Black Velvet, Charles Bradley’s posthumous fourth album, is meant to be a celebration of the life and work of the late soul singer. The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” would have turned 70 on November 5, and the album’s release date was timed to commemorate his birthday.Continue reading →
Charles Bradley’s late-in-life rise from holder of odd jobs and obscure James Brown impersonator to retro-soul music star is now complete, and his third album on Daptone’s Dunham imprint adds an exclamation point. Like other Daptone artists, Bradley is not doing something very new and different, but he’s picking up older strains of soul and R&B music not heard out of other modern performers, and putting his own twists on them. He’s been compared to Otis Redding, and of course to his professed idol, James Brown, but he brings enough new mannerisms and styling to the table to be a unique, compelling voice. In all of this, he’s similar to his Daptone label-mate, Sharon Jones.
On this new album, Bradley offers an array of soul stylings, from the hard-funk of “Ain’t It A Sin,” to the Stax-like vibe on “Crazy For Your Love,” to a 70’s feel on “Change For The World,” to the title track, a cover of Black Sabbath’s 1972 heavy metal ballad. Wait, what? Charles Bradley covers a tune originally sung by Ozzy Osbourne? Yes, and he pulls it off with aplomb, mainly because the song is, at its heart, a soul ballad. Bradley’s version replaces the campy Mellotron parts with horns, to great effect. And of course Bradley sings with much more soul than the Oz-man.
Net-net, this is a very satisfying if nostalgic-sounding album. The backing musicians, mainly Daptone’s Menahan Street Band, stay right with Bradley, with extra kudos for the horn playing and arranging.
Bradley is now 67-years-old. He is among the last of the working soul singers who at least saw the original titans of the genre in concert at their prime. His rise from obscurity following his discovery by Daptone head Gabe Roth is documented in the film “Soul of America.” May his hard-earned music career continue for a long time.
Charles Bradley, Daptone’s “screaming eagle of soul,” continues to impress with his latest album, Victim of Love. We first covered Bradley back in 2011 upon the release of No Time For Dreaming, and indeed the now-64-year-old former James Brown impersonator has been maintaining a fast-paced schedule that likely leaves little time for sleeping, either. In addition to his new album, Bradley is featured in the documentary Soul of America (now available for on-demand streaming on Amazon and Netflix), and he will be touring Europe and North America throughout the remainder of 2013.
Backed once again by Brooklyn’s Menahan Street Band (the house band for Dunham Studio), Bradley burns through a set list of eleven songs dripping with nostalgia, the majority co-written with members of the band. The album kicks off with “Strictly Reserved For You” and, though rather repetitive, Bradley’s raspy crooning over the back-up singers’ Motownesque harmonies sets the proper mood:
Following is the uptempo “You Put the Flame On It” featuring a punchy horn arrangement, the slow burner “Let Love Stand a Chance” with Bradley showing off his best JB “It’s A Man’s World” style vocals, and the more introspective title track backed by acoustic guitar. One of the best tracks, “Love Bug Blues,” harkens straight back to the Blaxploitation era. The band is given an opportunity to get down on the equally cinematic, reverb heavy instrumental “Dusty Blue,” then turns up the psychedelic effects and B3 on “Confusion,” and brings in the funk on “Hurricane.”
While not all of the songwriting and arrangements rate an A+, there are certainly more hits than misses, and this soul brother deserves his time in the spotlight.