Here’s the situation: It’s late. Too late for me to be sitting at my computer on a work night. I’m struggling right now. I’ve got this amazing D’Angelo song and I can’t think of a single unique angle. I’ve had this song on repeat for 24 hours now trying to come up with what I can say about “Really Love” that hasn’t already been said. Let’s start here…
“Really Love” is the fifth track from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2014 album Black Messiah. It was the first single from the album. D’Angelo is a bit reclusive, so it wasn’t necessarily a single in the traditional sense. There’s no video. You won’t find a 12″ or 7″ vinyl, CD single, or anything under the Singles section of your favorite streaming service that shows a “Really Love” single. He wasn’t all over the late night talk show circuit playing the song. I kept waiting for the inevitable Jimmy Fallon performance since his fellow Soulquarians Questlove and James Poyser are there on a nightly basis. Nothing. As far as I could tell, D’Angelo only appeared on television twice to promote Black Messiah: an interview with Tavis Smiley and an appearance as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.
I honestly still can’t believe that happened. I didn’t think he would show up. When I watched the performance – watch it immediately! – for the first 30 seconds or so I was like, “WHERE THE FUCK IS D’ANGELO? HE’S NOT THERE?!??!” He was cleverly hidden behind Isaiah Sharkey. Instead of hitting the stage in his usual black pants and black tank combo, D stepped out looking fly as hell. I don’t even know how to describe his style. I’ve never seen a suit like that with the tilted hat, do rag, untucked shirt, and dashing scarf over his shoulders. My sneaky favorite thing about D’Angelo’s style is his jewelry. I’m not a big jewelry guy myself. I’ve got my Apple Watch and that’s about where it ends. When D’Angelo did his GQ interview and photo shoot in 2012 I immediately took to the internet to figure out where he got his bracelets, rings, and necklaces. I dig the leather and silver. Not surprisingly, the shit he was rocking was well out of my price range. Back to the SNL performance, I couldn’t help but think that this dude has been messing with us all along. Everyone buzzing about the fact that he wasn’t as fit as he was during the Voodoo days and here he was on SNL still sexy as hell with his cool suit and his falsetto.
Now I’m going to repeat what I wrote yesterday because it’s important: Any questions about D’Angelo’s voice were squashed within seconds of him opening his mouth during this performance. People who thought he was burying his vocals in the mix on the album were just wrong. Period. He revealed a bit of a croak to his voice in several moments during the performance as well, something I hadn’t even noticed before, at least not to the degree that it’s on display here.
Now I need to address The Vanguard for a second. D’s band for the 2000 Voodoo tour – The Soultronics – will always be undefeated in my heart. I mean, right off the bat when I found out Questlove wasn’t quitting The Tonight Show to tour with D’Angelo in 2015 it took me time to recover. Guitarist Spanky Alford passed away in 2008. No Anthony Hamilton, Shelby J, or Jack King on background vocals. How could this new band ever take their place? I should’ve known better than to question or worry about it. The Vanguard took the torch and ran with it. When Spanky died there was some question about who could fill his shoes…at least I questioned it. D’Angelo said he was in a music store in Chicago one day wondering if would ever find someone who could play like Spanky and as he was thinking it he heard someone playing exactly like him. It seems Spanky’s spirit transferred into the body of young Isaiah Sharkey. Sharkey joined D’Angelo’s band and this then-24-year-old virtuoso did shit I’ve never seen done on a guitar before. Check this extended live version of “Really Love” from the 2015 North Sea Jazz festival and marvel at Sharkey’s guitar chops.
If you want to see Sharkey’s standout guitar work skip forward to about the 6:00 mark. Actually, what am I thinking? Watch the whole damn thing. It’s worth your time. In fact, here’s a better idea: Watch the entire concert. That’s your homework for this weekend. You’ll thank me.
Here’s my last little story before I sign off: I was listening to the Questlove Supreme podcast as I normally do. These past two weeks the guest has been the great Raphael Saadiq. His interview was so good they had to split it into two parts. I was listening to the second part today in my truck and Saadiq was talking about how much he preferred being in a band as opposed to going solo. After Tony! Toni! Toné! broke up he chose to form another group instead of going solo. His supergroup Lucy Pearl consisted of En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad. They released one album. After that he discussed also creating a supergroup called Lynwood Rose with D’Angelo and Q-Tip. I couldn’t believe it. I knew they frequently collaborated, but they were going to do an album together?!? Could it still happen, please? I don’t know how today was the first time I heard about Lynwood Rose because I Googled it when I got home and there’s shit all over the internet about them. How come nobody told me? Actually, it’s probably for the better. I would’ve obsessed over that and ultimately got my heart broken when it didn’t happen. Ignorance is bliss.
There. I somehow came up with more than a few words about “Really Love” yet I feel like I said nothing about it. Here’s how I feel: It’s so beautiful I struggle to find words to describe it. D’Angelo and The Vanguard are perfect. I think it’s easily the best ballad of the 2010s. It took him nearly 15 years to make that album and you can tell in the quality. It’s difficult to compare it to anything else because nobody makes music like D’Angelo. It helps when you’ve got Isaiah Sharkey and Pino Palladino.
That’s it. Week three of the D’aily is in the books. I’m going to consult the D’aily Random Song Generator so I can tease Monday’s song. Give me a second… OK, I’m back. I’ve been looking forward to this next one because I have a personal story to tell. It has something to do with my wedding. That’s all I’m giving you. Have a great weekend. Take an hour and watch that North Sea Jazz concert if you haven’t already. By the end you’ll have that shit turned up as loud as your sound system will go and you’ll be begging for more.