16: D’Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah

Despite the soggy biscuit currently being passed around the media in excitement over the new Adele record, no album released over the past 12 months felt close to being bigger than the third from Michael Archer (how disappointed are you to find out ‘D’Angelo’ isn’t his real name?). D’Angelo’s exploits since the release of his last album ‘Voodoo’ back in in 2000 were already at urban legend status, with sightings of him in the proceeding decade and a half usually limited to mugshots of an overweight and ’emotional’ man on his latest drug, alcohol or solicitation arrest. Nonetheless Archer was planning in secret to release a new album with his new backing band The Vanguards in 2015, only when he saw how the situation playing out in Ferguson, Missouri throughout the end of 2014 sadly mirrored many of his new music’s political themes (‘All we wanted was a chance to talk/ Instead we only got outlined in chalk‘) the album was rush released in December 2014 to become the biggest surprise release since U2 went from door to door lighting bottles of their own farts and smashing them through people’s windows. With such a complex and intriguing back story it would almost be understandable if the actual music was something of an afterthought, but ‘Black Messiah’ has been so fervently and unanimously received as a masterpiece that some people will if anything be shocked and appalled that it placed so low here. D’Angelo is obviously of the opinion that if it ain’t broke then you should absolutely fix it, here he refuses to just settle for his previous rock/R’n’B style and instead touches on many genres in the fruitful way Prince used to, ‘Black Messiah’ is a masterful 56 minutes of controlled disorder and disciplined chaos. Perhaps the true highlights are slightly too sparse, but it’s still brilliant to hear not only a top drawer musician working at the top of their game but also an artist attempting to insert themselves into modern debate and provide soundtrack.

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‘Fun’ Fact: The game ‘soggy biscuit’ is actually called ‘limp biscuit’ in America (though without rugby you wonder how often they have the chance to play), hence the band’s name. We should never be allowed to forget just how awful that band were on every level.

It’s a ‘masterpiece’ yet the highlights are ‘sparse’?? It’s all relative old chum, while tracks like ‘Ain’t That Easy‘ stand out explicitly, the ‘lesser’ tracks are still far better than almost anything else you’re likely to hear.

Album Link

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