Most artists appreciate their audiences, just as many are grateful for them, but few artists love their fans as much and as sincerely as Charles Bradley. “I want them to know how much they have helped me grow,” notes Bradley when discussing Victim of Love, the follow up to his widely praised debut albumNo Time For Dreaming. The “Screaming Eagle Of Soul” is set to release the 11-track set April 2 on Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records.
By now, Bradley’s remarkable, against-all-odds rise has been well-documented – how he transcended a bleak life on the streets and struggled through a series of ill-fitting jobs – most famously as a James Brown impersonator at Brooklyn clubs – before finally being discovered by Daptone’s Gabe Roth. The year following the release of No Time For Dreaming was one triumph after another: a stunning performance at South By Southwest that earned unanimous raves; similarly-gripping appearances at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Newport Folk Festival and Outside Lands (to name just a few); and spots on Year-End Best Lists from Rolling Stone, SPIN, GQ, Pasteand more.
Victim of Love is a continuation of that story, moving past the ‘heartache and pain’ and closer to the promise of hope. Where the last record opened with the apocalyptic “The World (is Going Up in Flames), Victim begins with the“Strictly Reserved for You,” a track where Bradley grabs his girl, jumps in a car and hits the highway for a romantic getaway. “You Put The Flame on It”sees Bradley backed by a horn chart that sounds like it was lifted from a lost Four Tops single. And on “Victim of Love,” the track that lent the album its name, Bradley sings over a gentle acoustic guitar, “I woke up this morning, I felt your love beside me.”
The new album also brings a broader musical scope. Where Dreaming hewed close to the rough-and-ready R&B sound Daptone has become known for,Victim is stylistically more restless, edging closer into the kind of psychedelic soul The Temptations explored in the early ’70s. “People are not going to expect this. There’s a lot of psych influences on this record, a lot of fuzz guitar,” notes Thomas Brenneck of Menahan Street Band, Bradley’s producer, bandleader and co-writer. “Confusion” most exemplifies the new direction of the album, opening with an echo-drenched vocal and charging rhythmic cadence.
The album’s closing track “Through the Storm” best summarizes Victim’s message. Over a deep gospel groove, Bradley expresses his gratitude – to his fans, his friends and to God – for their support, their dedication and their devotion. “When the world gives you love,” he sings, “It frees your soul.”
This is the new message of Charles Bradley, the Bradley who has emerged from the heartache stronger and more confident, overflowing with love to share. This is Charles Bradley, victim of love — gratefully returning the joy that has been given to him.