Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1970 by two brothers, Rev. Gean and Rev. Tommie West, The Relatives have been playing their special brand of Funky-Gospel for over 40 years. The band enjoyed some local success the 1970’s, releasing three singles and sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in Gospel and Soul as well as headlined their own shows. Then in 1980 after a decade of playing gigs of all shapes and sizes the band members called it quits to focus on other parts of their lives. Fortunately for us in 2009 the good people at Heavy Light Records re-released the band’s singles on the compilation Don’t Let Me Fall. The album received very positive feedback and inspired the band to start performing live again. Word soon got out about the band’s amazing live show and the group was booked into many of the top roots music festivals in America. Now after a successful return to the stage that’s brought the band many new fans they’ve decided it’s time to head back to the recording studio and give the people a new studio record called, The Electric Word.
After listening to The Electric Word (Yep Roc) you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that this is The Relatives’ first release of new music in almost 40 years. Produced and recorded by fellow Texan Jim Eno of the band Spoon, the band sounds just as powerful and soulful as ever. As you’d expect, the bands vocal harmonies are spot on but what really sticks out about this recording is the power of the band! On the tune Let Your Light Shine the bass and guitar are LOUD and up in the mix giving the tune a real psychedelic rock vibe (think Sly Stone meets Band of Gypsies).
Along with psychedelic rock the band also serves up a healthy dose of FUNK. Things Are Changing and It’s Coming Up Again both have a great James Brown/O.V. Wright vibe and Speak To Me (What’s Wrong With America?) is a beautiful civil-rights balled that shows off the bands true vocal power. The band may not be re-inventing the wheel with it’s songwriting but that really doesn’t matter. This album’s purpose is to get you out to see the band on-stage where they really shine. Which is exactly what you should do if these guys pass through your town.
Charles Bradley “Victim Of Love” Daptone/Dunham Records
If you’ve every heard Charles Bradley you know he’s the real deal. From his James Brown like scream to his energetic stage show Mr. Bradley doesn’t just sing Soul music he LIVES IT. For those who aren’t aware, Charles Bradley was discovered while working as a James Brown impersonator in clubs around Brooklyn, New York when he caught the ear of Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth. He released his debut album, NO TIME FOR DREAMING, in 2011 at the age of 63 after a lifetime of playing clubs and working odd jobs to make ends meet. The album was a success and sent Mr. Bradley on tour across the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Now at an age when most artists are slowing down the big man returns with a new album entitled VICTIM OF LOVE, his second release for Dunham/Daptone Records.
VICTIM OF LOVE finds Mr. Bradley again backed by Menahan Street Band, a group of young but seasoned players that co-wrote NO TIME FOR DREAMING with him. The album’s gritty sound isn’t much different then Mr. Bradley’s first release but as they say, if it ain’t broke why try to fix it? Mr. Bradley screams and shouts as he tells the listener about the ups and downs of real life and the band is tight while still sounding human. Tunes like “Strictly Reserved For You”, “Love Bug Blues” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” are perfectly suited for Mr. Bradley’s voice and could have sounded right at home on his last album. “You Put The Flame On Me” is an upbeat shuffle that is reminiscent of early Al Green and the title track “Victim of Love” is a beautiful love song that will become a slow dance classic. All that being said, the money-shot on this album is the album’s closer “Through The Storm”. On this balled Mr. Bradley offers thanks to those who’ve helped him through the hard times. If you’ve ever seen him perform live you know that on many occasions he ends the show by walking into the crowd and hugging members of the audience. It’s no surprise that a song of hope and love would be the song to end the second album. Here’s hoping Mr. Bradley will be around for a long time to come.