Meshell Ndegeocello, "The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams" (Decca)
The name of singer-bassist Meshell Ndegeocello's latest is a provocative title for an album that's nearly inscrutable. It's untamed, topsy-turvy, elliptical -- and one of the most exciting albums I've heard all year.
With guest contributions from jazz players Robert Glasper and Pat Metheny and Malian singer Oumou Sangare, Ndegeocello careens into the fringes of soul, R&B, rock, and jazz -- often to bewildering results, starting with the propulsive "The Sloganeer: Paradise." On "Michelle Johnson," a cosmic bit of Betty Davis-style '70s funk, Ndegeocello explains, "I'm just a soul on the planet/ I'm trying to do good/ Be good/ Feel good."
Even in her low-key moments ("Shirk"), she's probing and searching for answers to what that album title could mean.
-- JAMES REED
(Charlie Gross photo)