AFTER A 14-YEAR absence marked by cataclysmic falls from grace and various false-start comebacks, D'Angelo dropped his new album, "Black Messiah," on Sunday night.

This album communicates its complexity with immediacy and finesse, proof that this is the same D'Angelo who left us hanging back in 2000 with "Voodoo," an ecstatic masterstroke that many feared might end up becoming his swan song. Now 40, the man has released the most poignant and powerful album of his life, putting him in the running for the greatest comeback story popular music has ever seen.

When he started touring again in 2012, he didn't seem interested in resuscitating his celebrity. He was just taking this music thing out for another spin. He looked happy and healthy, and he wasn't in any kind of hurry.

But despite all of the optimistic vibes that came radiating off that tour, it doesn't make the unannounced release of "Black Messiah" any less gobsmacking - especially because this album does what so few eternally postponed comeback albums do. Instead of feeling heavy with expectation, it feels weightless in its delivery, sophisticated in its detail and urgent in its fury.

- Tribune News Service