Sometimes opportunities don’t open until later in life. That’s the case with gifted retro-soul standout Charles Bradley who is 67-years young. Bradley has dropped two studio albums, No Time For Dreaming (2011) and Victim of Love (2013), which yours truly reviewed upon its release. Now three years later, Bradley drops his third album of relentless soul music in Changes, and the results are expectedly consistent and alluring.
“God Bless America” fittingly opens Changes, but generally, it’s treated more as an introduction as opposed to a full-fledged rendition. Smartly, the tail end of the minute-and-a-half track is a soulful, Ray Charles-styled snippet – just enough to whet the palate. The real fun begins when “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” nails “Good To Be Back Home,” which picks up where Victim of Love left off. That means that Bradley’s passion and distinct rasp are on-point as always.
“Nobody But You” slackens the tempo but keeps the funk flowing undoubtedly. As always, Bradley delivers the ballad with coarseness, continuing to showcase the texture of his voice – weathered, pained, and impassioned. The production sounds directly out of the 60s, clearly anachronistic within the ‘hip-hop generation.’ But that doesn’t matter as “Nobody But You” has much more character than most of the R&B released in recent years, old school or not.
“Ain’t Gonna Give It Up” rolls right along and there’s nothing to complain about in the least. “Changes,” remarkably, a Black Sabbath cover, sounds nearly original as opposed to interpretive in Bradley’s hands, a testament to his artistry. As with everything else on Changes, Bradley milks it for all its worth and us the listeners eat it up, licking our lips afterward. No need for “changes” on Bradley’s end – this is sheer brilliant.
“Ain’t It A Sin” keeps the momentum rolling, accelerating the pace, characterized by its driving underlying rhythms. “Things We Do For Love” opts for mid-tempo grooving, with Bradley’s infectious, inviting personality continuing to shine through each and every note he sings. Continuing the ‘love’, slow jam “Crazy For Your Love” is tailor made for Bradley’s vocal approach, which is a mix of singing, talking, and of course drama packed with unquestionable emotion.
Three more to go! “You Think I Don’t Know (But I Know)” benefits from its control; it’s cooler compared to the majority of Changes. Sure, Bradley is known for his grit, but there’s a superb poise about this particular record that bodes in its favor. Penultimate joint “Change For The World” definitely features a thoughtful message, amplified by the biting horns and Bradley’s sincerity. Romantic slow jam “Slow Love” concludes Changes as consistently as it initiated.
All in all, Changes is another consistent, respectable album from “The Screaming Eagle of Soul.” It doesn’t supersede Bradley’s previous album or likely albums for those who joined the fan base with 2011 effort No Time For Dreaming, but there’s little to knock about Changes in the least. Face it; C.B. has still got it without question!
Favorites: “Good To Be Back Home,” “Changes,” “Crazy For You Love” and, “You Think I Don’t Know (But I Know)”
Charles Bradley • Changes • Daptone • Release Date: 4.1.16