How do you arrange the music on your MP3 player? There are certain albums on mine that are immovable. ‘Illmatic’, ‘Ready To Die’, ‘The Score’, most albums by Radiohead, Pixies, Tori Amos and Kate Bush are hallowed and will not get deleted; after years and years, I do not bore of them. You never know when you’re going to need to listen to ‘Cornflake Girl’ or ‘The What’. New music – stuff released in 2014 or coming out in 2015 – also takes up quite a lot of space, though that area gets switched up regularly. But then there’s a smaller, special corner for the albums once loved, forgotten about, and then refound.
D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ is one such rediscovery. Earlier this year, I was on holiday with a friend who hadn’t heard the carnal funk of Michael Eugene Archer, so I downloaded ‘Voodoo’ and stuck it on. I’d heard some of the songs played live in 2012 when he played dates in London – and his influence threaded through modern soul, such as Beyonce’s ‘Rocket’ – but I hadn’t properly listened to the album since around it came out in 2000.
My introduction to D’Angelo’s voice was through 1998’s ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ where he provided vocals on ‘Nothing Even Matters’. His debut album ‘Brown Sugar’ had passed me by – I was 10 in 1995 – but I was about 15 when his second – and hitherto last – album ‘Voodoo’ was released. ‘Untitled (‘How Does It Feel?)’ was everywhere in 2000. I think I ripped the track from the radio and album from a friend because I was too embarrassed about my parents finding the kind-of anatomically intense album cover in my room.
It’s strange when you rediscover an album at a totally different time in your life. When I started listening to ‘Voodoo’ I was half as old as I am now. D’Angelo’s histrionic, mysterious R&B spoke to the emotions of adolescence and it sounded a lot more adult and complicated compared with a lot of the indie at the time, or ABBA and The Beatles I grew up on. The visceral imagery of ‘Voodoo’ – the chicken grease, slice of devil’s pie, bread and dough, cheddar cheese, rain and dirt, love and wine – was a world away from maths lessons and Hollyoaks. I liked the torrid soulfulness and range of his voice and the way he told the story of the human condition with narcotic vulnerability.
My Walkman started filling up with Babyface, India Arie, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys and The Roots. And I hadn’t really heard the blues before so ‘Voodoo’ opened up my world to the old masters, from whom D’Angelo was taking his cue. At the time he cited James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly And The Family Stone and he also wrote closely with The Roots’ Questlove. Journalist Trevor Schoonmaker wrote that, “The two spent hours trying to conjure the elusive ‘vibe’ necessary to provoke the album’s creation, which included listening to hours of black music that escaped strict classification. Some of that found itself played out in ghostly ways on Voodoo.”
Listening to the album again is a spiritual experience. Like the powerful wormhole in Sliders it sucks me back to being a young teenager, lying on a playing field as the sun sets. ‘Voodoo’ didn’t exist for me in the time between 2000 and 2014 so the contrast between the two points in time is queasily powerful. I love it when music allows you that surreal, fleeting ability to travel in time. Now I listen to the album with adult ears and I understand it in a different way. That’s what’s so unique about musical rediscoveries: as you change and grow, so the artist or album does too. Well, what you get or glean from it.
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I’m sure I’m not alone. What one musical rediscovery have you treasured in 2014? Let us know about it in the comments below, on Facebook or using the Twitter hashtag #AlbumIRediscovered