(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Brown Sugar (1995), 6/10
Voodoo (2000) , 6.5/10
Black Messiah (2014) , 6/10

At the age of 20, Michael D'Angelo Archer wrote, performed and arranged by himself his debut album, Brown Sugar (1995), whose musical values (not last his falsetto crooning) referenced Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Voodoo (2000) further updated the tradition of soul/gospel music to the technology (but not to the sound) of the hip-hop era (electronics, sampling).

After a hiatus of 14 years, D'Angelo finally returned with Black Messiah (RCA, 2014), another manic display of old-fashioned soul music with old-fashioned lyrics. A bit of social commentary a` la Marvin Gaye or Sly on the Family Stone (The Charade) represents the main progress that he's managed to achieve in 14 years. There is little of note. Really Love, the standout, fuses flamenco and plantation blues. 1000 Deaths samples a preacher's black-nationalistic sermon over a fast funk beat. Betray My Heart is a finger-snapping swinging tune worthy of the doo-wop groups of the 1950s. The slow, danceable Prayer is hijacked by funeral bells. The sinister, percussive Back to the Future I segues into the robotic commercial-like ditty Back to the Future II. But "boring" doesn't even come close to describing ballads such as Another Life, Ain't That Easy or Door. The music is too often so weak, meager, slow, lifeless and soulless that one wishes he had simply made covers of the classics.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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