It takes less than ten seconds.
Seriously, at the eight-second mark I’m all in on Charles Bradley’s sophomore album. A ringing guitar chord jumps off a drum kick cliff and the fat-bottomed bass bounces the song back into the sky where the herald horns announce their presence before a vibraslap (!) punctuates the opening. All this before Bradley’s baritone “ooh” and the backing vocals come in.
Bradley may have taken his early inspiration for performance and vocal mannerisms from seeing James Brown at the Apollo in 1962 (and earned a living impersonating him under the name “Black Velvet”), but sonically on Victim of Love – as on his debut record No Time For Dreaming – his closest sonic forebears are the likes of Jimmy Norman’s growl, Al Green’s impassioned wail and Brenton Wood’s melodicism.
“Strictly Reserved For You” is a spectacular opener featuring the Menahan Street Band at their subtlest – providing support for Bradley’s vocals that dances around without distracting. “You Put The Flame On It” gives the Menahan horns a bit more of a workout and a chance to shine before stepping aside on the title track where it feels like a solitary spotlight is shining on Bradley at the center of the stage – the acoustic guitar, vibraphone and backing vocals are all pushed to the corners of the mix. It may have taken him six decades to find that spotlight but as Bradley demonstrates on this song (and on the album as a whole), he has no plans to relinquish it now. (Daptone Records / Dunham, daptonerecords.com) Michael Elves