Charles Bradley

Exclaim! - - REVIEWS - RYAN B. PATRICK

Black Vel­vet

Charles Bradley was a gen­uine in­di­vid­ual. Be­hind his of­ten-smil­ing face and grav­elly voice, there was a pal­pa­ble sense of hap­pi­ness, wist­ful­ness and a true feel­ing of ap­pre­ci­a­tion and ac­com­plish­ment. In­deed, there is an el­e­ment of pathos to his story, of hard­ships, set­backs and health trou­bles. But through­out it all, there was the mu­sic for the for­mer James Brown im­per­son­ator. Black Vel­vet was the name he used when do­ing a pitch-per­fect take of the su­per­bad icon, and serves as an apt ti­tle for this post­hu­mous al­bum. Tracks like the funky “Can’t Fight the Feel­ing,” “Love Jones” and “I Feel a Change” aren’t ’60s soul throw­backs so much as they are gen­uine ar­ti­cles, with the now­trade­mark Dap­tone sound feel­ing fresh and vin­tage at once. The re­con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” adds a bluesy slant and is a ser­vice­able of­fer­ing, as is his take on Nir­vana’s “Slip Away.” The al­bum ends with a soul­stir­ring elec­tronic ver­sion of his crowd­pleaser “Vic­tim of Love,” re­mind­ing us that he lived what he per­formed. Bradley’s death from can­cer in Septem­ber 2017 re­leased the Amer­i­can singer from pain and suf­fer­ing. To be cliché about it, the mu­sic lives on. (Dap­tone)

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