Charles was truly a transcendent singer who led a remarkable life, overcoming unimaginable adversity to achieve great success and international acclaim very late in his life. What was really special about him and made him different from everybody else in the world was how he understood his pain as a cry for universal love and humanity. He felt that if he loved enough–-if we all loved each other enough—we could take away the world’s pain and sadness. That is why he jumped off the stage and literally tried to hug everybody he could. It's why he took such great care of a mother that had abandoned him. It's why he sang and danced like a lunatic. It's why he screamed like an eagle. And that's why we love him.
Black Velvet is a celebration of Charles Bradley, lovingly assembled by his friends and family at Dunham/Daptone Records. Though chronologically the material spans Charles' entire career, this is no anthology, "greatest hits" or other shallow rehashing of the songs that already made him famous. Rather, this album is a profound exploration through the less-travelled corners of the soulful universe that Charles and his longtime producer, co-writer and friend Thomas "TNT" Brenneck created in the studio together over their decade-long partnership.
It features new songs recorded during the sessions from each of his three albums, heard here for the very first time in all their scorching glory: "Can't Fight the Feeling," "Fly Little Girl" and the heart-wrenching "I Feel a Change"; hard core rarities like his funk-bomb duet with LaRose Jackson, "Luv Jones," the psychedelic groover, "(I Hope You Find) The Good Life" and the ever-illusive alternate full band electric version of "Victim of Love"; sought-after covers of Nirvana's "Stay Away," Neal Young's "Heart of Gold" and Rodriguez' "Slip Away"; and the title track "Black Velvet," a stirring Menahan Street Band instrumental to which Charles was never able to cut a vocal.
The story of Bradley's remarkable rise from the depths of poverty, neglect and violence to the heights of international celebrity has been told many times. His tough times were well documented in autobiographical songs like “Why Is It So Hard” and “Heartaches & Pain”—which tells the story of waking up to the ringing of gunshots and sirens on the day his brother Joseph was murdered—and in Charles Bradley: Soul of America, Poull Brien’s 2012 documentary following Charles in the days leading to the release of this breakthrough first album No Time For Dreaming.
Although Bradley didn’t release his first album until 2011, his relationship with Daptone Records started a decade earlier, when his friend sent him to knock on the door of Daptone co-founder Gabriel Roth's basement apartment in Williamsburg. "I heard you were looking for a singer," he told Roth. (To this day, Roth has never solved the mystery of who it was that had sent Bradley to see him or how he got his home address). At the urging of Bradley, Roth and his partner Neal Sugarman tucked into the Tarheel Lounge on Bedford Street to see Charles as "Black Velvet"—his James Brown cover act with Jimmy Hill's Allstarz. Though he was performing covers, Roth and Sugarman were impressed by the raw feeling and rhythm in Bradley's act. A few weeks later, they brought him into the studio to cut "Take It As It Come," released in 2002 as Bradley's first single and featured on Daptone's sophomore release, The Sugarman 3 & Co.'s Pure Cane Sugar.
Bradley became an instrumental part of the Daptone family, both musically and beyond. When Daptone took over the two-story house in Bushwick that would become known as the "House of Soul,” he mudded the walls, rebuilt the basement steps, and taught Roth how to install radiators. He even coaxed Roth to run a new gas line all the way upstairs to the kitchen for an oven that he insisted he needed to cook for the Daptone family.
In 2003, Roth brought Bradley out to Staten Island to meet with Thomas "TNT" Brenneck—then a guitarist in the Dap-Kings—and his band The Bullets. They hit it off, cut a handful of Daptone singles and played a handful of shows. In the following few years, Brenneck moved to Bushwick and began making all instrumental recordings eventually releasing Menahan Street Band's debut album, Make the Road by Walking on Brenneck's own Daptone imprint Dunham Records. However, Brenneck wanted a singer and reached out to Bradley to work on some music together.
Bradley and Brenneck would often just talk about life, drawing inspiration for songs, and forging a friendship. Though Bradley would instinctively often fall back to his JB-esque tendencies, Brenneck was determined to find Bradley's own voice. The two of them labored over lyrics and phrasing together and this would prove to be a seminal time for what would become Bradley's defining sound. They released their first single from these sessions, "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)," in 2007 to an ecstatic reception by Daptone fans. Backed with the wrenching ballad "Heartaches and Pain," "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" would become Bradley's biggest selling single.
The singles led to the release of Bradley’s 2011, No Time for Dreaming. A debut album from a 62-year old was unheard of and its reception from music fans and media alike was rapturous. It was an enigmatic record–Bradley's soulful moans, screams and passion dripping freshly over the ethereally timeless funk of Menahan Street Band. By the time they made it down to South by Southwest a few months later, fans were lining up to get in to see him. The album would go on to be named one of Rolling Stone's Top Fifty Albums of 2011 among other accolades.
The release of Charles Bradley: Soul of America in 2012 brought the struggles and triumphs of Bradley's life into vibrant color, bringing him even closer to thousands of fans that already felt such a personal connection.
With Bradley's voice sharpened from the road and Brenneck's studio chops more developed, the duo joined forces again in Brenneck's new Dunham recording studio to cut 2013's Victim of Love. The record proved to be even more autobiographical for Bradley than his debut, as he and Brenneck began to hone their songwriting process.
2016 saw the release of Charles’ highly anticipated third studio album, Changes. Bradley dedicated it to his mother, who passed away in January of 2014. With it's ingenious re-working of Black Sabbath's 1972 piano ballad, Changes again surpassed the expectations of fans, featuring both Bradley and Brenneck at the peak of their talents.
Through the years, the touring was non-stop. Bradley played all the big festivals – Glastonbury, Primavera Sound, Coachella (twice!). He was named Road Warrior and Hardest Working Artist by A2IM’s Libera Awards and Paste Magazine declared him the "Best Live Act of 2015" list. They performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Conan and more, and their performance on CBS This Morning Saturday was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance.
Bradley was on tour supporting Changes in the UK when debilitating stomach pains landed him in a hospital. A few weeks later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Though the treatment was intense, Charles continued to tour and record as much as he could for the next year. He was dedicated to giving his fans every last drop of himself.
On September 23rd, 2017, Charles Edward Bradley passed away, surrounded by his family, friends and bandmates.
Black Velvet is a celebration of his life, and is destined to join Charles' first three albums alongside the cannon of essential soul records for the ages.
|DAP-1005||Charles Bradley + Sugarman 3||Take It As It Comes Part 1 & 2||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1014||Charles Bradley & The Bullets||Now That I'm Gone b/w Can't Stop Thinking About You||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1021||Charles Bradley & The Bullets||This Love Ain't Big Enough b/w Twilight Eyes||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1034||Charles Bradley||The World Is Going Up In Flames b/w Heartaches + Pain||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1041||Charles Bradley||Telephone Song b/w Tired Of Fighting||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1055||Charles Bradley||No Time For Dreaming b/w Golden Rule||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1058||Charles Bradley||Everyday Is Christmas b/w Mary's Baby||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1059||Charles Bradley||Heart Of Gold b/w In You I Found A Love||Daptone||45|
|DAP-1065||Charles Bradley||Stay Away b/w Run It Back||Daptone||45|
|DAP-022-LP||Charles Bradley||No Time For Dreaming||Daptone||LP|
|DAP-025-LP||Charles Bradley||No Time For Dreaming - The Instrumentals||Daptone||LP|
|DAP-031-LP||Charles Bradley||Victim Of Love||Daptone/Dunham||LP|