Lovers of soul will be walking with a little more bounce to the ounce with the news that legendary R&B Jesus, D'angelo has announced two live shows at the Brixton Academy in February (the first sold out quicker than you could scream "Good God Almighty!") and ends a 12 year sabbatical with a new album which has made George Michael look like Prince in the productivity stakes.
The flawed genius behind two of the finest R&B albums of all time has made his fans feed on crumbs since 1999, releasing the odd collaboration (Raphael Saadiq, Snoop Dogg, Common, Q-Tip, Mark Ronson) but dedicating the bulk of his time to the important business of rehab, legal wrangling, car crashes, prostitution raps, crack, coke, booze and God knows what else. There were disturbing pictures circulating of him looking like a fat tramp and not the lean, mean sex machine we had gotten used to.
Over a decade in the making and jonesing fans may have spotted a couple of leaked titbits on the net from the new album tentatively titled James River. Really Love was leaked by ?uestlove in 2007 and is a gently rolling acoustic number which at the time sounded like a work in progress. 1000 Deaths was leaked in 2010, a scuzzy piece of cosmic slop played in the vein of an old Parliament track. The middle eight is so funky you will need to take a shower after you've heard it. This is apparently the direction D'angelo has gone for the new album with ?uestlove commenting in an interview with Pitchfork that
"For all intents and purposes, this album is the black version of The Beach Boys' Smile – at best, it will go down in the Smile/There’s a Riot Goin’On/Miles Davis’ On the Corner category."
With so much speculation and rumour I guess we will only know for sure when it hits stores. Apparently the whole thing has been leaked online in the last few days but I'll be fucked if I can find it (a litle help here?).
It has been a frustrating time for fans of D'angelo as a barrage of young R&B upstarts have emerged to steal D'angelo crown as king of the swingers. At a time when R&B is turning more and more robotic D'angelo will be welcomed back by lovers of real music like a long lost son. Heres hoping he goes back to that looser, dirtier, organic vibe reminiscent of soul legends of old. I am willing to bet my house on the lack of auto-tune on this album.
Eleven years might seem like a long wait for new material but believe it or not there are worse culprits than D'angelo. Kate Bush took 12 years to complete Aerial, Guns N Roses took 17 years to release Chinese Democracy, The Eagles took 28 years to give the public the Long Road Out Of Eden but the winners are The Yardbirds who released Birdland in 2003, 35 years after Little Games.
The last time D'angelo played the Brixton Academy was in 2000 as part of the Voodoo tour. I was there and I remember being one of the very few "white" faces in the crowd. I have no problem with that but it was an unusual environment for me and I felt a bit self-conscious on arrival. Of course with music this good skin colour is an irrelevance.
D'angelo absolutely smashed his performance. At the time it felt like a combination between an old school James Brown revue and a Funkadelic style wig out. Having assembled about the best backing band possible with cats like Anthony Hamilton on B.V's, ?uestlove on drums, Pino Palladino on bass and Roy Hargrove on horns Voodoo and its predecessor Brown Sugar's jazzy ambience was scaled back in favour of an horn drenched upbeat funk. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to.
I've managed to snag a couple of tickets for the upcoming shows (not cheap) and it remains to be seen with the ravages of drugs, alcohol and time have taken their toll on his genius and his waistline.
In the meantime enjoy this extended take on the classic Untitled (How Does It Feel?) from his Brixton gig over a decade ago for a taste of what is hopefully in store