Autobiographical Order No. 183: D’Angelo – Voodoo

I’m going to make a generalization: There are basically two categories of greatest-of-all-time albums. 1. The albums where you remember where you were when it came out, which stayed with you throughout your life, and which come attached to a number of memories and associations. And 2. the albums you discover later, which feel like unearthing some kind of amazing archeological find. For me, D’Angelo’s Voodoo was closer to the latter. It came out when I was a senior in high school, and I definitely remember the video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”, with a mostly naked D’Angelo spinning in slow motion. But the album evaded me, probably because I didn’t really have any friends that listened to him, and with the lead single being a slow jam, I didn’t necessarily take to it so immediately. Even in college, it somehow escaped my attention; I had dorm neighbors that liked a lot of neo-soul, mainly Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild, but D’Angelo never came up. In hindsight that feels pretty wrong.

It was about seven years later that I first gave Voodoo a proper listen, and it blew my damn mind. Recorded with The Roots as his backing band, Voodoo is easily one of the best R&B albums of the past 20 years. Maybe THE best R&B album of the past 20 years. There are some strong competitors, but damn is this an amazing record.

For a while the album was out of print on vinyl, and I was beyond itching to find a reasonably priced copy to pick up and drop on the turntable. That finally happened in early 2013, when Light in the Attic—one of the absolute best vinyl labels around—gave it a proper reissue. (Note: There are a handful of labels that people should by all means avoid when it comes to vinyl, including Plain and 4 Men With Beards, which release sketchy bootleg-quality reissues mastered from CD. Why even bother?) I picked it up on a trip to New York from the now-closed Other Music (R.I.P., really bummed me out when that happened.) along with another album I’ll be writing about tomorrow. Suffice it to say I was itching to get this on the record player STAT.

And oh man, it’s a thing of wonder. Every track is so funky, so rich and raw. You can feel that bass. And with the exception of “Left and Right,” there aren’t really any filler tracks. (No offense to Method Man and Redman, they just feel kind of tacked on here.) But “Playa Playa,” the DJ Premier-produced “Devil’s Pie,” “Africa,” “Spanish Joint”…so many amazing tracks.

I saw D’Angelo live a few years later at FYF Fest, and it was one of the best live shows I’ve seen all decade. Kinda hope he gets back to playing some headlining shows. I’d make sure not to miss it for sure.

Rating: 9.8

Sound Quality: Great

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