Last Sunday, seeking some fresh sounds in my record collection, we made a family trip to Black and Read in Arvada - one of my favorite record stores. I had some albums in mind, but then again, it's part of the record store experience to just browse and see what pops out.
I love going to the record store the way some people like going out for a nice dinner. And I'm training my toddler to enjoy it as well. Thankfully the employees at Black and Read are cool with him jaunting up and down the aisles. They even opened up the candy machine just for him. Well, maybe that wasn't such a good thing in retrospect.
I ended up bringing home "Black Messiah" by D'Angelo and the Vanguard - something I had been searching for - and "Adore Life" by Savages - something that popped out while I was browsing the punk section.
I'm behind the curve with D'Angelo, I know. While I was checking out my purchases, he was winning Grammys in real time. And although "Black Messiah" was critically lauded for all of last year, he's actually been around since the early 90's. In fact, Erykah Badu got her big break by opening for him on tour. So what took me so long? One thing is that I absolutely had to have this album on vinyl. No mp3, no CD, would do. Having it on vinyl is worth the investment because this is an album you must sit with. You must be patient and let it be a complete composition from start to finish. And you must read the liner notes. D'Angelo breaks it down for us, "We should all be a black messiah. It's about ..... every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. ... It's a feeling that collectively, we are all that leader."
The album is difficult and brilliant - but you probably already know that! It delves into different musical territories, but the track I was jamming out to this week was the final track of the album, "Another Life." Remember, you have to sit in it.
What could possibly connect the jazzy R&B fusion of D'Angelo with the brash, disjointed punk of Savages? A call to action and self-proclaimed manifesto, that's what. Savages' "Adore Life" has one too. In part, it says, "[This album] is about the power to change .... metamorphosis and evolution ... being the solution, not the problem .... showing weakness to be strong ... the parts and the sum of the parts ... the music and the message. But most of all it's about love, every kind of love. Love is the answer." You can read the full manifesto here.
There are punker sounding tracks on the album that I've been thrashing to in the living room (my toddler super enjoys this), but I'll put this track up because I think D'Angelo would feel it.
The rhetoric of our political "leaders" can be overwhelming and impossible to parse out. I believe that artists have always had an edge on leading communities towards progress. I hope that you enjoy your listens this Sunday and that their calls to action inspire you to also create positive change in your community. Be your own black messiah, because love is the answer.
Let me know if it does in the comments!