Of all the religious practices displaced Africans brought to the New World, voodoo remains the most potent. Not for nothing was Haiti, the central point for observance, the first European colony to throw off its shackles. [a]D’Angelo[/a] knows this.
Yet for him, voodoo is something more tangential: a spiritual map by which to chart a musical journey, and a deeper way to express realities and longings through art. Five years have passed between conception and execution of the Richmond, Virginia native’s second album and yet the finished result, recorded live in the studio with heavies, is a monumental undertaking.
‘Voodoo’ represents nothing less than African American music at a crossroads (How would brains weaned on machine music respond to it, is the loaded question it poses). To simply call [a]D’Angelo[/a]’s work neo-classic soul, as per corporate diktat, would be reductive, for that would be to ignore the elements of vaudeville jazz, Memphis horns, ragtime blues, funk and bass grooves, not to mention hip-hop, that slip out of every pore of these 13 haunted songs.
Any God-fearing southern states ‘country boy’ relocated to New York City would see demons and temptations everywhere and this gifted, if occasionally pretentious, musician balances the old good/evil tug-of-war. Within the directly political ‘The Line’ and the anti-materialistic ‘Devil’s Pie’, lies a seam of righteousness that even extends to the gun machismo of ‘Playa Playa’ and the salacious ‘Left & Right’.
But it’s voodoo that concerns us here; weird possession stuff like the way D’Angelo sings “My blood is cold/And I can’t feel my legs” on ‘The Root’, while searching for a potion cure. Or the bridge across centuries and times and memories that is the closing ‘Africa’. Or just the dense, heavy, swampy, damned crazy sound of the whole damn album.