D’Angelo – A Messiah of Sorts

Have you spent the last 14 years since D’Angelo delivered Voodoo – waiting, watching, desperately hoping for the artist then-dubbed the “R&B Jesus” to bring us new music, to deliver Black Messiah? Not me, or at least I didn’t think I was. Voodoo kept me in good company that whole time and still now gives me as much listening delight as it did 14 years ago. It will for the rest of my days.

Certainly for all those years I was waiting and hoping for the live D’Angelo experience. Fortunately I was finally blessed to get a double-fix in Australia a few months ago when D’Angelo and The Vanguard performed at Soulfest in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo and The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014 (w/ Angie Stone & Anthony Hamilton on back-up vocals)

Finally experiencing the incredible vocal and instrumental chops of D’Angelo and the other musicians on stage with him at Soulfest (including legendary bass player Pino Palladino and ex-Prince guitarist Jesse Johnson), was sublimely satisfying.

Pino Palladino with D’Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

Jesse Johnson with D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

The Coming of Black Messiah

Now that Black Messiah is here though; now that I’ve listened to it in hard-copy on the good sound system it’s meant to be heard on, over and over and over again; now that I reflect on the character and quality of r&b, soul and funk music created by artists throughout the last decade, reflect on all music made during that time period of rapid digitalisation, I realise something about D’Angelo and Black Messiah.

I might not have been in-waiting for his new music, but since the album’s turned out to be of the “crazy-amazing, gold standard” type that Prince sings about on Art Official Age; the type we don’t seem to hear as much of these days, D’Angelo’s most recent creation is a surprisingly refreshing and welcome relief from most new music offerings around.

D’Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

The quality, textures, flavors and sounds of Black Messiah have the glorious essence of old – a contemporary manifestation of all the crazy-amazing, gold standard soul, r&b, jazz and funk music artists we all know and love who came before, at the same time and soon after D’Angelo.

The composition of all Black Messiah’s diverse, layered, beautifully-blended sounds by multi-instrumentalist & vocalist D’Angelo, in collaboration with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (drums), Q-Tip (lyrics), Pino Palladino (bass+sitar), Roy Hargrove (brass & horns), James Gadson (drums) and Kendra Foster (lyrics/vocals) are as brilliant as you’d expect from la crème de la crème of contemporary funk, soul, hip hop and jazz artists. Every note on the album is executed flawlessly by those and other talented musicians D’Angelo worked with in the studio (again including Jesse Johnson).

The honey-sweet lead and backing vocals sung by D’Angelo (also P-Funk’s Kendra Foster & others) sound as natural and improvised as could be, ooze tender emotion and would be impossible for any singer to replicate if they tried.

D’Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo

Kendra Foster with D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

Kendra Foster

Fundamentally too, this album is a rarity because it was organically recorded and mixed in the sweet, warm analog world, uncontaminated by digital manipulations.

All of those factors in Black Messiah’s mix equal a bouncing, grooving, funking, jazzy, swinging, occasionally rocked-out, absolutely soul-drenched album of sound delights from start to finish.

Long-Awaited Music Messiah

So even though D’Angelo has clearly stated he’s not professing himself to be the black messiah, the crazy-amazing music he’s created and just shared with the world in light of all music that’s come before it in recent years, means D’Angelo is now as he was 14 years ago, and will be for the rest of time, regarded by me and millions of others in the world as a saviour of sorts – a Music Messiah.

D’Angelo live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

The ultimate message I take from Black Messiah is one of hope for the future; confirmation that yes, this is the high-quality “crazy-amazing gold standard” that music can still meet; these are the sounds of music that music can still have.

Black Messiah at its Best

Giving mp3-only samples of Black Messiah feels dirtier than ever before, but here you have a couple of tracks. Get the album on sweet vinyl from 4 February to hear this music as it was meant to be heard. Get it on cd now if you don’t already have it. Familiarise yourself with the names of all the musical magicians involved in its creation. Enjoy the imagery, admire the photography.

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Most importantly “for best results”, listen on a good sound system “at maximum volume” as D’Angelo recommends in the linear notes, so you properly discover and appreciate the myriad of sounds on the album. Love all of Black Messiah forever after, I’m sure that you will. Amen.

D’Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

Black Messiah (2014)

‘Back to the Future (Part 1)’ –  Black Messiah – D’Angelo and The Vanguard

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‘Prayer’  – Black Messiah – D’Angelo and The Vanguard

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D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

And Now?

With Black Messiah now here, people around the world are probably chomping-at-the-bit for something more; waiting, watching, desperately hoping for D’Angelo to start doing interviews. Not me. I say leave the man be. I’m just grateful for the artist D’Angelo’s delivery of yet another crazy-amazing body of music to delight in forever after. We still have Voodoo and Brown Sugar to keep us company too.

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I’m going back to waiting, watching, hoping for another live experience of D’Angelo and The Vanguard – the next time around playing Black Messiah tracks. Lucky peeps who can get to Europe in February and March for the ‘Second Coming Tour’ can have theirs soon. For a glimpse of the experience, check out more here on D’Angelo and The Vanguard performing recently at Soulfest Australia.

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

D’Angelo and The Vanguard live at Soulfest Melbourne 2014

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Comments

  1. sean barragan says:

    Let this album grow on you,its well worth it if you are a d’Angelo fan . theirs something on here for everyone. tracks like ” aint that easy” or
    “till its done” are genious as they are soulful!!!.
    I cant wait to see songs from this album performed live. Songs like ” back to the future pt1″ and ” betray my heart would be gems to hear live. omg!!!!!!!. I will admit initially hearing this album It was very hard for me to decipher d’angelo ‘s lyrics. I mean just like it was with voodoo. but with the help of metro lyrics. com I found all the songs from black messiah. and now thay I clearly know what D’angelo is singing I appreciate the material that much more. so like i said, let this album grow on you!
    And play it in a good system like a kicking Car stereo system. It sounds amazing! I had the pleasure of experiencing marijuana for my 10,000 time along with this album. lol!!!
    what a experience. If you dont smoke weed this album might be a good reason to start! lmao
    I still cant get over how funky “till its done” is.
    I feel like this album is right where voodoo left off. Santa came early this year and blessed me with this album! I deserved it. lol

    • Beaver on the Beats says:

      You’ve deciphered Black Messiah’s first 2 lines then…

      “Take a toke of smoke from me as you dream inside
      Let your days slip away come with me and ride…”

  2. de' Shon Baines says:

    We have been graced with the greatest record of our generation. The “Seargent Peppers…” of our lifetime. The thing I found so refreshing is most people are oblivious to just how incredible this record is. They compare it to older music because nothing out right now can compare to it. The “Satanic Majesties…” counterpart of our lifetime would be a record made by fellow R & B gatekeeper, Van Hunt, named ” Is it what you hoped for?”. D’Angelo pushed the bar so high it will never be reached. Let’s pray Van Hunt comes with a equally dazzling offering.

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