Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Heart & Soul of Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley sings like he knows what heartbreak, pain & tough times feel like. And he does. His first album, No Time For Dreaming, came out in 2011, when the singer was 63. It quickly garnered rave reviews; his gritty vocals and intense delivery won the singer many fans around the world. After a lifetime of odd jobs, bad luck and personal tragedy, he had become a success. His amazing story is told in the 2012 documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America. On his second album, Victim of Love (2013), the soul singer evokes memories of the sounds of the 60s & 70s, while further establishing himself as one of the best soul singers working today. You’ll hear echoes of Otis Redding, Al Green & Harold Melvin, to name a few. But Bradley isn't just imitating the sounds of the past. He's using the classic soul style to make music that is just as engaging today as it would have been in the days of his influences' greatest successes.

These are stories about love, loss & pain, though a sense of hope & redemption does shine through on many of the tracks. The songs evoke Motown, Stax, and even the Philly sound of Gamble & Huff. There’s a vibe of depth & emotion running through every note, from the Motown psychedelic-era stylings of Confusion, the smooth vibes of Strictly Reserved For You and the powerful title track. Other standout cuts include Crying In The Chapel and the funkified Let Love Stand A Chance. The backing by The Menahan Street Band builds a strong foundation for Bradley’s intense vocals and lays down some cool grooves.

This is powerful, engaging music, performed with passion, heart & true soul. If you’re a fan of the neo-soul genre and dig acts like Bradley’s Daptone Records label mates Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, this album is a must.  The disc is now available in stores, and also for digital download from various sources, including iTunes. Both Victim of Love & No Time For Dreaming are highly recommended. Here’s a link to a live performance of Bradley’s cover of the Neil Young classic Heart of Gold, and the title track from his current album:

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