Album of the Week: Charles Bradley, 'Black Velvet'


Charles Bradley, 'Black Velvet'
Charles Bradley, 'Black Velvet' (Courtesy of Daptone)

Charles Bradley, the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," spent most of his life just trying to get by- working odd jobs, but also moonlighting as, Black Velvet, a James Brown impersonator. He eventually caught the attention of Daptone records, and in his early 60s, saw the release of his debut studio album, with two more records to follow. Charles Bradley's star was still on the rise when his health started to decline. In 2017, he died at 68 of stomach cancer. Even though he's gone, this final album, Black Velvet was released to commemorate would have been his 70th birthday. It's a collection spanning his career- new songs, rarities and covers-- and the collection is meant to celebrate the life and musical legacy of Charles Bradley.

Producer/musician, collaborator, and friend of Charles Bradley, Thomas Brenneck put this final collection together. I imagine it was a bittersweet task to revisit the work and the time he spent with Bradley. As a member of the Dap-Kings (also of the Budos Band and Menahan Street Band), Brenneck played with some other significant singers, whose lives were cut short--namely, Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse. Brenneck had a front row seat for the magic made with Jones and Winehouse, and of course, Charles Bradley. The Daptone folks had the unique opportunity of providing a place where both the late Sharon Jones, and Charles Bradley were able to achieve their big break into the public consciousness. And both dying of cancer while still at their creative peak.

Black Velvet is a great listen, and while it's material spanning his time with Daptone, an opportunity for closure for Bradley fans. You'll find unreleased songs like "Can't Fight the Feeling" and "I Feel a Change", covers of Neil Young and Nirvana, also a Menahan Street Band (Bradley's backing band) instrumental--as Bradley's health was failing before he could cut the vocals. I love that the instrumental "Black Velvet" is included, a reminder on the album of what could have been, and a reminder that Bradley is no longer with us. And a fine way for his backing band, The Menahan Street Band to pay tribute to their friend. Bradley may be gone, but he left behind a fascinating story of triumph and a legacy through his music.

Black Velvet, the fourth and final album from the late Charles Bradley is out now.


Charles Bradley - Official Site

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