The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 Box Sets of 2018

Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, December 7, 2018, Music

Long before he became Daptone Records' leading man and the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," Charles Bradley doubled as Black Velvet, a James Brown impersonator performing in a Brooklyn night club. Released on what would have been his 70th birthday, the Black Velvet Deluxe Box pays loving tribute in eulogizing the late, great soul singer, who died last year. More of an addendum than a career-spanning retrospective, this literal black velvet box packs goodies both big and small.

There's a branded slip mat, a stunning photo book, a Black Velvet replica business card boasting that "We Do A 'James Brown' Specialty," and a digital download card embedded with wildflower seeds to be planted in Bradley's memory. Best of all is an absurdist interview about the time Bradley reluctantly joined a nudist cult in rural Canada and tamed a wild horse. That fever dream of a story comes immortalized by a surreal painting of the singer naked astride a majestic white steed. Should've been a poster, yo.

Available sans box, the Black Velvet LP features a collection of unreleased gems ("Can't Fight the Feeling," "Fly Little Girl"), covers (Nirvana's "Stay Away," Neil Young's "Heart of Gold"), choice rarities ("Luv Jones"), and alternate takes ("Victim of Love"). A box-exclusive EP offers haunting, stripped-down mixes of four fan favorites that highlight the Florida native's yearning wail. Curated by Bradley's dear friend and musical partner, Tommy "TNT" Brenneck, it proves a fitting farewell to a man who spread so much joy to the world.


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