Listen Up: Wednesday, November 12, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Me’Shell NdegeoCello

Comfort Woman (Maverick Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

For her fifth studio album, the politically grumpy but spiritually conscious Me’Shell NdegeoCello has released the year’s unlikeliest gospel collection — an expression, perhaps, of her recent conversion to Islam under the name Me’Shell Suihailia Bashir Shakur. Comfort Woman, produced by the artist with Allen Cato, is less a cycle of songs than an escalating series of meditations that employ NdegeoCello’s husky whisper, alternating light reggae and stadium-rock beats, and shimmering clouds of synth/echo effects. These are mostly love songs with incantatory choruses — “Give me shelter,” “Come with me into the sun,” “Take me down to your river” — which, in the tradition of Sam Cooke and Al Green, could be directed as easily at a Supreme Being as a lover. (Frankly, anything is better than last year’s disastrous Cookie: An Anthropological Mix Tape, in which Me’Shell worked up a Curtis Mayfield fit over race, class, and gender issues without any of his withering musical precision.) “Come Smoke My Herb” and “Fellowship” are the closest to disciplined compositions, but anyone looking for hard grooves or even particularly memorable hooks will be disappointed. R&B stoners, on the other hand, should be thrilled at Me’Shell’s invitation to “fly on butterflies” through the ether. And I give her props for one of the most provocative lyric lines I’ve heard in a while: “If you believe that your God is better than another man / How you gonna end all your suffering and strife?”


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