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D'Angelo was hyped as a real soul superstar when this album was released in 1995. Brown Sugar was a fresh of breath air at a time when mindless gangster rap and pop soul were breezing through the charts, this album had weight and gravitas and immediately brought to mind the majestic Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
For me this album was seminal in helping to return R&B to its roots, while there were some great philly swing bands and some decent soul bands, R&B had been diluted and was more mainstream than pop, but D'Angelo's album proved you can be serious and incredibly cool in making soul, class, attitude and intelligence all key assets in his armoury and that of his music.
The album has some fantastic songs from the riffing opener Brown Sugar, which is sassy, sexy and too cool for school, through the sweet smoky soul of Alright and Jonz in my Bonz.
Smooth and Cruisin are incredibly chilled soul classics which combine D'Angelo's sweet soul voice with beautiful music arrangements while Lady and Higher are exceptional examples of the singers craft.
Throughout the album D'angelo shows an incredible vocal range, his music is both classy and cool and the whole thing sounds as good today as the day it was released and is a true classic of its time and its genre for me.
1. "Brown Sugar
3. "Jonz in My Bonz"
4. "Me and Those Dreamin' Eyes of Mine"
5. "Sh★t, Damn, Motherf★cker"
8. "When We Get By"
This is a true classic and is well worth the £5.00 you would pay for it at Amazon.com.
When D'Angelo (a singer-songwriter responsible for the 'Black Men United' song "U Will Know") dropped "Brown Sugar" in 1995 as his debut album, he kick-started what would soon be known as Neo-Soul as he came with an R&B album which brought in influences from the Golden Age of Soul in addition to other alternative styles such as Funk, Hip Hop and Jazz (as would be taken on by the likes of Erykah Badu, Raphael Saadiq and Jill Scott in the future to singlehandedly revolutionise the R&B world.
1. "Brown Sugar"
The album gets going with perhaps the biggest track from the album. It is a great way to get things started here as he lays down a mellow groove to ease the listeners in as he comes in with a smooth one and shows his general approach here as he comes with a tune which sounds as if it is done in a simplistic manner, but can be uncovered to find many layers all working at the same level to put across his emotions as he sings towards a girl he is interested in.
Here you get a tune which advances things nicely as he gets into a tune which works nicely from the tune which came prior to it as he is able to come with even more of the gentle Soul material, but he does so on top of a fly composition which contrast significantly from this as he brings together the Quiet Storm and the Hip Hop-inspired sounds of R&B together to come up with a funky, uplifting effort.
3. "Jonz In My Bonz"
As the title suggests, with this you see that he gets into a song where he talks of a love in his life that he just can't help but obsess over. You find that here he is joined by Angie Stone in the composition of it as he gets into another which takes on a fresh structure, with some Hip Hop percussion as he sings in a light manner to really let it be known just how he feels about this and how it prevents him form coming out with full words, and just jazzy melodies instead to express it.
4. "Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes On Mine"
On this one you have him getting into even more of the top-quality, emotive R&B material where he is seen to take it right to the greats of Soul from the late seventies and early eighties to come up with a raw sound which really compliments the progressive way in which the music is produced to back him up as he goes along the way and sings it out. It is one which really stands out here and does big things as he gets busy with his powerful vocals.
5. "S**t, Damn, M**********r"
As the title suggests, with this one you get a bit of a turn in the way that the music is seen to be directed and the sorts of emotions which are brought out within it. This is addressed immediately in the thumping bass pounds which command the tune before he gets the chance to sing. In it you have him in rage as he is in pain over the fact that his girl has been found to be sleeping wit his best friend. The guitar wah-wahs which accompany him bring out the power of the Funk within this tune and really express what going through his mind as he sings it.
With this one you have more of the fly Hip Hop input coming into the music as you find that with ti he gets down with a modern jazz composition as he sings about a girl in a similar way to what you get with the sensual opening number from this album. It is one which does big things and works well after having him put across new things in the song prior to it. I expect that it would be one which anyone could get down to as it is so passive and remains on a level so it is never too strong n any single direction.
The Funk returns as this one begins and you find that he gets into another of the singles from the album. This time around we have a tune which gets him showing how he is able to do not only his own material, but also something where he has to adapt from an original as here he gets down to some work from Smokey Robinson and he is seen to do big things with it. I have to say that it didn't seem as fresh as the others up to this point, but it still wasn't a bad one.
8. "When We Get By"
This is a nice and light song from him where he is able to just have fun with things once more as he gets down to another Smooth Jazz-styled tune as he displays how he has been able to take on great influence from traditional styles in order to come out with big results for this project. I have to say that this one sits as the track prior to it does in that it is a good one, but is missing something to take it that extra step forward.
Suddenly the standards improve as he gets down to another of the big singles from the album and you find that more of the Hip hop influence is brought back. There is lots of Funk being used to drive this one along as he gets assistance from Raphael Saadiq and gets into one where he is able to calmly show appreciation for the girl in his life and what exactly she has done for him to get him to this state.
The album ends with D'Angelo getting into one where he takes it back towards the Soul style and shows just how much his vocals have to offer as he lets them pull out amongst the most effective things to leave the album on a massive high and represent the release well. In ti you see that he makes big things happen as he takes on much more of a Gospel style to come out with a calming final offering.
This is an album from D'Angelo which really deserves the attention it receives as it is a significant release and found that he was able to use his innovative sound to come up with a well-rounded album which explored this style extensively before others had the opportunity to experiment with it. It doesn't have any weak tracks, but does slip slightly for a pair of tunes.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Brown Sugar
2 Alright Alright
3 Jonz In My Bonz
4 Me And Those Dreaming Eyes Of Mine
5 Shit Damn Motherfucker
8 When We Get By