An Appreciation for the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley

“I’m gonna say it’s all right to dream, but work at it — make it come to reality”…”It took 62 years for somebody to find me, but I thank God. Some people never get found.”
—Charles Bradley

Charles Edward Bradley: November 5th, 1948—September 23rd, 2017.

On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 the living embodiment of Soul and aural force of nature Charles Edward Bradley passed from this existence onto another spiritual plane (for a have no doubt of his transition amongst the Angels) after a long, private struggle with Cancer.

Bradley served as a link in the long, long chain of famous and unknown individuals expressing the African experience in America through song: from field songs to Gospel to Jazz to Blues to Rock n’ Roll to Soul music.

Watch him transform Black Sabbath’s Changes into a soul masterpiece and a fitting epitaph for a great artist who channeled his great pain into something beautiful.

The world is a little darker today, yet Heaven is a little brighter because of Brother Charles. He was, and is, one of the best and he will be missed.

Rest in Peace, Reside in Power.

Start Where You Are. Use What You Have. Create Your Own World.

 “Inspiration is everywhere”
—Henri Matisse.

This summer I attended the “Matisse in the Studio” show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and what struck me most about the exhibit was Henri Matisse’s intense discipline and boundless creativity within his controlled, yet curated environment.

 

So for those who are waiting and searching for inspiration to visit—just get on with it!

Happy Birthday to “Invisible Man” Author Ralph Ellison

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of those Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.”

American writer, essayist, and musician Ralph Ellison was born March 1, 1914.

One of my favorite books of all time is Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: a complex, sprawling, and uncompromising rumination on race, class, and identity in Mid-Century America:

Invisible Man, First Edition, 1952.

” I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

It is a book that reveals deeper levels and new revelations with each reading:

“Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.”

Invisible Man, 2012 cover designed by Cardon Webb.

Considered to be a seminal novel of the 20th century, it is a nightmarish journey of psychological angst and societal madness as told through the narrative of a nameless protagonist.

CODA: If you haven’t read the novel (or if you haven’t cracked it open since high school or college), I would highly recommend the experience:

“When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”

 

Emily McDowell’s New Book Expands Upon Her Honest Design About Serious Illness

The book “There Is Not a Good Card For This” expands upon Emily McDowell’s line of cards to address serious illness.

Two years ago, I wrote a feature for TLS about Emily McDowell’s straightforward and often humorous line of empathy cards borne out of her own battle at age 24 with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

This small, personal project has evolved into a larger, collaborative book, There is No Good Card for This (the title, inspired by the name of one of Emily’s cards) with Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. to help individuals chart a meaningful course of action “when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love”.

 

Divided into three parts, the book’s practical,  conversational prose perfectly mirrors Emily’s spare and insightful illustration style—she is masterful at distilling complex subjects and concepts into warm and meaningful forms.

Congratulations Emily and Kelsey on the new book. And thank you for transforming illness, struggle, and pain into meaning, purpose, and beauty that benefits us all.

Todd.

CODA: Listen to Emily discuss the new book on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Celebrating the Immortality of David Bowie

Gifted with the benefit of hindsight, we are aware of Bowie’s terminal illness during the conceptualization and execution of his final album Blackstar with the Donny McCaslin Quartet so it is surprising that hours before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday (and several days before the anniversary of his passing) a Tom Hingston-directed video for the ironically titled “No Plan” has been released online.

Even from beyond, Bowie remains a beautifully enigmatic and otherworldly creative presence with the ability the stimulate our intellect and touch our hearts.

We are all the richer for his efforts: Peace, Blessings, and Godspeed David.

CODA: Explore the world of the album’s title track:

A Decade on One Design? Lost Art Describes Working with the Avalanches

Design is hard.

Working on a singular project for a decade is commitment:

“it is more important for us to be creating beautiful, progressive, rewarding work with our partners than it is to take on every new client we can.” —Lost Art

The design firm Lost Art collaborated with the music outfit The Avalanches more than ten years as their second album Wildflower was in development.

As reviewed in this blog in September, Wildflower is an exceptional album—a sonic collision of genres transcending time and space and one of my favorite releases of 2016.

CODA: Check out “The Was”, a video piece created by the art collective Soda_Jerk and the Avalanches:

 

 

 

The Perfect Antidote for the End of the Year Blues

You’re angry, confused, and more than a little fearful as this tumultuous year draws to a close.

