Artist: Charles Bradley
Release Date: 04/01/2016
Charles Bradley’s life story – he’d endured homelessness and worked as a James Brown impersonator before being signed to Daptone Records – makes him one of music’s most inspiring figures. In a spoken introduction to Changes, he declares, “All the pains that I’ve been through – it made me strong.” The mileage and unrestrained emotion in Bradley’s vocals bear this adage out on every subsequent track.
The patriotic sentiment in “God Bless America” and “Good to Be Back Home” show more heartfelt sincerity than we’ll ever likely hear in a politician’s stump speech. While only a brief snippet, “God Bless America” pushes Bradley’s voice to its limit while the Gospel Queens’ backing vocals add a dose of sanctified grit. This doesn’t sound like the same song you were taught in grade school. Bradley’s passion is in full flower on “Change for the World.” As he decries war and religious intolerance, his band locks into a searing minor key groove.
Bradley’s impassioned vocals may be the disc’s main attraction, but props must be given to the musicians who back him up. The Menahan Street Band’s tight rhythm section and punchy horn charts can trick listeners into thinking they’re listening to a recording from the sixties. Two of Changes’ most exciting tracks pair Bradley with the Budos Band. Daptone’s resident jazz and funk unit injects an exhilarating raw energy into Bradley’s music. Together, Bradley and the Budos Band transform the Black Sabbath-penned title track into a soul ballad that would make Otis Redding proud. The jagged, pulsating groove behind “Ain’t That a Sin” gives the track a distinctly menacing feel.
Despite the retro style, Changes is no museum piece. Charles Bradley and Daptone Records have created an album that affirms soul’s place as a living, thriving musical genre.