|Wednesday, January 26, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 81
classic soul sound on new CD, Voodoo
By Jake McKim
"We have come in the name of Jimi, Sly, Marvin, Stevie, all artists formerly known as spirits and all spirits formerly known as stars," r&b/soul artist D'Angelo writes in the liner notes of his latest album, Voodoo, recalling the names of some of the most legendary artists in soul music's past.
In these same notes, the artist who draws numerous comparisons to the aforementioned musicians rips into his fellow African-American artists, namely the ones involved in hip-hop, claiming that they're more concerned with how much money they've got in their pockets than making solid, quality music for the people.
D'Angelo calls upon his peers to concentrate on mastering their craft rather than worrying about creating their own record labels and other side projects.
This focus on improving himself as a singer/songwriter is evident in Voodoo, where he refuses to settle for samples and overused chorus lines that don't challenge his fans to think while they listen.
Voodoo is the follow-up to his 1995 debut, Brown Sugar that won him critical praise and carved his name onto the list of distinguished soul artists that includes greats like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill.
Anyone who has ever heard his songs knows that his lyrics are often difficult to decipher, which he explains, in the linear notes, is the way he wants it to be.
"You might say, lyrics? Yo, I can't even understand half the (stuff) that D'Angelo be saying. That (guy) sounds like Bobby McFerrin on opium. And I'd say, 'you're right. Neither can I.' But I am drawn to figure out what it is that he's saying. His vocal phrasing intrigues me."
From the outset of Voodoo it's obvious that the five year hiatus he took between albums was spent directing his energy towards putting together a disc that not only his fans could enjoy, but of which he could also be proud when he looks back 10, 15 or 20 years from now.
"Playa Playa," "Devil's Pie" and "The Line" are things of beauty, works of soul music art that must bring a sense of joy to all who work hard to keep pure r&b music alive and flourishing.
"Send It On" sounds like it was lifted straight off a Marvin Gaye album and blended with a modern style of sound.
"Chicken Grease" features a funkalicious, get-out-of-your-seat groove that would make even Al Gore loosen up and hit the dance floor.
His words flow like poetry on "The Root" when he talks about the girl he once loved and lost: "She done worked a root/In the name of love and war/Took my shield and sword/From the pit of the bottom that knows no floor/Like the rain to the dirt/From the vine to the wine/From the alpha of creation/Til the end of all time."
"Spanish Joint," "GreatDayNDaMornin'" and "Africa" add flavor to an album already spiced with the rich musical texturing of jazz, r&b, blues and hip-hop and round out the innovative mixture of tracks smartly.
There aren't any real weak spots on the CD, you just feel at times (and
D'Angelo would probably admit this himself), that he still has some growing
to do as an artist, and it's probably safe to say we haven't heard anything
close to his definitive piece of work yet."
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