Theater.

One of the few reggae artists to transcend the genre, his smash hit “Close to You” reached No. 2 in 1990 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and charted for a mind-boggling 27 weeks, while “Housecall,”featuring Shabba Ranks, hit No. 4 on the same chart a year later and stayed on the chart for 24 weeks.

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Born Max Elliott in the Lewisham section of London, the 57-year-old singer of Jamaican descent has had a 30-year ride as an international star, starting with his 1987 reggae cover of the Cat Stevens classic “Wild World.” The title track of his 2014 CD, “Easy To Love” featuring the legendary rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, hit No. 1 on the reggae chart, with “Every Little Thing” from the same album also charting.

His latest effort is in the smooth-as-silk style he calls “lover’s rock.”

“This album is about time, and a moment,” Maxi Priest said. When singing “Angel Wings,” Maxi envisioned himself in Jamaica surrounded by nature. Other tracks, like “Fire In The Skies” and “I Could Be The One,” simply defy categorization and are living proof of his musical versatility.

“Without A Woman” features Beres Hammond, and echoes the themes and intensity of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Maxi and Beres’ musical partnership began years ago with the crossover hit “How Can We Ease The Pain.”

“This song is an appreciation for all women and a gift from the artists,” Maxi said. “Sometimes we forget to simply say ‘thank you’ — as without you, there is no us.”

Explaining his style, Maxi said, “First and foremost, I’m from a church background.”

“My mother, a missionary, is where I would hear the beautiful sound of gospel, mixed in with reggae music that my older brothers played around the house,” he noted. “My sisters were into the Jackson Five, the Beatles, Al Green, etc. From an early age my family always encouraged me. I listened to all kinds of vocalists: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Dennis Brown. Without realizing it, I was developing my craft. I was taught never to limit myself. That’s why you’ll always find different styles of music on my albums, and a range of producers to bring out different aspects of my creativity.”

His version of John Mayer’s “Gravity” is an example of what happens when someone of Maxi’s caliber takes a song to heart. Like Marvin Gaye or John Holt, he’s long mastered the art of romance.

Other familiar songs in his discography include a remake of Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” “Groovin’ in the Midnight,” “That Girl” featuring Shaggy, a duet of Jefferson Starship’s “Set the Night to Music” with Roberta Flack, and his vocal on jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour’s version of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain.”

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Kicking off Sunday night’s all-ages dance party is special guest DJ Uplifter.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 general admission, $65 gold circle seating, available at Hilo and Kona Music Exchange, Irie Smoke Shops in Hilo, Kona and Pahoa, Hilo Ukulele & Guitar, Waimea General Store in Parker Square, Keaau Natural Foods, Top Stitch and Waipio Cook House in Honokaa, Kiernan Music in Kainaliu, by calling 896-4845 and online at bluesbearhawaii.com.