|08-05-2013, 10:29 AM||#20 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2009
A look back at a underrated gem
Voodoo is the second studio album by D'Angelo, released on January 25,2000. It is his last official album that he has released.
According to Wikipedia:
Inspirations for the Album
On his visit to South Carolina, D'Angelo stated that he "went through this runnel, through gospel, blues, and a lot of old soul, old James Brown, early, early Sly and the Family Stone, and a lot of Jimi Hendrix", and "I learned a lot about music, myself, and where I want to go musically" In the same interview, he cited the deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. as having a great effect on him during the period. In another interview with Touré, D'Angelo said that he had lost his enthusiasm after Brown Sugar's reception and "was gettin' jaded, lookin' at what go on in the business". On his purpose for returning, D'Angelo stated "I had to reiterate why I was doin' that in the first place, and the reason was the love for the music".
D'Angelo was dissatisfied with the direction of R&B during that particular period. In an interview for Jet, he said that "the term R&B doesn't mean what it used to mean. R&B is pop, that's the new word for R&B."[ He also insisted modern R&B was "a joke", adding that "the funny thing about it is that the people making this **** are dead serious about the stuff they're making. It's sad—they've turned black music into a club thing."
In an interview for Ebony, D'Angelo said of his role and influences for Voodoo, "I consider myself very respectful of the masters who came before. In some ways, I feel a responsibility to continue and take the cue from what they were doing musically and vibe on it. That's what I want to do. But I want to do it for this time and this generation".[ In the album's EPK, D'Angelo said that Voodoo is "like a funk album. The natural progression of soul, the next step to soul is funk".
Creation of Concept For The Album
In an interview for USA Today, D'Angelo said of the album's title and its meaning, "the myriad influences found on it can be traced through the blues and back deeper in history through songs sung–in religious voodoo ceremonies." In an interview for Jet magazine, he stated that his intentions for recording the album were to express the power of music and artistic respect for it. The theme is illustrated in Voodoo's liner photography by Thierry LesGoudes, which depicts D'Angelo participating in a voodoo ceremony.
Voodoo's press release discussed D'Angelo's concept, stating "Lyrically, D'Angelo offers that much of Voodoo is personal reflection: touching on subjects like spirituality, sexuality, growth, and in particular, becoming a father. Musically, as he puts it, Voodoo is 'definitely groove-based'". D'Angelo also said that "My inspiration was just to go farther. To get to that next level. To push it even further. To work against the floss and the grain and to get even deeper into the sound that I'm hearing ... and the thing is, I'm just looking at Voodoo as just the beginning. I'm still developing and growing and still listening to that sound I hear inside my head ... So this is the first step
Voodoo evolved from four years of sessions and featured R&B, hip hop, and jazz musicians and recording technicians. Drummer and producer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots was D'Angelo's right hand man during the sessions. He and his crew studied bootleg videotapes of classic R&B artists such as Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix, along with reruns of Soul Train. On several occasions, D'Angelo listened to Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On (1971), which had an influential production.The crew recorded numerous hours of unreleased, original material, as well as covers of their influencers' material.Collectively referred to by D'Angelo as "yoda", these influencers included soul artist Al Green, funk artist George Clinton, and Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti.
Audio engineer Russell Elevado, who recorded and mixed Voodoo, along with Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun and Common's Like Water for Chocolate, used old school recording techniques and vintage mixing gear for the albums in order to achieve the distinct sounds found in classic recorded works. While mainstream recording techniques at the time often involved the use of hi-tech digital equipment, Elevado employed the use of analog equipment, enhancement plug-ins, and a blend of live instrumentation. Notable from the production was that most of it, with the exception of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)",was recorded live with no overdubbing of its instrumentation, in contrast to contemporary R&B production.
For Voodoo's sessions, D'Angelo appropriated most of the instruments on the album's songs, contributing with drums, electric guitar, keyboards, and percussion.During its recording, he employed amplifiers, microphones, a Fender Rhodes keyboards and organ originally used by musician Stevie Wonder for Talking Book (1972),and a recording board originally used by Jimi Hendrix.On Voodoo's recording atmosphere, D'Angelo stated "I believe Jimi was there. Jimi, Marvin Gaye, all the folks we were gravitating to. I believe they blessed the project".
D'Angelo composed all of the bass lines for Voodoo and sequenced them for Welsh bassist Pino Palladino, who he had met after being asked to do a duet with B.B. King at the time of Voodoo's earlier sessions.Palladino was asked by D'Angelo to learn and improvise the bass arrangements on his 1961 model P bass. For "The Root", "Greatdayndamornin'", and "Spanish Joint", guitarist Charlie Hunter simultaneously played guitar and bass sections with a custom eight-string guitar/bass combo, which had three lower bass and five upper guitar strings.It also had separate pickups for each set of strings, as well separate outputs for each pickup.In order to adjust production-wise to Hunter's intricate playing, Elevado had separate outputs from Hunter's guitar connected to a separate bass and guitar amplifier.He has said that there was enough separation to manage an adequate sound on both amplifiers, in spite of slight "bleeding into each other" from the pickups in close proximity to each other.
