Meshell Ndegeocello. Eyebrow raising name isn’t it? Well, here’s something else you ought to know; she has had ten Grammy nominations. TEN!! Clearly, this seems like something we should all be listening to. And after my first listen, I declare: It certainly is. It’s smooth and soulful R n’ B for those who prefer to weep quietly than scream their angst to the world, for those who think that emotions are to be dealt with dignity and those who think that music can be enjoyed equally whether its fast or slow.
Anyway, the first track “Adam” is basically a horn and string section with some drums which, rather appropriately, sounds bitter. It’s also highly reminiscent of the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack. Moving on, Meshell’s voice is mainly very breathy, perhaps only in this album to fit its generally dark and introspective tone. It has tons of soul, but it’s not particularly unique. It’s somewhere near the top of the category of voices exemplified by Tracy Chapman: earthy, breathy, quiet and honest. Her singing also makes the lyrics easily discernible, as opposed to the usual melismatic hell that is exemplified by Britney Spears and her ilk.Speaking of the lyrics, as you must have guessed by now from most of the song titles, this album is about love and all the pain it causes. That said, there is a refreshing sincerity (no pun intended), in this limb of the so called ‘woe-is-me factory’.
The grooves all through the album are great, with no unnecessarily jumpy hooks and with some gentle chord changes. This woman has amazing sense of harmony. The chords are consistently interesting and beautiful and surprising in their soft, enveloping magnificence. Also, large parts of many songs are full of moody instrumentals seemingly lulling you into peaceful sleep on a bed of bass and tickling percussion. They are all wonderful, but I wish that the songs with serious bass grooves had the bass a little louder, like “Satisfy”, “Fool of Me” and “Grace”. The plague that makes your booty move is somewhat lacking, as a result. That’s quite disappointing, knowing the fact that Meshell is a kick-ass bass player capable of an ocean deep pocket, as you will see in the video.
Faults? The whole tone of the album could have been much less somber at times. It’s good music, but it started to get to me b y the 10th track. Will I be coming back to this album? Not as an album I won’t, but I will regularly listen to the fantastic tracks stuffed with great grooves on the first half of the album.
– El Bajista
More MESHELL HERE.
More R n’ B/ SOUL (only one album at the time of writing this review) HERE.