It’s fair to say that I was eagerly anticipating this release, not just because I’m a massive Dunham/Daptone fan although that alone would have been enough of a reason, but I had the pleasure of seeing Charles Bradley with the Menahan Street Band in Melbourne back in September of 2009. Add to that the handful of 7” records that Charles Bradley has already released and in my opinion this LP was well over due.
Charles Bradley, now in his 60’s, has certainly been forced to take the long path to get to this album and the journey itself is a grand story. Interestingly at age 51 he found himself performing under the name of Black Velvet impersonating James Brown in Brooklyn clubs. The influence of James Brown is apparent but Bradley’s style is unique. There is a slickness to the way he phrases, it’s like his vocals are skating on ice but at the same time there is a raspness in the texture of his voice. This combination is most apparent in a track like ‘I Believe in Your Love’ where the combination of wordy verses and legato choruses truly shows the quality of Charles Bradley’s vocals.
The album list Thomas Brenneck as producer (also guitarist for Sharon Jones and the Dapkings) although Gabe Roth’s influence is more then apparent and there is the unmistakable sound of Homer Steinweiss on drums and David Guy on trumpet that rise Daptone and Dunham releases far above every other modern funk and soul release. However the overall album sound is certainly different to any other Daptone release, it has a slightly more contemporary almost hip hop feel to the rhythm section particularly in songs like ‘The Telephone Song’ or ‘No Time for Dreaming’ (written by funk legend Joe Quarterman). Having said that a song ‘Why is it so Hard?’ still has a classic 6/8 gospel feel with the organ creating an unmistakable sound that will impress even the most hard nose classic soul fans. I’m truly looking forward to hearing more Tommy Brenneck produced records to see where his production style goes.
Without a doubt the best song of this album is ‘The World (Is Going Up in Flames)’ which was originally released on 7” back in 2007. It has the type of funky yet slow tempo groove that is hard to find on any funk recording post 1972. Lyrically you’ll really feel something from Bradley’s vocals; they explode, hitting tape hard in the same way Aretha Franklin was recorded in the 60’s at Muscle Sholes and they never lose there slickness or groove.
Overall a fantastic album that should find its way to being a soul classic.