Album review: D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah

The beauty of D'Angelo's return is that he has come back full force and as fantastic as his fans remember.
D'Angelo and The Vanguard, Black Messiah.
D'Angelo and The Vanguard, Black Messiah.

Black Messiah

D’Angelo and The Vanguard

(RCA)

Four stars

Black Messiah, D’Angelo’s follow-up to 2000s Voodoo, comes after a 14-year wait, both amazing and right on time, arriving as demonstrators across the nation demand change after the recent slayings of unarmed black men by police in America.

The album title is about people rising up, D’Angelo said, and his songs – featuring the singer’s band, The Vanguards – plays to that message.

Unmatchable instrumentation leads the way on Black Messiah, and at times D’Angelo’s words are actually indecipherable. The guitar-charged 1000 Deaths will surely send some fans scrambling for the lyrics sheet, and what they’ll find are powerful declarations, such as “a coward dies a thousand times/ But a soldier only dies just once”.

Nevertheless, D’Angelo seems intent on his music being felt first and analysed second. Really Love, for instance, opens with a delicate mix of horns and strings, sweeping listeners away for a full two minutes before D’Angelo ever opens his mouth.

On Back to the Future (Part I), the elusive singer reflects on life before and after fame. The airy Another Life and uptempo Sugah Daddy are also standouts, but the whole album is truly good.

The beauty of D’Angelo’s return is that he has come back full-force, and is as fantastic as his fans remember.

Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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