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D’ANGELO
Black Messiah (2014)

On 31, Jan 2015 | In Artists on Artists | By jane

DAngelo

It has been a long 15 years for fans of D’Angelo to wait for the follow up to his brilliant album, Voodoo’. In an age where timing is everything and the attention span of the listener is shrinking rapidly, one couldn’t help but wonder what was happening with the legendary new release and if it would ever see the light of day.

Now I’ve been a fan since his first release, ‘Brown Sugar’ (1995). His sophomore release, ‘Voodoo’ (2000), was an incredible boundary/genre-pushing collection of music. So let’s just say that I was excited for the release of ‘Black Messiah’. In fact, I haven’t been this excited for the release of a record in a very long time. Which was a reminder to me that although there is more music being made and more available than ever before, there are still very few musical giants amongst us.

I was fortunate enough to see D’Angelo play last year in Toronto. The band was unbelievable and they played through (unbeknown to me at the time) almost all of ‘Black Messiah’ with fierce authority. I left with my mind blown. I had never heard or watched music like that being made before. It was a thrill.

‘Black Messiah’ starts with the swampy guitar of ‘Ain’t That Easy’. I was immediately struck by the raw, (controlled) chaotic, approach to the production of this song and much of the album. ‘1000 Deaths’ takes the chaos up a notch with the driving pulse of the drums and the fuzzed-out guitars and vocals.

There are a few classic sounding D tracks to be found, the funky ‘Shugah Daddy’ and the beautiful ‘Really Love’ for example. What there is more of on this album though, are the genre-bending challenges that D’Angelo has become known for. Much of this album is refreshingly experimental. Punky, rocky, psychedelic. Definitely still funky, but challenging indeed.

Now, that’s not to say that it’s not incredibly musical and enjoyable, because it is. Rarely does that get lost on this album. Even the skewed time feel of ‘Till It’s Done’ (TUTU) somehow makes sense. Or almost does. It’s easy to get the feeling that one is getting a glimpse into the minds of some seriously heavy musicians as they stretch our concepts of what music ‘should’ sound like. Or as a friend of mine remarked to me, ‘I feel like I’m looking at a piece of modern art and don’t get it but feel like I should’.

To be fair, there are some extra challenging moments on ‘Black Messiah’, really demanding, repeated, focused listens. This album doesn’t really work as background music. It wants to be engaged with and absorbed. But that’s what is beautiful about good art.

‘Black Messiah’ delivers on many fronts. It bumps and bustles along nicely on the surface but repeated listens are rewarded with sophisticated and sublime production, playing and message.

 

Review written by Brian Macmillan for Mojo Junction – ‘Artists on Artists’

 

 Buy it here on iTunes

 

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