Everybody loves an underdog!
The 2012 "Soul Of America" documentary charted Charles Bradley's fairytale rise to fame from performing as Black Velvet, a James Brown impersonator in dingy clubs, through to releasing "No Time For Dreaming" and then onto realising his dream and subsequently touring his own material worldwide. His debut LP was so strong it was a surprise to most that he topped it musically with the 2013 release of 'Victim Of Love' which was received with great critical acclaim across the Soul scene.
Fast forward and his third full length LP, 'Changes' was released on the 1st April 2016 and hails again from the Daptone subsidiary label Dunham Records.
The thematics of this LP focus on the changes we can make by sharing love and being better to the world as well as one another. The album kicks off with a patriotic monologue acknowledging his roots, difficult beginnings and hard knocks before breaking into a Gospel working of 'God Bless America'. This sets the tone and there is a real humble self awareness in the lyrics across the whole album.
Charles Bradley - Change For The World
The album is nicely paced and dips into smooth soulful numbers like 'Slow Love', 'Nobody But You' and 'Crazy For Your Love' which let The Screaming Eagle Of Soul build and build on the emotion that he is so good at releasing through his music. There are hat tips to the Soul genre with 'Things We Do For Love' (my personal favourite on the LP!) and 'You Think I Don't Know (But I Know) which borrows the fatback drums and piano lick almost identically from Freddie Scott's 1968 sought after 45 'You Got What I Need'.
The stand out moment on the album is Bradley's reworking of 'Changes', a track that he previously released as a limited Black Friday Record Store Day release on 45 back in 2013. He manages to take the Black Sabbath track and give it a heartfelt personal spin by making it an homage to his late mother. By doing this he elevates the record to new heights as well as being faithful enough to Ozzie's original.
Charles Bradley - Changes
Musically the album is as tight as ever with a lineup of musicians including some of The Menahan Street Band and his tour outfit The Extraodinaires, who have been rigorously versed through some tough live schedules with Charles over the last few years. The Album has enough of a modern feeling sound to appeal outside the Soul scene without outshining Charles Bradley's voice. With Daptone's unfalable production and recording skills it also stills maintains a raw and almost analogue feel throughout
Charles Bradley has accomplished more in the last five years than most artists can in a whole lifetime and 'Changes' is yet another step forward for an artist who is by no means at the end of his career. The thing here that lifts this LP above the rest of the pack is that while there are several artists out there at the moment, such as Leon Bridges, that try and encapsulate the retro en vogue sound of Soul, Charles Bradley at 67 years old has lived through that scene first time round. He isn't imitating anything and is just drawing on his own experiences for musical inspiration, which is something money just can't buy!
What you have with 'Changes' is a raw and unedited look into the heart and soul of a man who deserves nothing but the love he projects on his audiences, both in his live act and through his recorded music and as Charles says in his opening monologue, "I sing from my heart!". What more could you ask for?
Available from Daptone Records HERE