Written Before Listen
D’Angelo is a soul songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Richmond, VA. This album was recommended by an Instagram follower of mine @floris_bastijns. Prior to this, I only knew OF D’Angelo. I never truly listened to a project of his so I decided to accept the request and introduce myself to him.
With a little help from his friends, D’Angelo seems to carry the instruments all in his own bag. He is credited with playing piano, organ, synthesizer, guitar, steel guitar, classical guitar, sitar, bass, drum programming and more. There are also the occasional live drums from Questlove and the bass from the virtuoso himself, Pino Palladino. The way the instruments are combined together though…they create one hell of a funk fest. Hip hop drums, live bass, funky/bluesy guitar and smooth electric piano. A song like “1000 Deaths” has this very driving yet weird rhythm going on but with a song like “Sugah Daddy”, we have one of the most head-nodding pieces of R&B I’ve ever heard. I will say that nearly every track wowed me on an instrumental aspect but those are the main ones that caught me.
If you know D’Angelo, you will know that his vocal style is taking a lot of nods from 70s soul. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green and even Prince are channeled in D’Angelo…but those are just comparisons. He is his own beast as well because his voice is distinctly his. Right after the doo-wop inspired “Sugah Daddy”, we have the super smooth “Really Love” which showcases his softer side. He might not be as expressive of a vocalist as let’s say an Erykah Badu, but his vocal style might be more versatile than hers.
One thing I knew about D’Angelo was that he is a pioneer of the genre Neo-Soul. Neo-Soul as a genre itself is a mixture of many genres like hip hop, psychedelia and multiple R&B sub-genres. Speaking of Psychedelia, there is a lot of it here. The sitars are mixed in a very spacious way to make it sound otherworldly in a sense. There are also tracks like “1000 Deaths”, “The Charade”, “Prayer” and “Another Life” where the instrumentation is actually somewhat trippy and shapeshifting. This album is like a Neo-soul casserole. It takes the basic ingredients of Neo-Soul and psychs it up with rock and blues to make one tasty dish.
Going into this album, I thought I was going to get this super preachy/live instrument heavy album due to the title and cover. The funny thing is that this album is half politics/half love. The political songs are super strong with “The Charade” being my favorite one. Songs like “The Prayer” and “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” showcase a less preachy version as D’Angelo visions hope and motivation instead of addressing his trouble directly. The love songs on the other hand are rather super sexy or insanely sweet. “Sugah Daddy” might be one of the greatest sex songs I’ve heard in a long time and “The Door” is one of the most nostalgic ballads i’ve heard….EVER! Yeah….This album is amazing.
Well…I’ve already stated my love for this album but lets talk about a couple of weaknesses. Sometimes I think the songs go on a little longer than it should but that’s only occasional. There is also some parts on the track list where a super serious song gets right next to a super sexy one. Other than that, All I have to say is….this is amazing.
Kudos to @floris_bastijns. You got some good taste. This album was amazing. I need to listen to D’Angelos back catalog in the near future as I enjoyed the hell out of this album.