Pictured above is one of the greatest records you don’t own, by one of the best soul singers you’ve never heard of. Do you know why? Because talent ain’t got shit to do with it.

Last night, I met two people who got me thinking. In truth, I had already written this, two days ago, but after last nights's conversation, I decided it was more important than I originally thought. The first time I was challenged by this idea of talent being meaningless, was several years ago at my own AIGA studio event with a guest speaker named Cory. In one of our weekly AIGA speaking events, he went on for an hour about the misnomers of "talent". We had a back and fourth dialog in front of a small crowd that night and then ...I never gave it another thought. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion, he had a real point.

Um ...ok.
The first phrase you learn at music school is a catchy little quip that essentially starts you questioning all of your choices: “It takes 10 things to make it and number 11 is talent!“ Art school has their own version. Either version should lead you to some serious introspection. Everyone has their own definition of what “making it" is. Unfortunately, if you’re like a lot of creatives, seeing your contemporaries amassing success, or "making it", you might find yourself getting more bitter by the brushstroke. I totally get it. I see countless profiles and stories about, what I consider to be half ass creatives, doing things I did years ago, that no one gave a shit about, and suddenly today their new work is “brilliant“ or “totally original“. No it’s not. You know what? Neither is mine. Neither is yours. But that’s not the point.

It does take 10 things to make it. Number 11 may be talent. Frankly talent may be further down the list. To be clear, it’s not exclusive to the arts. When I worked in advertising the rise of mediocrity was staggering. Being the smartest person in the room is more of a failure on your part than anyone else’s. I promise, there is no reward in it. The idea of “best” ...Don’t even get me started on that flawed concept. Being successful and being talented are not best friends. Most of the time, quite the opposite. Proof? Instagram influencers...or Hunter Binden's art. I could go on, but you get it.

Why the record?
Great question. You want talent? Alice Clark made three albums. Her last one, in the above picture, is widely considered one of the greatest soul albums ever recorded. 49 years ago, over the course of two days, some of the greatest session players, a solid young producer and some great original tunes by venerable writers of the era, collided to make a sublime 31 minutes of music. And no one gave a single shit, let alone two. Shortly after the commercial failure of this album, Alice retired from music, never to record or perform again. She had buckets of talent. Everyone involved had been on hit records. It had all the makings of commercial viability. Yet, here you are wondering who the fuck she is. 'Bet you know Beyoncé though.

The euro DJ scene brought attention to this record in the 80s. The first time I heard this was at Venus de Milo on Lansdowne. It was a downtempo night and it sounded so fresh to my young ears. Of course, music school is where snobs of the arts, like myself, learn of obscure titles, and artists, rife with great tragedy and drama. I have witnessed, every decade or so, a resurgence of this album. It seems long after her death, her greatness is finally recognized. If but barely.

Silver linings?
Nope. LIke Alice, you can do staggeringly great work that no one will ever pay a dollar for or give a shit about ...And then, like Alice, you can die. Maybe, just maybe in your death, people will love your work? Or maybe that's just what we say to keep pushing through. The idea of being loved and recognized after death is not just for overly romanticized stories about dead renaissance painters. It’s right now. And being “talented“ or “best“ ain’t got nothing to do with it. Ask Alice Clark. Oh, wait ...You can’t.

What you can do, is go out of your way to listen to this album. It’s a stunning example of ability. Interestingly it’s a break up album but, there’s not one real “ballad“ in the mix. The original vinyl is for collectors, and it’s hard to come by. The reissue vinyl actually sounds better than the original. Owning the original isn’t about how it “sounds“. It's about history, place and time. Kind of like owning a painting. It is on TIDAL. In the end, think of it as a metaphor. When you start questioning your career and choices ...give this album a listen.