Spreading ‘Happy Feelings’

Maze percussionist and background vocalist, Roame Laurie compared the music of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly to attending a great church service.

“The music is like going to a great church. The music touches you. We’re a true grit band and it hasn’t changed. I think it’s a very passionate experience. This is all about the love of the music and the respect and love of the people in the band. It’s a love affair. There are no extras. We go out there and just play the songs,” explained Laurie, an original member of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly who hails from Philadelphia but resides in Los Angeles.

ORIGINAL MAZE—From left: Frankie Beverly, Roame Laurie and the late McKinley ‘Bug’ Williams.

Laurie and Frankie Beverly are the only two original members of Maze left, with the recent death of percussionist McKinley “Bug” Williams, Sept. 2. The funeral was held Sept. 12. Because Beverly and Williams were like brothers, dating back to high school in Philly, he was not giving any interviews. However, Laurie did speak to the Courier. Williams will not be replaced in the band, his duties on the drums will be taken up by Laurie.

Maze’s legion of loyal fans were treated to the sweetness of the love affair when the group—along with funksters ConFunkShun—took the Monroeville Convention Center stage to take old school music lovers on a journey back in time by way of the bands’ most popular songs.

“We have a great fan base and everywhere we go we sell out. The fans have kept us out there. People appreciate and respect us because we haven’t changed. We stay true to ourselves and the music. We have never been influenced by the changes in music and that’s what makes us ‘Frankie Beverly and Maze’ We owe it all to our fans, we truly love them,” Laurie said.

The group will be rewarding their faithful fans with a long-awaited new project aptly titled, “Anticipation,” which is expected to be released some time in 2012. It will be Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s first release since 1993.

“Frankie is the sole writer in the band and he takes his time. The album is almost completed,” Laurie said.

The group made major waves on the music scene after capturing the attention of Marvin Gaye’s sister-in-law in the 1960s.

“She used to come see us a lot and she told Marvin to come see us,” Laurie recalls. “Marvin had us as the opening act for some of his shows. We were known as Raw Soul then. Marvin didn’t like the name and we were throwing out names and I said what about Maze because our music takes people in and out of different moods and it stuck.”

The group signed with Capitol Records and released its first self-titled album in 1977. It was certified gold on the US charts. Riding that success, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly continued to consistently release hit records on Capitol including “Golden Time of Day” in 1978, “Joy and Pain” in 1980 and “Can’t Stop the Love” in 1985 before moving to Warner Bros. in 1989.

Despite the move, the band still created hits at its new home. Those hits included “Silky Soul” and its last album, “Back to Basics,” in 1993.

The Pittsburgh audience didn’t let an almost 20 -year recording absence hinder their fun. They danced in the aisles during “Joy and Pain” “Feel That You’re Feelin,” and sang along with Beverly and company on “Running Away,” “Back in Stride,” and “Can’t Get Over You.”

Although a bit more rowdy than Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ConFunkShun put on an amazing 45-minute show as well.

Dressed in white pants, white fedoras and electric blue suit jackets, the group took funk music lovers on a ride with their most popular hits including “Love’s Train” and “Too Tight.”

ConFunkShun was started by two high school students in Vallejo, Calif. It got its name from an instrumental song by the Nite-Lights.

After signing with Mercury Records in 1976, ConFunkShun released 11 albums in ten years. The group broke up in 1986, but original members reunited with touring musicians for concerts.

“We like touring with ConFunkShun because they are one of the few great funk bands still standing,” Laurie said.

Both bands proved that after more than four decades in the music business, they can evoke happy feelings in audiences everywhere.

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