Artist: Charles Bradley
Label: Dunham Records
Format: CD, MP3, LP
Release date: April 1, 2016
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.
Reviewed by Tom Fine