By Del F. Cowie“We’re trying to make our own little world right here, at least give us that,” says the first voice you hear on D’Angelo’s long-awaited sophomore release, and it’s Jimi Hendrix. The guitar god, whose Electric Lady recording studios served as the recording base for Voodoo, is among the many legendary musicians (Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Prince) whom D’Angelo counts as muses. He draws on the past, as well as his contemporary gleaning of hip-hop as the sticky funk of “Chicken Grease,” nestling hallmark silky falsettos comfortably alongside cribbed Rakim lyrics and Clintonesque vocal flourishes. Like his Brown Sugar debut, vocals float in and out of the mix, but Voodoo’s tracks mark a transition into loose jam sessions. It’s when these riffs are gradually built on that Voodoo’s finest moments come to the fore. The tension and release of Prince homage “Untitled,” the exquisite resignation of “The Root” and the elaborate intricacy of “Spanish Joint” best represent the taut interplay between D’Angelo and his collaborators who include the Roots’ ?uestlove, Roy Hargrove and Charlie Hunter. There are moments where too much thought blunts the feel of freewheeling spontaneity, but his staunch resolution to prove his own relevance doesn’t mean he ignores his history or artistic debt; he whispers “Thank you” on the luminous paean “Africa.” It just means Voodoo’s opening remark is less a disclaimer than a solemn purposeful vow hinting at the riveting journey ahead.
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