Victim of Love
Quite possibly the best story in music the last few years has been that of 64-year-old soul singer Charles Bradley. Bradley released his debut album at the ripe old age of 62 – which is about 40 years older than most musicians – coming after a 40 year jouney to finally realize his childhood dream of being a successful musician. Bradley lived in streets and subway cars as a teen, hitchhiked all-around America, worked an assortment of odd jobs, performed as a James Brown impersonator, and saw his brother get shot to death – and that’s just cracking the surface of Bradley’s hard but fascinating life. A documentary is even being released in a week about Bradley’s life called Charles Bradley: Soul of America, set to release on the EPIX channel April 10th. Bradley was discovered by Daptones producers Tom Brenneck and Gabriel Roth, and released his debut, No Time for Dreaming, an absolute gem of a soul album that delivered Bradley’s life story with heart, soul, and pitch-perfect production. Now comes Bradley’s followup, Victim of Love, which finds Bradley moving forward beyond his painful story and moving forward musically.
Victim of Love starts out with Bradley and the Menahan Street Band putting on a soul clinic with “Strictly Reserved For You” and “You Put A Flame On It”. “Strictly Reserved For You” is a sweet and crisp love song delivered with Bradley’s earnest roar cutting straight through the timeless production with warm horns and trebly rhythm guitar with the welcome addition of distorted fuzz guitar to the mix. “You Put A Flame On It” continues the blue-eyed soul with a wonderful gospel call-and-response with Bradley and the female backup singers.
Victim of Love then swoons down for “Let Love Stand A Chance” and the title track “Victim of Love”, two yearning love ballads that are actually rather different in nature. “Let Love Stand A Chance” is a fairly traditionally soul fare but “Victim of Love” employs a fairly interesting mix, with the vocals especially the backup vocals being front and center and the instrumentation fairly muted. It creates sort of a “love song in a bubble” effect, not to mention a couple fun production tricks and playful vocal deliveries that make it just a really fun song to listen to.
The middle section of Victim of Love is the biggest departure for Bradley, with it focusing on menacing, psychedelic, and riff-heavy soul music reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield, Parliament Funkadelic, and latter-day Temptations. “Love Bug Blues” probably has the most success, with its riff-heavy and funky guitar and horn playing mesmerizing you. “Confusion” is as heavy and strange as it gets, with Bradley heading into the eye of the psychedelic storm, with a Deep Purple type of riff that starts cool enough but just finds Bradley a little out of his element even if the band is not. “Where Do We Go From Here” is similarly sludgy and psychedelic, but just not a particular strong song melodically.
Bradley is best when his singing is clean, honest, and deeply soulful, and he returns to that late in the record with “Through The Storm”, a song that finds him unburdened and thankful for the journey he has been through. “When the world gives you love,” he sings, “It frees your soul.” Victim of Love may not quite be No Time for Dreaming, but it still gives plenty of glimpses to why Bradley is such a special artist, one no doubt worth rallying behind.
Can’t Miss: “Strictly Reserved For You”, “Victim of Love”, “Love Bug Blues”
Can’t Hit: “Confusion”, “Where Do We Go From Here”