I'll be honest with you, folks (as I always am) : I knew I was going to like Charles Bradley the moment I read about him.
I mean, I read that he was getting the push from Brooklyn's reigning 21st Century pure soul Queen, Sharon Jones -- and her label Daptone Records -- and enjoying a career bloom relatively late in life (by most pop music standards). So here we have, confounding popular expectation, a fine new artist -- who isn't under 30, I'll put it that way -- breaking out fine new soulful music in the grand tradition of legendary performers from the mid-60s and early-70s (think Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, James Carr, etc).
So while fine young bucks like Leon Bridges are making justifiable waves getting the major label push and all that, it is very exciting that a new artist like Charles Bradley -- who has years of dues-paying experience over a hard-knock lifetime that has taken him from Maine to Alaska -- has been breaking out as well.
Bradley's ascension to the spotlight is celebrated on a fine new DVD called Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band - Live From the House of Soul.
I immediately liked what I heard... this guy is the real deal.
So, yeah, I realize that I'm a little late to the party but, hey, better late than never.
If you like the slow-burning vibe of James Brown on legendary belters like "It's A Man's World," you're probably gonna dig Charles' music. If you like the swagger of performers like Al Green and Bill Withers, you're probably going to dig Charles' music. Especially on tunes like "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" and "Where Do We Go From Here?"
"Heartaches and Pain" sounds like it could be a lost Otis Redding track that might have been recorded at Stax in Memphis (backed by Booker T and the MGs).
But its not...
No, this is brand new soul 'n rhythm 'n blues made of a fine pedigree, folks...
And The Menahan Street Band -- which I first heard of on an excellent remix of a track from Elvis Costello's 2013 collaboration with ?uestlove and The Roots Wise Up Ghost -- well... wow... these guys smoke!
Now, the DVD packaging is a little misleading in that its not really a live "concert" in the traditional sense performed before an audience. However, it is a live-in-the-backyard affair -- literally shot in the back of Daptone Records' Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio headquarters (affectionately known as "The House of Soul," thus the DVD's title).
As an introduction to his music, Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band - Live From the House of Soul serves its purpose just great! It is just long enough to give you a handle on what the man and his music is about yet not too long to lose your attention (not that you really could if you tried...). Like all great live performances, it leaves you wanting more...
The 48 kHz, 320 kbps stereo audio sounds full and punchy -- given the vintage vibe of this music, I wouldn't be surprised if it had been recorded on an analog tape machine (a multitrack analog reel too reel is shown briefly in one of the videos). Image quality on the DVD is generally clean and organic, the live performance footage seemingly shot using natural daylight for that genuine backyard party feel.
I don't know about you, but I'm going to be exploring more of Charles Bradley's music in the very near future.
It's all good. I've boarded the bus...