- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

Meshell Ndegeocello

“Comfort Woman”

Maverick Records

The cover packaging of Meshell Ndegeocello’s latest album, “Comfort Woman,” looks like it was downloaded from the Hubble Space Telescope, indicative of the spacey contents therein.

Miss Ndegeocello, who got her start here in the District, has a mind to put you out of yours, with a 10-song cycle of trance reggae and whispery electronica. Case in point is the aptly titled “Come Smoke My Herb.”

“Be simple like the flower / Come smoke my herb / Make your heart like the ocean / Your mind like the clear blue sky,” she sings, over a swirl of atmospherics that while, lacking a key ingredient, does have a rather soothing effect.

If it weren’t for the funky drum programming, “Comfort Woman” could be the soundtrack used by the aliens in “Close Encounters” to communicate with their human onlookers.

A nice break in the non-action is “Liliquoi Moon.” A down-to-earth acoustic guitar progression comes front and center, even if Miss Ndegeocello remains blissfully in the clouds. “I want to fly” is the song’s incantation, but the singer gins up little passion in delivering it.

“Moon” then takes a bracingly sharp left turn, bursting into cacophonous metal that recalls Living Colour, complete with a loud and trashy guitar solo from Doyle Bramhall.

Miss Ndegeocello comes back to earth — returns to outer space, actually — with “Love Song #3.” (Yes, there’s a “#1” and a “#2.”) There are yet more zen-y lyrics, as on the ska-mannered “Fellowship.” The often spiritually-oriented singer calls for non-theistic worship: “Would you walk a righteous path / Without the promise of heaven, paradise, streets paved in gold?”

The woman of “Comfort Woman” sounds comfortable indeed. While the album is a pleasant, passable mood piece, it fails to thrill, inspire or incite; it doesn’t do much of anything at all, except plod on and on in inter-galactic iciness.

Miss Ndegeocello seems like she could use a creative kick in her spacesuit.

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