Charles Bradley

Victim of Love (Daptone)

Phases & Stages

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love (Dunham/Daptone Records)

Brooklyn soul embodiment Charles Bradley achieved hero status in Central Texas last October when, caught in a torrential downpour at UtopiaFest, the 65-year-old "Screaming Eagle" refused to leave the stage. "I love you!" he pleaded. "I need you!" 2011's No Time for Dreaming brought sunshine to the shower that night, Bradley wailing deeper than Lee Fields, more enduring than Sharon Jones. Backed a second time by the borough's Menahan Street Band, a six-man breakneck soul squad whose vintage talent knows only one contemporary equal – their Daptone Records bosses, the Dap-Kings – second LP Victim of Love emerges more pronounced and refined than the first. It's not the beefy midrange ("Love Bug Blues," "Let Love Stand a Chance"), it's the pole positions. "You Put the Flame on It," which revives Raphael Saadiq's "100 Yard Dash," and "Confusion," Victim's most gripping Seventies power soul, find Bradley veering in completely different directions without showing an ounce of vocal hesitation. Better still, the acoustic serenade of the album's title track casually evokes Michael Kiwanuka until Bradley topples the whole track with veteran muscle, delivering a sermon so raw it had to have been ad-libbed. Such is the surety of a senior citizen bold enough to embody "Where Do We Go From Here," a lean processional that opens like Detroit punk brotherhood Death and closes akin to Jay-Z's "Roc Boys." Bradley makes mincemeat of the song; he makes mincemeat of everything. He makes "Crying in the Chapel" sound like Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine." He's the finest true soul voice of his generation.

****

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