I feel your pain.

But no matter what the future holds for us, NOW is the time to rest our bodies, broaden our knowledge, and rejuvenate our souls to make our families, communities, and country a better place.

“The Rhythm Changes” and we are still here:

Jazz Avatar Kamasi Washington from 2015’s The Epic

Peace and Love,

Todd.

Google Cardboard Provides A Taste of Virtual Reality for $15 USD

Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!
Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!

During a summer playdate with my best friend and our kids, he exposed me to Google Cardboard via a player received in the post from the New York Times VR (a recently launched content provider for Cardboard).  After slipping on a pair of headphones and staring deeply into headpiece (which conspicuously resembles the old, static View Master), I was blown away by the seemingly effortless experience of swimming underwater with dolphins, climbing the spire of the new World Trade Center, and exploring the history of Cuban Dance.

Despite the fact that Cardboard is 360-degree video and isn’t true virtual reality it is an astounding, immersive experience for only $15 and the content being created for the player (many of them free) is equally impressive!

But, don’t take my word for it, explore it yourself:

“Bring virtual reality to life with Google Cardboard. Using your smartphone and VR apps, this quality viewer puts the world of VR right in your hands, affordably.”

Everything Old is New Again: The Avalanches Release Their First Album in 16 Years

The Avalanches' storm back to relevance with the release of "Wildflower".
The Avalanches’ storm back to relevance with the release of “Wildflower”.

16 years ago, a group of Australian proto-punk, alternative artists turned deejays unleashed Since I Left You : a sprawling, sumptuous fin de siecle album upon an unsuspecting world.

As the 90’s drew to a close, we were witnessing the swift transformation of the music industry from guitars to turntables, record stores to Napster, analog recording to digital assembly; and the Avalanches threw themselves headlong into this brave new postmodern world inhabited by likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Moby, Air, Thievery Corporation, and DJ Shadow.

Like DJ Shadow’s 1997 magnum opus Endtroducing, the album Since I Left You painstakingly constructed a digital valentine to the quickly vanishing analog era.  A lot has happened in since the early aughts and Wildflower quickly picks up and expands upon where the previous album left off. Assisted by a stellar roster of cameos, Wildflower is a collision of hard, urban beats and soft, psychedelic melodies expertly sequenced as only a collective of seasoned DJs can.

This was my album of the summer, but may be one of the most pleasurable listens of the year.

CODA: Listen to members of the band discuss the album with Beats Radio host, Zane Lowe.

Make a Mixtape (for Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)

Steal-Like-Artist-Journal

Austin Kleon’s brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” has a companion journal with invaluable exercises to get one’s creative juices flowing with a bias towards action.

As a music aficionado, I was immediately interested in the exercise: “Make a Mixtape (For Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)”. I wrote down my list and created two playlists (“Make a Mixtape Vols. 1 and 2”) in my iTunes to listen to while I work throughout the day. Hopefully you will create a mixtape of your own and share it with a friend.

Enough writing, here’s the list:

SIDE A

  • Charles Brown—Black Night
  • Nina Simone—Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  • Jimi Hendrix—1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
  • Sun Ra—Calling Planet Earth
  • Madvillian—Shadows of Tomorrow
  • A Tribe Called Quest—Excursions
  • Wes Montgomery (with the Wynton Kelly Trio)—Impressions
  • Bad Brains—Sailin’ On
  • Alton Ellis—Reason in the Sky
  • King Sunny Adé—Sunny Ti De Ariya
  • Rhythm and Sound Featuring Cornell Campbell—King of My Empire

SIDE B

  • Hiatus Kiayote—Breathing Underwater
  • Los Destellos—Onsta La Yerbita
  • The Black Keys—Weight of Love
  • Gary Clark Jr.—When My Train Pulls In
  • Paul Weller—Whirlpool’s End
  • Three Dog Night—Easy to Be Hard
  • Leon Thomas—Echoes
  • Terry Callier—Love Theme from Spartucus (4 Hero No Skins Mix)
  • Arthur Verocai—Sylvia
  • Nostalgia 77—Quiet Dawn (Examples of Twelve Remix)
  • Miles Davis—Flamenco Sketches