There’s usually reason to be apprehensive when an artist spends years in the workshop on a single set of songs. The results can seem joyless; think Chinese Democracy, which took Guns N’ Roses 14 tortured years to finish. D’Angelo spent nearly as much time crafting his new record. He took his time and loaded up some of the tracks with everything from the audio candy store. Incredibly, the music rarely sounds cluttered or overwrought.
D’Angelo has just released his first album in 15 years, Black Messiah. In fact, Black Messiah feels downright loose — it’s powered by D’Angelo’s agitated keyboard jabs and, of course, his low-key, almost subversive intensity as a singer. All of his trademarks are here, including those floridly elaborate vocal harmonies.