Talking Animal

If I had the personality type that might grade and group his favourite albums, my top-10 would comfortably contain D’Angelo’s first two albums…

The mid-90’s witnessed a new dawn in black music. Against the backdrop of increasingly popular R&B from the likes of TLC and Blackstreet, a confident return to classic, jazz infused, hip-hop tinged soul emerged. This “Nu-Classic Soul” came from the likes of Maxwell and Erykah Badu, with no small contribution from the UK from Omar and other Talking Loud acts such as The Young Disciples.

Brown Sugar album cover
Brown Sugar

I was slow to D’Angelo’s 1996 debut long-player. I bought CD singles like they were sweets back then. A thick handful every week. These included “Lady” and the album’s title track, “Brown Sugar”. These were wonderfully stand-out, laid-back tracks. And the man’s smooth voice was something special. The pull of the album soon yanked and I quickly chastised myself for having gone so long living without the additional eight tracks including “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine” and “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker”. This was beautiful music. Cool, perfectly crafted music.

Voodoo album cover

Album #2 came in 2000. I remember the day when it dropped through the letterbox. A review copy, a week before its official release. I remember the sun coming through the windows. I remember the sheets on the bed I returned to when I opened the Jiffy Bag. And I remember the tiny far-from perfect mini hi-fi I slotted the CD in to with considerable excitement. What I don’t remember is how many times I played it that day. Think of a large number. This was on repeat. It is no exaggeration to say it was an emotional experience. I had never heard anything like it before. While Brown Sugar is a sublime collection of tracks, Voodoo is a piece. An operatic piece. Experimental, dark, difficult.

D'Angelo, Brixton Academy
Brixton Academy, 2012 - a funked-up tease

Fourteen years later. Fourteen. One-four. That’s how long the wait has been for number three. He’d had some problems, you see. And he’s a perfectionist, you see. OK. These things have the potential to lead to greatness. Or otherwise (hello, Lauryn Hill).

7am, a modestly-sized, far-from touristy, town in Ecuador. An email from a good friend of (sometimes) few, (typically) carefully-chosen words. “NEW D’ANGELO ALBUM”. And a link. Black Messiah was bought, downloaded, and playing by 7.10am.

Black Messiah album cover
Black Messiah

A week later, writing this on a flight back home, the occasion, this special occasion for an admirer of real soul, modern soul, progressive soul, is still sinking in. Instantly, and by no means surprisingly, this is another something special. I do have the personality type that might grade and group my favourite albums. And my top-10 already comfortably contains D’Angelo’s first, second, and third albums.

Written by Patrick Griffiths on .

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