Ventriloquism

Meshell Ndegeocello

Allpoints, 2018

http://www.meshell.com

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/12/2018

On this, her first record in four years, Meshell has returned with a different sort of covers album. This disc features mostly R&B jams from the late ‘70s and ‘80s, and the results are unfortunately not really that great. The moody atmospherics of Al B. Sure’s! “Nite And Day” show off a different side of the song, but will leave the listener wanting the original track. nbtc__dv_250

One track that really does work is the remake of Sade’s all-time classic “Smooth Operator.” The combination of voice and bass is a highlight and the song has a nice, downbeat jazzy feel that manages to do what the rest of the record is unable to do: be exciting and interesting. Another good moment is Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” which brings a lot of the energy of the original track.

The overly long and incredibly slow version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April” drags the proceedings to a grinding halt. It’s too slow for its own good and unable to find anything remotely decent in its timeframe, ultimately going nowhere at all. An acoustic, effects-laden version of the upbeat funk classic “Atomic Dog” leaves one scratching their head, just wondering what in the hell is going on here. The cover of TLC’s classic “Waterfalls” comes across like a singer-songwriter’s take in a coffeehouse; needless to say it’s interesting but inessential.

Taking R&B hits such as the Force MD’s “Tender Love” and Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” and making them even slower and almost becoming a folk singer’s idea of R&B jams is sometimes an interesting idea, but here it just doesn’t work as well as it could. Note for note copies of the originals wouldn’t work either, but there’s something about these interpretations that don’t work as well as they could.

All in all, this is a different sort of record, but it is a very disappointing platter that will only serve longtime, diehard fans of Ms. Ndegeocello.

Rating: C-

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