Album Reviews


Me'Shell Ndegeocello

Peace Beyond Passion  Hear it Now

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The first words Me'Shell Ndeg=E9Ocello utters on "Peace Beyond Passion" are,"Jesus cured the blind man so that he could see the evils of the world."=46rom there, Ndeg=E9Ocello thrusts us into a concept album whose protagonis=tis bloodied and bruised when we meet her - but not broken. The overridingtheme is the battle between Christianity and the individual, and the waythat battle shapes and misshapes community, family and self-identity.Though Ndeg=E9Ocello stops short of the gorgeous blasphemy of XTC's "DearGod," it isn't by much. In "The Way," she sings, "Maybe Judas was thebetter man/And Mary made a virgin just to save face."

While the first half of the album is a seamless, far-reaching critique ofreligious narrow-mindedness (homophobia in "Leviticus: Faggot," patriarchalprivilege and the emasculated black man on "Deuteronomy: Niggerman"),Ndeg=E9Ocello segues smoothly into a celebration of pure spirituality. Butit's a spirituality based on a lover's kind heart. Ndeg=E9Ocello is theultimate hopeless romantic. Even though racism, homophobia, self-hatred andsocial ostracism dog her spirit, she still croons sweetly to a lover in "ATear and a Smile."

By and large, the musical playfulness that leavened her 1993 debut,"Plantation Lullabies," is subdued here. While there's a dark slinkiness toNdeg=E9Ocello's cover of Bill Withers' "Who Is He and What Is He to You" anda '70s R&B; breeziness to the love songs "Stay" and "Bittersweet," PeaceBeyond Passion is mostly sober and somber. The slow to midtempo groovesecho the weariness of the lyrics; their heaviness evokes the high cost ofhard-earned peace and joy.

With intimacy and purposefulness, Ndeg=E9Ocello fulfills the promise ofher first album and puts the pop, hip-hop and R&B; worlds on notice: She'sone of th