There are very few instances in a lifetime where you hear music that changes the world.
Released at a darkly serendipitous time, Black Messiah gives us a couple of things that we needed:
• To hear new music from D’Angelo
• To give a soundtrack to the current movement happening in our midst.
D’Angelo, (a Richmond, Virginia native) gives us both of those things and more, and with his trademark style of soul-funk in the footsteps of Otis Redding and Al Green.
His band, named The Vanguard, includes the legendary virtuoso bassist Pino Palladino as well as James Gadson, one of the most sought after drummers over the last 50 years. D’Angelo, who is known for being a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist, plays keyboards, synthesizer and guitar for every track and even breaks out a sitar for the socially conscious track, The Charade.
The Vanguard combines heavy rock feels with smooth, groovy soul, a good bit of funk, a coloring of Spanish guitar and orchestral strings and captured it all on the warmth of analogue 2-inch tape to produce one of the most complete and positively jarring works of music I’ve heard in quite a bit of time.
?uestlove, the Philadelphia based drummer and legend in his own right makes a cameo on two songs: the love-y, piano laden Another Life and The Charade, both of which stand out as supernovas among the many shining stars on this record. Q-Tip of the famed A Tribe Called Quest and Kendra Foster, former band member of Parliament/Funkadelic, are given writing credit on many of the 12 songs to make the cut.
The promise of D’Angelo‘s signature sultry grooves are fulfilled in songs like the funktastic Sugah Daddy and the sensual ballad Really Love, but he also ventures to give commentary to social justice issues in songs like Till It’s Done (Tutu), which includes this statement:
Carbon pollution is heating up the air
Do we really know? Do we even care?
Acid rain dripping on our trees and in our hair
Are you there?
Clock ticking backwards on things we’ve already built
Sons and fathers die, soldiers, daughters killed
Question ain’t do we have resources to rebuild
Do we have the will?
Several testimonies to this album’s greatness that were recorded at the listening party for Black Messiah on December 14th, 2014 are posted to Black Messiah‘s press website, with contributions from Spike Lee, Micheala Angela Davis, and budding UK artist Lianne La Havas among others. There is also a live feed for fans to be featured on the press website by using the hashtag #BlackMessiah on Instagram.
With this album, I believe that D’Angelo and The Vanguard joined the ranks of greats like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Lauryn Hill in changing the world with music from the soul and for the people. It challenges, uplifts and entertains…and you’ll be sure to have a sore neck from all the head bobbing that will ensue.