Never an artist prone to complacency or taking the easy path to pop stardom, Meshell Ndegeocello has outdone herself on her stunning new album, The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (Decca). It's a tour de force that adeptly juggles an easy dozen musical genres—funk to psychedelia to jazz—into a complex realm of shifting rhythms, constantly evolving textures, gut-wrenching grooves, and spacey sound washes. The rich, resounding thump of Ndegeocello's own bass usually leads the way for a revolving cast of characters notably including jazz musicians Oliver Lake, James Newton, and Pat Metheny, as well as Malian singer Oumou Sangare. Ndegeocello's lyrics are equally ambitious, seemingly tackling no less than the current state of existence; a kind of spiritual quest that encompasses politics, desire, love and death, creation and evolution, Andromeda and the devil. The album is so dense with ideas and musical concepts that a couple of listens barely scratches the surface. But there's plenty to lure you in, whether the sizzling sci-fi funk of "Soul Spaceship," the snaky soul/funk/jazz glide of "Lovely Lovely," or the ragged, punky careen of "Article 3."
Thu., Nov. 15, 8 p.m., 2007