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Meshell Ndegeocello - The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams

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Artist: Meshell Ndegeocello

Album: The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams

Label: Emarcy

Review date: Jan. 8, 2008

It's a mouthful as a title, and whether or not it has anything to do with the intent or focus of the record isn't any more clear by the end of the last song. However, Meshell Ndegeocello's long-awaited latest album has the earmarks of statement and concept all over it. Opening with "Haditha,” a decidedly amusical audio collage (space sounds and Muslim scholar Yusuf Hamza explaining the signs that Armageddon may be upon us), the album never runs short of heavy-handed gestures and ideas, and while it occasionally slips off the Road to Serious – a good example being the Star Trek reference in Elliptical, repeated several times – listeners may leave their first session of TWHMMTMOMD with a kind of analytical bittersweetness. Is it a triumph as a concept? Hard to say. The concept may be no more clear than Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear (If you haven't already, check that one out. Recently reissued, Marvin Gaye sticks it to Barry Gordy and his sister by providing a double album as part of a divorce settlement, and they get an insurmountably freaky 90 minutes of funk about black people in space. Fucking awesome.) On the other hand, does Ndegeocello offer a broad palette, blending samples, electronics, precise instrumental performance, and more soul than any of her Black Rock Coalition compadres? Absolutely.

Songs like "Lovely Lovely" show Ndegeocello at her best: a prodigy musician (her contributions on the album stretch far beyond her trademark bassist/vocalist role) surrounding herself with more of the same, handpicking a long list of niche artists who blend together like a band for almost every song, and building intricate foundations of detail that never obscure the hard funk and soul beneath. Like other songs on the album, this one suggests that it couldn't be composed – let alone played – by musicians without a solid, cross-genre understanding of harmonic theory and rhythm, and while the lyrics might come across as an unedited cocktail napkin from the pocket of a dinner jacket we don't usually wear, she's talking about love, and she's saying things that people only say when they’re really in love.

As a theme, love is prevalent, outmentioned only by "God" and "Creator." More interesting recurring elements of TWHMMTMOMD, however, are contributions by Pat Metheny, who appears on several songs but clearly influences others, and Erik Dyba, the engineer on Ndegeocello's breakout Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape and nearly every track on TWHMMTMOMD. Dyba's engineering may be the unifying concept above all else.

By Andy Freivogel

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