Charles Bradley’s life story has been well-documented since he burst onto the scene at the tender age of 62 after releasing his 2011 debut album, No Time For Dreaming. Before he got his break, Bradley led a hard life, working odd jobs across the country, enduring a spell of homelessness and discovering his brother’s murdered body. He’s dealt with more pain and hardship than most of us can imagine, but ever since Daptone head Gabriel Roth discovered him performing James Brown covers in a New York nightclub, all Bradley’s had to give is love.
On No Time For Dreaming, Bradley primarily addressed some of the societal issues of a country that had continually beaten him down. On Victim of Love, his focus shifts to love and all its wonder, its magic and its complications. Part of what makes Bradley so appealing is how freely he opens himself up to his listeners. In every song he sings he lays the entirety of his heart and soul out on the table, inviting the audience in to experience the highs and lows and all the overwhelming emotion right along with him. On No TIme For Dreaming you can feel his pain and feel his struggle and understand the hardships and why things need to change. Because of his vulnerability and his passion, love couldn’t be a more natural subject for Bradley to address, and on Victim of Love he covers all the bases. There are tender, slow burners like “Let Love Stand a Chance” and “Crying In The Chapel.” There are funky drivers like “Love Bug Blues” and “Confusion!,” the new centerpiece of his live show. “You Put The Flame On Me” is feel-good and charming and will undboutedly be played at the wedding of at least one hip couple somewhere in America. The album’s songs are uplifting and instill hope even when they touch on pain.
There’s really nothing to disect or pick apart or examine about Victim of Love like there might be for other albums. There isn’t any significant sonic progression from debut to sophomore album, and if there is, to discuss it would be missing the point. With Charles Bradley, it’s as simple as the man himself getting behind a mic, letting the Menehan Street band rip it up behind him and making sure someone hit “record.” Of course it’s going to sound good; of course it’s going to be passionate; of course it’s going to be emotional; of course, at times, it’s going to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. If you were a fan of No Time For Dreaming you’re going to be a fan of Victim of Love, and you shouldn’t really need to know anything about it other than it’s an album full of Charles Bradley songs. The Screamin’ Eagle of Soul is never going to let you down.