The "Screaming Eagle of Soul," Charles Bradley, has released his third studio album, Changes, via Dunham (an imprint of Daptone Records). You can stream the release above for free, via Spotify.
Before signing with Daptone Records, Bradley was homeless and helped make ends meet as a James Brown impersonator in New York clubs under the pseudonym "Black Velvet." It's this experience, combined with his electrifying personality and God given talent, that has allowed him to develop a successful late-blooming career singing classic soul music for audiences around the world. Can you name another performer who made a big splash with a debut album as a 62-year-old?
Now 67 years old, Bradley continues to evolve. On his debut, No Time For Dreaming, one of his great strengths was combining messages of personal relationships with greater social consciousness. This album's songwriting may not yield as many hit-calibre songs, but it's successful in other ways. There's a good combination of funky dance music and emotional romantic ballads, and you get the sense that he and the band are continuing to find new areas to create and explore.
After a spoken word intro in which Charles shares some kind words about America that leads into a brief rendition of "God Bless America," the funk kicks into high gear with "Good To Be Back Home." Love is a common theme throughout the album and weaves its soulful spell in songs like "Nobody But You" (with a horn part that references the '70s hit "Summer Breeze”), "Crazy For Your Love," and "Things We Do For Love."
Bradley's seasoned voice can magically transport you back in time to the days of James Brown and Otis Redding, evident in songs like his emotional cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes" where he says on his website: "I think about the lyrics very closely when I sing 'Changes' and get emotional... It makes me think of my mother and the changes in my life since she passed away."
While his voice stands strong on these songs, the Menahan Street Band provides exceptional backing with a tight rhythm section, evocative horns, warm organ, and comfortable backing vocals. The dance rhythm driven track of "Ain't It A Sin" feels like you're at a late night party surrounded by good friends. "Ain't Gonna Give It Up" has a casual, smokey vibe bolstered with silky horns and a hypnotic bass line.
Since Charles Bradley's Daptone debut in 2011, the world has gone through changes. Race relations in the USA are arguably worse than they have been in decades, war and terrorism continue to tear people apart, and climate change has created a whole new set of problems. He takes the opportunity to address these troubles in "Change For The World."
The Chinese philosopher Laozi (Lao Tzu) is credited as saying, "Music in the soul can be heard by the universe." While Bradley may not be a household name, his style of music is familiar and comforting for those of us who can appreciate not only the past but also are willing to embrace the future.
Pick up Changes on Amazon.
For the latest music, news, and tour dates from Charles Bradley, check out his Zumic artist page.