ERYKAH BADU: New Amerykah, Part 2, Return Of The Ankh (Label: Motown,Universal)

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ERYKAH BADU: New Amerykah, Part 2, Return Of The Ankh

In her 13 year career Erykah Badu has delighted and distressed soul fans just about equally. With this new set, my guess is that the “delighted” will be in a clear majority, ‘cos the set is a wonderful piece of modern soul. It’s the lady’s most accessible collection for a long time and though it’s labelled “Part Two” of “New Amerykah”, it bears little musical resemblance to part one… though I’m sure if Ms. B confronted me she would explain the linkages. I found the first “New Amerykah” album feisty strong and over-politicised… summed up in a word – strident. Here though we have a warmer, intimate album with an overall mellow sound that’s partly achieved by the use of live, analog instrumentation including the Theremin which adds a bizarre rumbling to the soundscape. The LP’s warmth is also explained by the fact that it appears Erykah has found real love (or at least is in the market for it). I mean, could you have ever envisaged the Queen of neo-soul offering to crochet for a lover! Well, that’s one of the tempting offerings she makes on the epic ‘Out Of My Mind’, though in fairness on ‘Fall In Love’ (love the Eddie Kendricks’ sample, by the way) she does warn any prospective lovers that is could be death of them! (A lovely way to go, some might say). Both those cuts would be standouts on any other album, but here they’re just two amongst many. The album’s lead single – ‘Window Seat’ is very strong, but then so too are ’20 Feet Tall’, ‘Turn Me Away’ and ‘Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long’ which might even find favour amongst the conservative modern soul crew despite its use of a Paul McCartney sample. The only real oddity on the set is ‘Incense’. It doesn’t have any lyrics but it’s not quite an instrumental though Kirsten Agnesta’s harp takes lead throughout. It’s very ethereal and, maybe, not odd in terms of the album’s ambience and it does set up perfectly the album’s closing cut – the aforementioned ‘Out My Mind, Just In Time’. This three movement epic is classic Badu… but we could say that about the whole album.
(BB) 4/5