It’s a drummer’s record. What Questlove, James Gadson and Chris Dave do with their instruments pushes the music on the long-awaited (14 years) album in all kinds of directions. Together with a sophisticated and cool drum programming, they create some amazingly funky, soulful, shuffling and jazzy tunes here.
For me, the album starts to really become fascinating with the fourth track “Sugah Daddy” which is one of the most dazzling soul/funk performances I’ve heard in years. Roy Hargrove‘s horns put some extra spice to one of the album’s highlights. The groove meanders along to some iressistible, hypnotic bass line. Pino Palladino is all over the place here. There is a little whistling ditty which is much too short (“The Door”) and two parts of a funk jam (“Back To The Future”) that could go on forever.
The vocal arrangement and sitars on the album’s closer, “Another Life”, are simply out of this world. This is an album you want to get back to over and over again because there are so many interesting and appealing details which you won’t hear upon first listen.
According to Nelson George‘s introductory words, this is a partly politically charged album. “It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen.” Too bad though that it is almost impossible to understand the words on the first three tracks because the vocals are distorted and strangely mixed. It would be interesting to hear/read the lyrics to “1000 Deaths”, the song that starts with an audio edit from the film “The Murder Of Fred Hampton”, an early 70s documentary movie about Hampton and the Illinois Black Panthers during which he was killed by the Chicago Police. I’ve heard that the full lyrics will be printed on the vinyl version of the disk (long live vinyl!).
Maybe the first three tracks will open up to me on the 27th listen, maybe not. But so far, “Ain’t That Easy”, “1000 Deaths” and “The Charade” just don’t cross over even though they have a sizzling charme. But it doesn’t matter. With “Sugah Daddy” and “Another Life”, he has created two of the most arresting pieces of music I’ve heard in many years.
And Gina? Well, there is the sexy “Really Love” which contains a sample of Curtis Mayfield‘s “We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue” and which also features the spoken word of a mysterious Gina.
As for the album’s title, it is “about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.”