25 Nov 2016

Charles Bradley: "Changes"

Deepfelt vibrations from the soul of a man
Though Black Sabbath's Ozzy-fronted version of Changes will in all likelihood always remain my favourite rendition of the original Black Sabbath track, Charles Bradley and company have in every way breathed new life into the old classic with their own soulful tropes. Bradley's rough vocalisation - courtesy of his dry voice - is not without power, and definitely not without soul and heaps of personality. But Changes, as his 2016 album is called, is much more than just a Black Sabbath cover song. It is a soul album that aspires to be much more than just that, but he never betrays his roots as a fan and impersonator of James Brown.

Backed on occassion by his label-mates and former backing band The Budos Band, Changes is classic soul with a funky touch. Bradley's voice bears the marks of a singer who has seen many seasons come and go. The aging performer's main material has come late in his life, but Charles Bradley reworks this to his advantage, as it gives him a highly distinctive tone.

"...never without a spark of life and an easy-going attitude."

His background as a nomad chef, a New Yorker, a Californian, a performer of small venues, a street kid and more all influences Charles Bradley's songwriting and style. The band's sound and the lyrics are societal and heavy at times, but never without a spark of life and an easy-going attitude. Changes is an album that shows experience in abundance - Not only in music, but in life.

Though a few songs are a bit too standard for its genre - and this goes especially for the compositions that are too overtly love songs - the vast majority of the compositions found on Changes live up to (and in some cases exceed) Daptone Records expectations. Songs like Ain't It a Sin and Change For the World, and of course the title track, are so overflowing with wisdom and life, and an understanding of emotion that is hard to put into words.

Changes has attitude and above all soul. In a genre that at its height of popularity so many years ago was commercialised beyond recognition, it is refreshing to hear an album so honest and full of life. The fact that the majority of the compositions found on the album are both exceptionally well-written and well-performed of course only add to the grandiose nature of this Daptone release. As a result of Charles Bradley's already many years on Earth, it serves in many ways as an autobiographical work, but it also looks ahead, promising a brighter future.


Released in 2016 by Daptone Records


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