This post’s bittersweet. Every once in a while, after listening to pretty much every single record on or near pop’s massive radius, for On The Record, I get shocked. Kind of like how I was talking about Niki & The Dove last week, I had one of those moments today. Ooooh lord is it sweet. I need to share with you how much this record slays me.
Up front: if I didn’t love a certain other cadre of artists in this genre, this record wouldn’t nearly level me the way that it does. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy: Maxwell, D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Dam-Funk, Raphael Saadiq, etc. Let’s call this neo-soul. And in this past year, we grew to revere D’Angelo as the deity of this crew. We worshipped at the reissue of 2000’s Voodoo, went wild over his return to the stage both abroad and here in Philadelphia, and saw him in the glowing new talents that emerged via Frank and Miguel. And there is so much Michael Eugene Archer (AKA D’Angelo) in Jose James’ newest, No Beginning No End.
This LP is available on NPR’s gift-from-the-heavens section of their music coverage called First Listen. If you’re not checking in on First Listen regularly, you’re a chump. Said it. Not knowing what to expect, I pushed play and in the first few tracks was picking up my jaw and Googling the hell outta this guy. It’s incredibly beautiful. Telling that it’s on Blue Note, this record incorporates loads of blues, jazz, drum ‘n bass and understated, artistic hip-hop. That’s one of the striking features about this one; the genre is unimportant. We sure love to categorize things, but you just listen in awe and rarely feel like you even WANT to pin it down. You’re just happy that it’s here and that it and Jose exist.
There are two female guest spots and they are freakin’ stunning. Especially the second track, “Sword + Gun,” featuring Hindi Zahra. This track incorporates a hypnotic hand clap rhythm that just doesn’t let up, and a syncopated international flavor that sounds vaguely Spanish and North African. But that heavy employment of a funky organ, a simple snare and a drifting, drowsy vibe makes D’Angelo sit up straight and make sure he gets on his A Game for 2013’s James River.
So the bittersweet just comes from being embarassed at having never heard this beautiful man’s voice before. And catching up now and admitting that I’m late on this game. But the second part is that it looks like we won’t be catching him live in Philadelphia anytime soon. If you listen and you feel like you must, there are a few dates in D.C., Boston and NYC, but, ya know. Thassatrip. The album hits streets on the 22nd and his tour kicks off the next day in New York at the Highline Ballroom.