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Doubling down on the blue-eyed soul that’s always been their cornerstone, Maroon 5 up the ante on Hands All Over, stripping their rock to the bare minimum, giving every song, even the power ballads, an immaculate tight groove. It is the exact opposite move expected from the hiring of superstar producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the man responsible for some of the greatest hard rock and heavy metal albums in history, but Lange has a knack for focusing on the elements that define a band’s core character, and with Maroon 5 he’s realized how Adam Levine possesses a relative lack of lead singer ego. He is undoubtedly the superstar of the outfit -- the skinny pretty boy with the high voice -- but all things considered, he disappears within his band, co-writing much of the album with keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, letting the song and vibe take precedence over performance. Lange preserves this dynamic, turning Maroon 5 into a clean, efficient machine. There is no fat on Hands All Over -- in its standard edition, its 12 songs run a crisp 40 minutes, with no song cresting over the four-minute mark -- and the sound is blindingly bright, almost incandescent in its spotless surfaces. As pristine as the sound is, Hands All Over is not sterile and Lange retains the group’s sense of soul. If anything, his precision is an asset, as it not only accentuates Maroon 5’s essential character as well-tailored lovermen, his focus echoes down to the songs themselves. Some of the cuts may not sink their hooks in immediately, but track for track Hands All Over is Maroon 5’s best album, capturing their character and craft in a cool, sleek package.
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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