Charles Bradley "Changes"

Charles Bradley has faced numerous challenges in his life, beginning with abandonment by his mother at eight months old, to losing a brother to murder. He’s lived a migratory existence that has taken him from Florida to Brooklyn, Maine to Alaska, Canada to California. He’s lived on the streets of New York City and early in his career watched as his band members were drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. Following years of working as “Black Velvet” a James Brown impersonator Bradley was discovered by Gabriel Roth, aka, Bosco Mann, co-founder of Daptone Records. In 2011 the label released his debut album, followed by a second in 2013. Changes is his third effort and features Daptone’s best players and writers.

The album opens with a spoken introduction from Bradley, a short but emotional summarization of his relationship with his country. It lead into a short rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” It sets the stage for a unique journey into the soul of a man, literally and musically. “Good To Be Back Home” reflexes the James Brown influence in the man’s music, as Bradley lets loose on deep ripping howls as he describes finding a sense of place. Although his experience informs his music, Bradley isn’t a political singer. His focus is love from the loss of it (“Changes”), to its healing power (“Nobody But You,”), to its impact on human behavior (“Things We Do For Love.”)  The album’s single “Ain’t It a Sin” is a funky tune that blurs the line between the passion of sex and religion. “Change the World” manages to blend love, religion, and political attitudes.

Changes is full of mid-tempo melodies that are bolstered by classic soul arrangements featuring horns, Hammond b3 organ, percussive guitar and bass, and fabulous backing vocals provided by Gospel Queens and Saun & Starr. Charles Bradley, at 67, still has the pipes to blow you away, but also has the experience to phrase a song in order to pull every possible emotion from a minimum of lyric. 

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

 

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