Volume 93, Issue 72
Tuesday, February 8, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
D'Angelo does Voodoo well
The wait is finally over. After five long years, Michael D'Angelo Archer has returned with his sophomore effort, Voodoo and has clearly made some changes since his 1995 debut, Brown Sugar.
Rather than simply cashing in and repeating the Brown Sugar formula, he decided to go a different route altogether.
While its predecessor had a fairly polished, accessible sound, Voodoo is rough and murky, with several tracks featuring a hard hip-hop edge, such as "Devil's Pie" (produced by DJ Premier of Gangstarr). The most striking stylistic change is the increased emphasis on pure, uncut funk. This is funk at its darkest and will no doubt be ranked among the likes of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Going On and Prince's The Black Album in the future. It is a ground-breaking album, mixing organic sounds with electronic and traditional styles with modern.
The grooves D'Angelo has cooked up feature teeth-rattling bass lines, intricate horn charts and swelling organ fills which draw the listener in from the beginning, never letting up until the album's end.
After listening to Voodoo, it becomes apparent D'Angelo has not wasted his five year hiatus. It's clear he spent his time crafting the best album he could. The first single, "Left & Right," is anchored by a twitchy guitar riff and a guest appearance from rap superstars Method Man and Redman.
"Spanish Joint" is a sweaty jam boasting a playful, poly-rhythmic cadence. "One Mo' Gin" is a particularly ominous track which breaks into a high energy vamp at the song's close. His cover of Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love" is a particular highlight, offering a sultry smooth performance of an already classic song.
Without a doubt, the finest songs on Voodoo are the ones closing the album. "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," which D'Angelo has called his tribute to Prince, is a beautiful, guitar-led ballad delivering the CD's most powerful vocals. "Africa" is something wholly different a delicate, ethereal song which discusses his heritage and possesses a captivating melody.
This song is a good indication of the maturity D'Angelo acquired in the gap between his two releases. While Brown Sugar was concerned with nothing more than romance, Voodoo finds time for other topics and tackles some weightier issues, such as societal ills and spirituality.
Voodoo is the sound of a developing genius at work and should serve as a calling card to the rest of the music world, announcing another remarkably gifted performer. Daring, innovative and endlessly fascinating, D'Angelo has proven himself to be worlds ahead of his peers with this album.
Voodoo is spellbinding.
Aaron St. John
Passage Through Time
For urban music fans who think Canadian hip-hop can't come close to what the United States has to offer, guess again. Hailing from the Toronto suburb of Rexdale, Da Grassroots enter the scene with a vengeance debuting their first full-length album, Passage Through Time.
This record will definitely appeal real hip-hop fans, but those who consider rappers such as DMX or Juvenile to be intelligent lyricists might want to buy another album. This release features some of the best MCs you've never heard, as well as current Canadian industry golden boy Choclair, who double teams the mic with underground favourite Saukrates on the track "Body Language."
A few of the songs in the middle of Passage aren't as good as what Da Grassroots drop at the album's beginning and end, but with 24 cuts, there's still a lot of music to enjoy. "Thematics" and "Political Proverbs" are two standout tracks, as well as "Revival," which boasts an old school flavour.
Da Grassroots are at the top of their game when it comes to the album's production. The beats they pick always seem to complement the vocals perfectly, so every track sounds in place. The one thing Passage lacks is a generous amount of turntablism and a hip-hop album just isn't complete without it.
With the severe lack of urban airplay on Canadian radio waves, support for more Canuck hip-hop at the grass roots level is needed. A good first step would be to buy this album not simply to support a homegrown effort, but to acquire a quality one.
Metal Blade Records
Embracing Viking mythology and elements of fantasy, Amon Amarth's The Avenger is a collection of songs which tell stories of mythic proportions. Even the band's name delves into the fantastic, translating into the Tolkienesque track "Mount Doom."
With its themes of legends, sacrifice, ancient gods, Christianity and a fabled sword, The Avenger is the culmination of the band's wavering career. Suffering several lineup changes, Amon Amarth seems to have reorganized and assembled a quintet which understands each other. This is evident in the impeccable rhythm and timing established in each song. Stemming from this is creative drum work the most impressive aspect of the album which holds all the songs together.
Amon Amarth, however, fall prey to the parameters set by producing a theme-based album. While the storytelling keeps the listener interested, the music does not. Clever storytelling should create a mood within the music and add a cohesive atmosphere to the album, but the songs on The Avenger fail to do so.
Similarly, although the rich narration deserves a high emotional content, there is little found in their lyrics, leaving this album a hollow and disappointing one.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000