Review Summary: A Romantic Bard’s Epitaph.
Charles Bradley is a man of a difficult life. He was born and raised in societal shackles, but his passion for music is what kept him afloat. He was scraping the barrel, he was playing for cents, but he came through. He appeared on everyone else’s work, but never did he get a chance to present his own. A seasoned session musician, background singer and substitute artist; someone you normally don’t even think about. And then in 2002, after living as a James Brown impersonator, he got his wretched chance at last. But it wasn’t until 2011 that he got an actual record deal.
And boy did the world afterwards find out of the power of his voice and the mastery of his writing. No Time for Dreaming
was his debut. It was a fitting name for a baffling beast of an album that celebrated the man’s craft, even though his dreams of becoming a great never did come true. Well, they did come true now. The album was a riveting display of talent and musical brilliance only someone as experienced as Charles Bradley could possess, with all of the love for the genre he did have.
A man with deep and unfulfilled catalogue of songs to perform, Bradley came forth not too long after with a follow-up that was Victim of Love
. A musically eccentric, adventurous and raunchy effort that encapsulated his appreciation for the genre of Soul and his love for music in general, it also solidified him as an undeniable master-romantic of today’s musical world.
From the first groovy twangs of “Strictly Reserved for You” we are greeted by Charles’ crackling, emotional voice, his deeply loving lyrics and Menahan Street Band’s instrumental vigorousness. The instrumentation in particular is a beauty to behold. The warming, calming gentle brass and synths of “Dusty Blue” or the building, lavish melodic component of “Where Do We Go from Here"” be to my words proof.
Admittedly, this might not be the most outstanding release of Bradley’s, but it is still a solid release. There is not as big a sense of concealed triumph as on No Time for Dreaming
or a sophistication in the face of emotional devastation as on later Changes
, but there is the love, the care and the heart-wrenching sadness saddled all throughout that just keeps on giving.