Maxi Priest feels “Close To You”, even in a “Wild World”!
Max “Maxi Priest” Elliott was born in London in 1961 and over a ten year period from 1986 to 1996, notched up a string of UK chart hits with two of them hitting the big time in America. Not much has been heard from him since, but let’s take a look at his past and see if we can find out what he’s up to currently.
Max grew up on the sounds of Ken Boothe, Gregory Isaacs, Marvin Gaye, The Beatles and many others. He began his career singing in the group Saxon Studio International but soon had a taste for solo success. He adopted his stage name “Maxi Priest” for this new era and released his debut album, “You’re Safe”, in 1985. Neither the album nor any of the singles were a hit, but it was his next album, “Intentions”, the following year, that would see his success begin. The single “Strollin’ On” would break the UK top 40 and was quickly followed by the track “In The Springtime” from his earlier, debut album, although this would stop just short of the forty big singles of the day.
Three more singles came from “Intentions”, but again, none of these would make too heavy a dent in the charts. It was in 1987 that the first single from his third album, a cover of The Persuaders “Some Guys Have All The Luck”, would give him his first sizeable hit, when it made No.12 as well as being a top twenty hit in Ireland and The Netherlands. “Maxi”, the title of the third album, was released at the end of 1987 and after a second single in early 1988, Maxi’s third release, another cover, this time of Cat Steven’s “Wild World“, was the one that changed everything. The song stormed into the top five at home and was a big hit all over Europe and in Australia. More importantly, it broke the US singles chart and went to No.25 eventually.
The success of “Wild World” meant that “Maxi” (or “Maxi Priest” as it was titled in America) also performed well, attaining a Gold certification in the UK for shifting more than 100,000 copies and breaking the US album chart top 200. Maxi entered the 1990’s with even greater confidence with the lead single from his fourth album, “Close To You”. Just as “Wild World” had been one of the Summer anthems of 1988, “Close To You”, released in July, would be the sound of the long, hot Summer of 1990. The track was a massive hit in America, going all the way to the top of the singles chart, making Maxi one of only two UK reggae acts to have a US chart topper (the other one is UB40). “Close To You” was also a top ten success around the globe and gave him a second top ten hit at home. The album, “Bonafide”, went to No.47 in The States, while four more singles were released including the US hit “Just A Little Bit Longer” in early 1991.
Maxi released a compilation album that year which made No.23 and returned to the top ten in America, this time with the legendary Roberta Flack on the song “Set The Night To Music” (No.6), which oddly was not released in the UK.While The States got the duet and the UK got a hits collection, Maxi had already started work on a fifth album, which would follow in 1992. The lead single, “Groovin’ In The Midnight”, would give Maxi a third US singles chart hit, while “Just Wanna Know”, featuring British singer and DJ Apache Indian, would break the UK top 40. The album, “Fe Real”, would yield one more UK chart hit in “One More Chance” in early 1993. 1993 would see Maxi return to the UK top ten with the single “Housecall”, this time joining forces with Shabba Ranks. The song had been released two years earlier making No.31 in the UK and No.37 in America, but an unknown, no reason reissue saw much improved success on the home front. After a decent break, the first between albums since his debut, Maxi came back in fine style in 1996, joining forces with Shaggy for the song “That Girl”.
“That Girl” would blast the pair into both the UK and the US top twenty, becoming his biggest hit since “Close To You”, six years earlier. The song was the lead single from his sixth album, “Man With The Fun”, which also featured the single “Watching the World Go By”. Although the hits died away at this point, Maxi has continued to record, releasing studio albums in 1999, 2005, 2007, 2014 (“Easy To Love”, which made No.2 on the US Reggae album chart) and his latest, “It All Comes Back To Love”, in 2019. He also continues to play live, supporting none other than UB40 on their 2007 UK tour and making appearances at reggae festivals and retro music festivals. Catch him if you can!
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