Monday, 6 February 2012


I remember when Voodoo came out. I was working at a Virgin Megastore, my first job after leaving school. There were a few of us that were Hip-Hop heads there, made beats and whatnot. I remember them telling me about this guy D'Angelo, and how great he was, and in particular how good his new album Voodoo was. I'm an opinionated kind of guy, and had already made my mind up about how I didn't like him; I mean, look at that album cover, him with his pecs out, I thought it was cheesy as fuck, way too smooth. I have, and always will like my music rough around the edges.

Not long after the Voodoo tour had left town, I happened upon the album, and... well, you just don't listen to that album and not become obsessed with it, no matter what your taste in music is. That and Common's 'Like Water For Chocolate' album became the soundtrack to my life. It's weird, none of the artists that were grouped into the Neo/Nu Soul genre did anything for me whatsoever. Maxwell, Musiq Soulchild, The Roots, even Erykah (the only albums of hers I truly enjoy are the New Amerikah ones). Too smooth for me. Voodoo is different. It's freaky.

Last friday I saw D'Angelo at the Brixton Academy, his first gig in London in 11 years. Needless to say I was pretty excited. Was sat at my computer 5 minutes before tickets went on sale pressing the refresh button on my browser like a crazy person. Booked my tickets, but found out weeks after that the gig still hadn't sold out. I was confused. I guess no matter how good you are, you can't disappear for that long and expect to pick up where you left off.

The gig was mildly disappointing. The band for me were poor, despite Pino Palladino being on bass (he who played on the Voodoo sessions). Too often, it lapsed into cod-james-brown 60s funk jamming, as opposed to the more freaky, slower, Sly Stone vibe that D is known for. There were nods to Eddie Hazel and Funkadelic with distorted guitar shenanigans, but they fell on deaf ears. The vibe was flat, as the audience were there to hear Brown Sugar and Voodoo faithfully recreated.

Speaking of which, one of the two notable things about the gig was the audience. I've never been to a gig with such a mixed crowd. There were people there of all ages, all sexes and all colours. I have genuinely never seen this. 

Secondly, for a brief while, D'Angelo sat down at the CP-70/80 (Not sure which) electric piano, and played a medley of some of his back catalogue, completely unaccompanied. Something really happened hearing him play and sing with such virtuosity, the thing that i'd been hoping i'd feel when I went to the gig. It was truly moving, and it dawned on me what an astonishing talent this man is. Listening to Voodoo I have to admit i'd attributed the plaudits to Russell Elevado, D's band, the inspiration of Jay Dee (present at the sessions with his MPC), Questlove. But here it hit me plain and simple. D'Angelo is the genius, with the voice and the compositional talent to back it up. Stripping the songs of their grooves, you heard just the harmony and melody, and it was more than enough.

Since the gig i've been listening to Voodoo on repeat, and I am convinced it really is one of the best soul albums of all time. Yet I know so little about it. Looking for a photo of the Voodoo cover to add to my tumblr album listening diary thing, I came across this video that was part of the EPK for the Voodoo release. It's pretty cool... mental to see people like Rick Rubin, Chris Rock, Eric Clapton (?) all listening to playbacks in the studio. And they all have the same reaction, they can't believe what they're hearing;

To this day, I wish I had listened to those guys at the Virgin Megastore. My flatmate saw the Voodoo tour, and I can barely even look her in the eye, such is my jealousy. My good friend Tommy D, a music producer, was present at some of the Voodoo sessions, at Electric Lady studios in New York. Don't even get me started on that.