Charles Bradley – “Victim of Love”
Daptone Records
-out April 2
4 / 5

You probably spotted him right away on the cover: yes, you’re absolutely right. The fantastic Brooklyn-based soul singer indeed does take his cues from James Brown. A former cover singer of the songs of the famous “Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” Bradley officially started his career at 62, and on this, his second full-length album, you get it: all the grit, all the passion, all the wear and tear and heart. In fact, you get soul. And that’s not an easy thing to do.

Daptone, also the home of the famous Sharon Jones, has an ear for artists of classic soul. To describe Bradley’s voice, we think dryness is the operative word here: none of those vibratos, no deep, filled-out Barry-White voice. It’s dry, it’s caked over with dust and dirt, it’s less on the pretty and more on the gritty. It’s also why we love this album. The entire album, orchestration, vocals, are a throw-back to that time when soul reigned, when funk was just making itself known in its older brother. So, stylistically, a check. Technically, Bradley is pitch-on despite the wear of age; the title track, a ballad, hits him on a high note, full voice, Motown backing vocals. It’s what we live for. “Confusion” is where things get funky and modern, where the band comes into full swing. The eleven tracks hit it straight to the quick; they’re fresh, newly minted from 1957, authentic in a rare way. Our minor complaint here is that we tend to prefer voices with a bit more power; we did, after all, fall head over heels for Sharon Jones. Comparatively speaking, he doesn’t possess that amount of power, the thermonuclear amount, but those looking for a rough-and-tumble man with rough-and-tumble vocals will find themselves in at least one kind of heaven.

But not all soul is about putting a hole in the ozone. What you’ll find on Victim of Love is a man in the throes of talent, real passion and love, and it’s our reward. Soul never died; it was only a victim of delay. Recommended.

This man is “Strictly Reserved for You.”

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