D'Angelo and his music crew constructed several of the songs' grooves for the album that were very artistic and creative for its time. Questlove helped design the sparse funk, soul and hip hop beats on the generally groove-based record. In later interviews, Questlove discussed that he and D'Angelo incorporated much of the distinctive percussive rhythms of Detroit hip hop producer, Slum Village-member and The Ummah-affiliate J Dilla, also known as Jay Dee (RIP). A part of the musical collective Soulquarians, Dilla served as a frequent collaborator of theirs.Although album tracks such as "Left & Right" and "Devil's Pie" help to bring this claim to light, J Dilla himself was not officially credited for production. However, he contributed significantly to Voodoo's overall sound, specifically the rhythm and percussion.
From left to right: DJ Premeir, D Angelo, J Dilla (Jay Dee), The Alchemist - Imgur
One of the characteristics of the drumming style implemented in recording the album is its adherence to human timing, as the tracks were mostly programmed mechanically during recording, therefore resulting in the album's intentional sloppiness.In a later interview, Questlove discussed the intention and purpose of including imperfection in the album's sound, stating "we wanted to play as perfectly as we could, but then deliberately insert the little glitch that makes it sound messed up. The idea was to sound disciplined, but with a total human feel
Questlove also acknowledged J Dilla's influence over the recording sessions for Voodoo.He said of Dilla's unique programming method during the sessions, "He makes programmed stuff so real, you really can’t tell it’s programmed. He might program 128 bars, with absolutely no looping or quantizing ..
Musical Style and Genre
Voodoo incorporates musical elements of jazz, funk, hip hop, blues, and soul.It features vintage influences and a looser, more improvisational structure, which contrasts the more conventional song structure of Brown Sugar.Music writer Greg Kot has considered the album a production of the Soulquarians, calling it "the most radical of the many fine records" conceived by the collective's members.In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Shawn Rhea, D'Angelo attributed the album's experimental and jam-like atmosphere to the fact that most of Voodoo was recorded "live and it's first take".On its eclectic and conceptual style, Rhea commented D'Angelo seems to have channeled the brilliance of his musical forefathers, living and dead, during the crafting of this album. It is a complex, intricate collection of songs that, like voodoo, is simultaneously secular and spiritual, sensual and sacred, earthbound and ethereal". Recording engineer Russell Elevado's analog mixing and old school production techniques contributed to the album's jazz element and vintage sound. On its jazz influence, D'Angelo stated "because a lot of the album was cut live and has free playing on it, it was hard not to go in a jazz direction".
The album features aggressive multi-tracking of D'Angelo's voice, a technique similar to the production of Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On (1971) and Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On (1973).The multi-tracking on Voodoo significantly affected the clarity of D'Angelo's vocals.In Voodoo's liner notes, Saul Williams wrote of its heavy use of multi-tracking, stating "You might respond, 'Lyrics? Yo, I can't even understand half the **** that D'Angelo be saying. That nigg@ sounds like Bobby McFerrin on opium'. And I'd say, 'You're right. Neither can I. But I am drawn to figure out what it is that he's saying. His vocal collaging intrigues me'". Music writers have also noted the production style and sound of Voodoo as reminiscent of the sound of the P-Funk opus Mothership Connection (1975), Gaye's downtempo disco-soul record I Want You (1976), and Miles Davis's jazz fusion works In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970).
D'Angelo and his crew also utilized a hip hop production style, which often subordinates song structure to a stable foundation for a rapper's delivery and flow.This was familiar to D'Angelo, as his first original recordings were rap demos.Subsequently, most of the songs were performed without a definitive structure, settling into a mid-tempo groove with minimal verse-chorus-bridge progression.This also resulted in an emphasis on texture over both structure and hooks
NME praised the albums diverse sound and commented that the album "represents nothing less than African American music at a crossroads ... To simply call D'Angelo's work neo-classic soul, as per corporate diktat, would be reductive, for that would be to ignore the elements of vaudeville jazz, Memphis horns, ragtime blues, funk and bass grooves, not to mention hip-hop, that slip out of every pore of these 13 haunted songs The album one two grammys: One for best R&B album and the smash single "Untitled" won for Best male R&B Performance and by critics considered one of the best albums of all time.
Take a listen:
Last edited by Soulflower; 08-05-2013 at 11:25 AM.