Me'shell NdegeOcello - Devil's Halo (2009)

Me'shell NdegeOcello
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One can only imagine how an artist receives the lukewarm reception of a supposed loyal following to what is critically considered their pinnacle work. In the case of Me'shell N'degeocello, the body of work in question could best be captured as B.C. and A.C., Before Cookie and After Cookie, at least in terms of the project's lackluster fan reception and the artist's subsequently estranged response. In the years A.C., there has been a progress and then departure of N'degeocello's sound and synergy, garnering this critique. The hip hop, spoken word, funk, R&B, rock, reggae and jazz metamorphosis of her first five albums remain a traversing body of work that is astoundingly unique. The later unclassifiable, however musically complex, Dance of the Infidel and The World Has Made Me... challenged and lost a significant portion of her already confused fan base. Seemingly ready to forgive her fans' betrayal, N'degeocello's latest effort, Devil's Halo, may bring some of the bothered and bewildered back into her fold.

Devil's Halo brings focus to what a diehard fan might have seen as a misguided, misdirected Me'shell on previous works. There are many reasons one can surmise why the other N'degeocello projects were so detached from what came B.C., and why Devil's Halo proves a stronger return. Not that the underrated genius didn't show brilliance even when disconnected from her origins, but the Lake, Pena, Cato and Gamson family members who contributed heavily to her first five albums, and perhaps her musical soundation, were missing much more from the two works preceding Devil's Halo. The Devil's Halo proves a more consistent work than many N'degeocello efforts in the A.C. years. With a new family in a wife and new band that includes Deantoni Parks, Keefus Ciancia and Chris Bruce, ...Halo's cohesiveness may be attributed to N'degeocello's personal and professional cultivation of those relationships over the last three years. Whatever the reasons, Devil's Halo returns us to more of what we've been missing from the enigmatic performer.

The sexiness we've come to respect N'degeocello for, and have only gotten flashes of in the last two recordings, I am happy to say is back. She can still undress any man or woman with her voice and instrumentation. While the spoken word segues haven't returned, the pick-up artist from the club scene does with "Tie One On" and "White Girl." The instrumental bedroom invites, "Hair of the Dog" and the title tune still arouse, as always.

Yes, she's still a mack.

Despite waking up in the midst of a Bangles' or Georgia Satellites' rock and roll 80s album, the darkness, funk and "badassness" fans have loved N'degeocello  for is restored. And make no mistake, when she decides to rock and roll, it's as exceptional as any other genre tap we've heard from her before.

"If you think I owe you something, get in line."

The sentiment of "Bright Shiny Morning" may very well sum up the last few albums and more importantly, N'degeocello 's stage distance from fans since Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape. The graciousness of Cookie offered multi-dimensional layers while being her most focused and cerebral product. For once she "played the game," even allowing a Missy remix to be included and used for Cookie's lead single; this was as accessible as N'degeocello was ever going to get and the chilly reception deserved every bit of the retreat N'degeocello's  next three tours contained. All those demanding an "Outside Your Door" encore, refusing to appreciate the expansion and experimentation of her reggae, jazz and rock offerings, appeared to no longer deserve her grace.

Hopefully, those left out in the wilderness learned something from their "punishment," now that their time-out from N'degeocello is up, and the Devil's Halo can remind them of when they used to love her.  Highly Recommended

By Reg Jones