Album Review: D’Angelo and The Vanguard – “Black Messiah”




After a 14 year hiatus, the Grammy award winning soulful singer D’Angelo has came back with a new shocking album release called Black Messiah released on December 15th, 2014. The name titled on the album is D’Angelo and the Vanguard. Vanguard being the name of his music band. His last album Voodoo was released in 2001.


“Ain’t That Easy” is the first song to start off the album. A great song to start it off. The instrumentation has a funky/rock groove, with a steady bass and guitar licks. It’s definitely a Prince and the Revolution inspired track. The lyrics are saying that it ain’t that easy to leave him, and she just can’t leave the relationship. “1000 Deaths” is the next song, another Prince inspired track. Showing off his vocal range by hitting notes you didn’t even know he was capable of doing. That electric bass cuts through this song like scissors to paper, with piercing sharp instrumentation all the way around. The lyrics are speaking about troubling societal issues:

“I can’t get over my fear, they’re gonna send me over the hill. The moment of truth is near. They’re gonna send me over the hill.”


The next song is, “The Charade”. A very Beatles instrumentation inspired track. Fine writing on this song, clearly speaking on the police brutality happening in America right now. One of the standout lyrics:

“All we wanted was a chance to talk, instead we only getting outlined with chalk. Feet have bled the million miles we’ve walked.”

“Sugah Daddy” is the fourth song, co-written by rapper Q-Tip. It’s a straight funk enthused groove, with a nice horn placement, and fine piano playing from D’Angelo. The first single off of the album, “Really Love” is the next song. Co-written by Kendra Foster, sounds like a continuation song that could have been from VooDoo probably the reasoning for it being the first single. Great harmonies throughout the song, and that amazing walking bass line from the fine bassist Pino Palladino.

“Back to the Future (Part I)” is the next song. Another funky groove, the lyrics are expressing how he wants to go back in time. Sounds like another lyrical deep element to the song, that might mean he was always in the future in past time. He’s also referencing going back to his hometown Richmond, VA in the song too. One of the standout lyrics being:

“If you were wondering, the shape I’m in. I hope it ain’t my abdomen, you’re referring to”

The whole song feels like a jam session, the listeners are invading in on.

“Til It’s Done” is the seventh song, another song co-written by Kendra Foster. Great instrumentation and powerful lyrics. Asking who we are as a people, and how it effects us a society in whole. “Prayer” follows, fine organ playing from D’Angelo with this gospel filled song. “Betray My Heart” is the ninth song from the album. Someone throw some flowers at Pino Palladino’s feet for showing off his skillful bass playing skills. He was so in the pocket, but still improvising on some bass licks with this groove. The musician ears were on, so definitely noticed the key changes and the increased tempo with the rim shot throughout the song. Just a straight swing/jazz groove. D’Angelo was using beautiful metaphors lyrically, to describe how she doesn’t have to fear his love will fade, because he would never betray his heart.

“The Door” is another song co-written by Kendra Foster. A nice acoustic track, with a nice whistling melody. “Back to the Future (Part II) is the next song. The mention of this Parliament/Funkadelic inspired track of being a lengthy jam session, because the reasoning for it being a continuation to Part I. The last song on the album is “Another Life”, this was a great song to end the album. A Chicago/Philly instrumentation, with fine drumming from the great Questlove.


This album should not be dissected as just another album that came out this year. It has a Sly and the Family Stone vibe, with a Jimmy Hendrix energy fill to it. Powerful lyrics, skillful instrumentation, and amazing vocals, are all the things to classify this album as being called a fine body of work. You can never forget what a great multi-talented artist D’Angelo is, and also what a true soul artist he truly is as well. This is definitely an album that will stamp date this time and era. Any one credited to being a part of this album deserves recognition. From the executive producers, engineer Russell Elevado. To all of the musicians (Vanguard) credited Questlove (drummer),  Jesse Johnson (guitarist), Pino Palladino (bassist), James Gadson (drummer), Chris Dave (drummer), and of course D’Angelo. All respect is due for this masterpiece.


Black Messiah is in stores now, available for digital purchase via iTunes and Amazon.