Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Charles Bradley-The Screaming Eagle of Soul

There are some live gigs that take you to a higher plane, that resonate with you long after the star has left the stage, and over the ensuing years bring back that joyful reminder of a great night. All those boxes were ticked on Sunday night at the Corner Hotel, Charles Bradley a 62 year old soul singer from Brooklyn scorched an imprint on the stage of the venue that will never be erased. It's rare certainly here in Melbourne that you get to see a soul show that just doesn't let up, Bradley never let the intensity drop or his passion for his craft and his audience. The passion and sincere appreciation he showed the audience was reciprocated with equal fervour, too the point where he jumped off the stage and hugged just about every member of the audience including yours truly, ably assisted by a great block by my Dad!

Charles Bradley's debut album No Time For Dreaming was released last year on Dunham records which is a subsidiary of Daptone Records the Brooklyn based pioneers of soul and funk. Bradley is ably assisted on the album by the guys from the Menahan Street band to craft an album that reflects the golden age of soul but has a unique modern setting, it's gritty and reflects a current period of uncertainty in our global community. This same sense of uncertainty was present in the late 60's and early 70's and fuelled the driven stripped back soul of James Brown. The great Godfather of Soul was obviously a huge influence on Bradley because in full flight he has that similar gospel intensity to Brown but he matches that with the passion and sense of desperation that you can hear in the voice of Otis Redding.

Charles performed almost the entire album the highlights were the songs that were drenched in desperation, the isolation of a man who has been pushed to the brink and has nothing left but the sanctity of his soul. Bradley cries out for freedom, love and respect it's no put on there is no copy, this is a man who has known great hardship. Golden Rule laments the current state of American society and that sense of uncertainty and a desire to return to a simpler time. No Time For Dreaming has a more sparse style with that scratchy guitar reminiscent on so many James Brown records. I should also mention what an awesome backing band Bradley bought with him to town, the Extroadinaires contained some of the members from Menahan Street Band and these guys were tight and just drove the groove. A highlight for me was his cover of Clarence Carters Slip Away it was a terrific performance, his understanding of soul music and translating that too the stage is amazing. How Long eptimises that sense of suffering in such a powerful emotive way that I haven't witnessed live on stage before.

 Bradley was born in Gainesville Florida and lived with his grandma until the age of 8 when he first met his mother and moved with her to New York. He drifted from state to state before spending about 10 years as a cook in Maine, he eventually returned to New York and was working menial jobs as well as performing in clubs as a James Brown impersonator. What was special about Sunday's gig was the total lack of pretence of Charles Bradley, some artists who have been around for a while can come across as just going through the motions but there was none of that from Charles, he gave every fibre of his soul during his performance.

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