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Despite beginning his musical career so relatively late in life, Charles Bradley has unarguably made a name for himself as a phenomenal soul and R&B singer. Now in his 60s, Bradley is releasing his second album, Victim of Love. His songs echo iconic soul singers such as James Brown and Otis Redding. Most likely due to his age and life-experiences, Charles Bradley’s voice surpasses barriers of time that would have otherwise hindered a younger singer.
Right off the bat Victim of Love transports the listener back 50 years with the track “Strictly Reserved For You”. The bluesy horns and raspy howl of Bradley not only emulates the heartfelt R&B of the past but also draws inspiration from other genres with the guitar’s squealing solo towards the end of the song.
I couldn’t help bopping along with this CD and tapping my feet with each new track. Bradley’s James Brown-like “UH’s” and the repetition from the background singers paired with the funky guitar riffs makes this album seem like it came straight out of the 60s. His rasp and heartfelt screams definitely justify his nickname of “The Screaming Eagle of Soul.”
Another notable track is the simple and toned-down title track, “Victim of Love”. With the primary instrumentals coming from an acoustic guitar, with occasional input from background singers, maracas, and other percussion, Charles Bradley’s voice takes control of this song and doesn’t let go until the very end. Pleading with his “baby” to “come on home,” Bradley expresses his heartbrokenness of being a “victim of love”.
Beginning his career nearly 10 years ago, Bradley once met and urged his idol, James Brown, to give him a shot. As he recalled in a recent Rolling Stone interview, “I said, ‘James, give me a chance, man.’ He looked me up and down and said, ‘Young man, I can tell you’re a good artist.’” But, being that he was a newcomer, Brown didn’t budge.
An interesting track on Victim of Love is “Confusion”. Beginning with various effects and echoes that one would never assume to be on a soul album, a distorted bass pierces the inaudible fuzz. Bradley’s exclaims of “fear,” “greed” and “confusion” brings with it a drum beat that really gets this track going. Soon, the track resembles somewhere between an experimental jazz song and classic rock tune. The back-and-forth of this song continues with a guitar solo, grunts of “confusion” from Bradley, and a repeating horn groove.
Charles Bradley’s lifelong hardships and troubles not only echo through his voice but also permeate this entire album. It is very refreshing to hear such a classic and seemingly endangered genre come back so strongly on this record. Tracks such as “Where Do We Go From Here”, “Crying In The Chapel”, and “You Put The Flame On It” exemplify what our generation has been missing in terms of soulful and tearfully heartfelt singing.
As Bradley stated, “you’re never too old until you’re in the ground.” His lifelong perseverance and motivation has definitely paid off with this album.