Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dues Been Paid in Full: Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley

Continuing in the vein of 1970s funk and jazz, tonight’s stop heralds that famous southern soul sound made famous by Messers O. Redding and W. Pickett. Listen to the jams, the ragged vocals and righteous lyrics of No Time for Dreaming by Charles Bradley, and you’ll swear this guy’s been around for years. Perhaps he was one of Melvin’s Bluenotes. Didn’t he play with James Brown in the early 70s?  In fact, like me, you’ll be thinking this album is the re-issue of the year. Why is it so Hard? which wonders why it’s ‘so hard to make it in America today’ was recorded at Muscle Shoals in 1970, right?


This amazing album and singer arrived on the scene in 2011! Yep, just a few short months ago!  

Charles Bradley lived many of his younger years on the streets of cities on the East Coast of the America and lost his brother to a gun shot by his nephew.  Trained as a cook by a Federal government jobs scheme he spent his adult years flipping burgers, frying up eggs and buttering toast in restaurants and even a mental institution.  He worked everywhere from Maine in the far North East to sunny California, always trying to find a club to perform in.  In 1962 he had seen James Brown at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and had never lost sight of his dream to follow the same path.

But hard reality intervened. Poverty struck and always stuck in a greasy kitchen, there didn’t seem much hope for Charles until one day he was spotted in a Manhattan club doing an act under his stage name, Black Velvet. Lightning finally struck for the man who can tell you about paying your dues. His album has taken the world by storm and you can’t just help but want to share his joy.

Here’s AMG’s review of No Time for Dreaming.

On first spin, most listeners won't be able to tell that gutsy soul singer Charles Bradley's Daptone debut wasn't recorded in the late '60s and dusted off for release in early 2011. Subsequent plays reveal subtleties in production and instrumentation that might tip off some, but for the rest, this is a remarkable reproduction of the sound of classic Southern soul. Its combination of Stax and Muscle Shoals grease and grit are captured in what can only be called "the Daptone sound." Horns, percussion, background vocals, vibraphone, and rhythm guitar form a cozy, often sizzling blanket that Bradley wraps himself in. His grainy, lived-in vocals are straight out of the James Brown/Wilson Pickett school; comfortable with both the gospel yearning of slower ballads but ready to make the leap to shouting, searing intensity without warning. The yin-yang between Bradley and his players would be impressive even if the material wasn't as top-shelf as these dozen songs are. All three working in tandem yield a perfect storm of an R&B album, one with clear antecedents to the genre's roots with new songs that are as powerful and moving as tunes from the music's classic era. The band even gets its own showcase on the instrumental, Latin-tinged "Since Our Last Goodbye," perhaps an unusual inclusion on a vocalist's album, but one that strengthens the connection between the backing group and its singer. Bradley has had a tough life, knocking around for years as a lounge act doing covers until the Daptone folks came calling with fresh material and their patented production. That history is evident in every note he sings; pleading, begging, and testifying with a style that few contemporary vocalists can muster without lapsing into parody. Lyrically the material is a mix of the socio-political ("The World Is Going Up in Flames," "Golden Rule"), heartbroken romance ("I Believe in Your Love," "Heartaches and Pain"), and the joys of true love ("Lovin' You Baby"). Some tunes are more personal, especially "No Time for Dreaming" where he's telling himself to get serious about his career, and in "Why Is It So Hard," as he delivers a capsule history of his life-long difficulties. Even if the concepts appear shopworn, the music and performances are vibrant and alive with arrangements that are innovative yet informed by their roots. Retro-soul aficionados who claim they don't make ‘em like they used to will obviously be thrilled with this, but even contemporary R&B fans can't help but be moved by the emotion and passion evident in every note of this riveting set. (amg)

         Track Listing:
        01 The World (Is Going Up In Flames)
02 The Telephone Song
03 Golden Rule
04 I Believe In Your Love
05 Trouble In The Land
06 Lovin’ You, Baby
07 No Time For Dreaming
08 How Long
09 In You (I Found A Love)
10 Why Is It So Hard?
10 Why Is It So Hard
11 Since Our Last Goodbye
12 Heartaches And Pain

Listen here.

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