Comeback Album Miniseries - Pt. 1
Let's take a moment to establish the criteria for our next miniseries. What defines a comeback album? Is it released after an intentional hiatus? Is it released as part of a reunion tour? Does it signal a change in artistic direction, or a return to a sound found in earlier works? Is a comeback album defined simply by a return to commercial success after previous records failed to chart? Is it something deeper? Is it a marker of personal redemption? The answer to all of these questions... is... maybe?
A comeback album is, in my opinion, definitely not a breakthrough album. It of course can't be a debut album, but it could be a debut solo album. It definitely can't suck, and it ideally shouldn't be released too close on the heels of earlier works. So with that, I'll invite the very limited reader base of this log to ponder just what a comeback album may or may not be.
We'll start off with a pretty easy choice to fit the bill of a comeback album. This record was published a whopping fourteen years after D'Angelo's previous release in 2000. Both Black Messiah (2014) and Voodoo (2000) have a similar cast of musicians, and the sound between the two is fairly comparable to my ear. Black Messiah probably has a bit more going on from an instrumental point of view when compared to Voodoo, and I'd argue that the compositions in Black Messiah are more complex. The featured track for this post, to take one example, has some dreamy/ambiguous qualities that I don't remember hearing in Voodoo. I like the way that the intro has this floaty/Spanish/jazzy sounding guitar that gives way so nicely in to the bass and strings and groove that defines the bulk of the track. "Really Love" was the single from this album, but I'm not gonna try that hard and pretend that there are other tracks on the album that I like better. Except for maybe "Betray My Heart".
If I'm being fully transparent, I still prefer Voodoo over Black Messiah. For the moment, at least. But that's not what matters here. What matters is that D'Angelo & The Vanguard pulled off the comeback. Now that we have the rules of the road set for this miniseries, I promise to dive in more deeply to our future write ups. I feel that this album has an enormity of material that I have failed to do shed any light on.
If I may recommend any further reading/listening, I'd suggest that you all track down the podcast interview between Rick Rubin and Questlove (who played drums on both Voodoo and Black Messiah) and give that a listen. It is a truly phenomenal conversation. They discuss the production of Voodoo, amongst many other things. It's on the Broken Record podcast. If you'd prefer to read, check out the article linked below. If you want to ponder the mysteries of artistic genius, maybe just ask yourself how this Welsh man on the right named Pino plays such unbelievably funky bass lines throughout this entire album.