Charles Bradley, No Time For Dreaming

Posted on May 9, 2011 by

Artist: Charles Bradley
Title: No Time For Dreaming
Label: Dunham 1001
Released: January 25, 2011
Genre: Neo-Soul

At 63 years of age, Charles Bradley still purveys raw talent. His vocal approach is often compared to James Brown and Wilson Pickett’s painfully exposed delivery, but those men defined it as a style. I believe Bradley does it this way because it is the only way he knows how.

Backed by the Daptone stable of thoroughbreds, horses and mules, the album trots along soul soundscapes that blend Memphis, Detroit and New York, never pegging anyone of them perfectly, thus creating the Daptone sound. At times they also reveal their hip-hop influences, with precision beats that sound as if they were sampled and looped. (This is more apparent listening to the tracks as mp3s than on vinyl. Maybe it is just a product of the format.)

“How Long” tracks like “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” but the strange reverb in the opening is straight out of Blacksploitation flicks of the 70s. “Heartaches and Pain” the gem of the album is the closest Bradley and band comes to pulling off a straight representation of 60s soul, with its social commentary and honest tribute to a sound. (And kudos to the background vocalists throughout the album.)

Bradley’s range is limited but he makes up for it with timely screams and gritty extended notes. Sometimes the band gets in the way with some busy production, sounding like they are trying to distract us from other shortcomings. Maybe it was the theory that his raw voice needed to be balanced by layered arrangements. Sometimes polishing isn’t needed to appreciate the value of natural resources. Daptone has a soul mine in Bradley, let’s see how they use it.

-Jackson McLemore

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