Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Daptone
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Retro-Soul, Psychedelic Soul
Late-blooming soul belter Charles Bradley, who released his debut album in 2011 at the age of 62, is the best kind of retro act: a fully committed one. Victim of Love, Bradley's second LP, makes no bones about the echoes it carries: James Brown, Otis Redding and other Sixties and Seventies soul heroes, evoked with crisp period-perfect production and classicistic arrangements. It's Bradley's voice that seals the deal: When he saunters through the Motown-inflected groove of "You Put the Flame on It," stomps and shrieks the J.B.'s-like funk of "Confusion" and, especially, digs into tearstreaked ballads ("Crying in the Chapel"), he sounds like an heir, not an impersonator.
Charles Bradley’s life story has been well-documented since he burst onto the scene at the tender age of 62 after releasing his 2011 debut album, No Time For Dreaming. Before he got his break, Bradley led a hard life, working odd jobs across the country, enduring a spell of homelessness and discovering his brother’s murdered body. He’s dealt with more pain and hardship than most of us can imagine, but ever since Daptone head Gabriel Roth discovered him performing James Brown covers in a New York nightclub, all Bradley’s had to give is love.
If there were any justice in the world, Charles Bradley would have been a star years ago. Thankfully, his sophomore release Victim of Love goes a long way toward making up for lost time. (Hey, they don't call him the Screaming Eagle of Soul for nothing.) Effortlessly marking time with a horn section and riding classic R&B backing, Bradley's velvet croon evokes a bygone era.
CHARLES BRADLEY plays the Phoenix on May 11. Rating: NNNN Veteran soul shouter Charles Bradley didn't release his debut album (2011's No Time For Dreaming) until he was 62, and the late bloomer seems intent on making up for lost time. He's not interested in reinventing the wheel, but if you were impressed by his previous efforts you'll enjoy Victim Of Love even more.
For 65-year old retro-soul singer Charles Bradley, known endearingly as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”, success never came naturally nor easily. His first solo album didn’t materialize until 2011, when No Time for Dreaming was released on the Dunham imprint of Daptone Records (home of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings). “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” was the emotional centerpiece of the soulfully-drenched debut, making many question why the former James Brown imitator hadn’t broken through long before his ‘60s.
If the buzz around soul singer Charles Bradley represents the feel-good musical success story of late, someone needs to tell Bradley about it. "Right now I'm still in my solitude on that," he says in that distinct gravelly voice. "And I'm still kind of struggling to get where I want to be at.
It’s hard to believe that Charles Bradley, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” just released his first album, No Time For Dreaming, two years ago. The 64-year-old soul singer and Gainesville, Florida native has got a world-weary presence to suggest that he’s been around much longer. Maybe that’s because he has, in a way. Bradley’s story has been well documented, and it’s the stuff of legends, from his stint as a cook in a mental institution to his time as a James Brown impersonator to his migration to New York City, where he joined the Daptone family and became the sometime front man of the Menahan Street Band.
A lot has happened in the life of soul singer Charles Bradley since his stellar debut, No Time for Dreaming, was issued in 2011. He has not only received attention, but the album sold well, and he's toured extensively. His compelling story is also the subject of a documentary film. The songs he co-wrote with Thomas Brenneck on that recording were steeped in his autobiography and reflected Southern soul music as it was recorded at Stax and Muscle Shoals in the middle of the '60s.
It's no great shock that a film-maker has alighted on the life story of Charles Bradley; his is a pretty dramatic saga. The one surprise is that the film-maker in question is a documentarian rather than a dramatist – Charles Bradley: Soul of America did the rounds of the film festivals last year – but perhaps the twist at the end of the story seems too unbelievable for fiction. When the crew first meet Bradley, he is a 62-year-old semi-literate handyman and part-time James Brown tribute act.
With a roster that has boasted singers like Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, Naomi Shelton and the sadly departed Joseph Henry, Brooklyn-based label Daptone Records have forged their retro soul ethos for a decade now with a very calculated method: correcting history’s mistakes by signing aging soul starlets who have fallen through the cracks of time. So how label co-founder Gabriel Roth must have fussed when he came across Charles Bradley, a James Brown impersonator with a harrowing backstory. Enduring homelessness, extreme illness and the murder of his brother (all of which are outlined in the festival circuit documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America), Bradley came with a marketable narrative and a dynamic stage presence.
If it’s true that sophomore slumps happen because of the pressure produced by musicians getting their whole lives to write their first album and just one or two to put together the second, Victim of Love should have been a disaster. I shouldn’t need to explain Charles Bradley’s backstory — everything else written about him does — but let’s just say the road to 2011’s No Time for Dreaming, released when the Florida-born singer was all of 62 years old, was a bumpy one. Fortunately, the album turned out to be a rare instance of things going Bradley’s way, a stunning tribute to the now-immortal soul-stirrers of his younger years (James Brown and Al Green among them) that occasionally sounded as vital as its predecessors did four decades or so ago.
Brooklyn soul embodiment Charles Bradley achieved hero status in Central Texas last October when, caught in a torrential downpour at UtopiaFest, the 65-year-old "Screaming Eagle" refused to leave the stage. "I love you!" he pleaded. "I need you!" 2011's No Time for Dreaming brought sunshine to the shower that night, Bradley wailing deeper than Lee Fields, more enduring than Sharon Jones.
As evidenced in the 2012 documentary Charles Bradley: Soul Of America, Charles Bradley is passionate. Living through decades of unfortunate and often harrowing trials of life, including rampant poverty, homelessness and the murder of his brother, the former James Brown tribute act—a devout fan since seeing Brown wail at the Apollo in 1962—was discovered by Daptone head honcho Gabe Roth. Bradley’s sophomore album, Victim Of Love, burns hard and slow.
There can be few artists who are discovered while in their fifties performing as James Brown impersonators.Yet that is exactly what happened to Charles Bradley when he was discovered by Daptone Records’ Gabriel Roth. Encouraged into the studio, Bradley teamed up with Sugarman & Co in 2002 and later with The Bullets for a number of singles. Yet it wasn’t until 9 years later that some of those singles, as well as several newer songs were combined into his debut album No Time For Dreaming, the culmination of years of work, and packed full of the emotions, frustrations and setbacks that had been building for over 60 years.
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