LEE FIELDS & THE EXPRESSIONSEMMA JEAN Truth & Soul Records
For Fans of: Issac Hayes, James Brown, Solomon Burke, and Charles Bradley
This summer Lee Fields & The Expressions are back on the scene with a new record full of sweet soul music! Entitled Emma Jean in honor of Lee’s late mother, this record finds the band incorporating more elements of Folk and Gospel into their sound more then they have in the past. In fact, the album’s first single is a soulful version of the J.J. Cale tune “Magnolia”. Sounding a little like Solomon Burke, Lee croons his way through this Folk classic with help from pedal-steel guitar master Russ Pahl. While the song is stylistically a little different then songs Lee and his band have done in the past, they still sound great. That being said, Emma Jean has something for everyone. Fans of classic hard-soul will enjoy songs like “In the Woods” and “Stone Angel” while fans of the teary-eyed ballads will have a new favorite song in “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. The album’s standout track however is the piano-driven “Eye to Eye”. In this song the band sways back and forth while Lee pleads with his lover to take him back. Singing like his life depends on it, Lee is clearly still at the top of his game. For a guy who’s been releasing music since 1969, this album might be his crowning achievement.
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.
CHARLES BRADLEY & THE MENAHAN STREET BAND “No Time For Dreaming”
“No Time For Dreaming” is more than an album, it’s an autobiography about Charles Bradley. Without being preachy, Mr. Bradley and The Menahan Street Band combine soulful music along with larger than life vocals to tell the story of a man who had to work against the odds his whole life.
This is a real soul album done by real soul musicians. Although the band is tight and knows what they’re doing the real story here is the voice of Charles Bradley.. You can really feel the pain in Mr. Bradley’s voice when he cries out to society to change it’s values on the tunes “Golden Rule” and “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”. That being said, the most heartfelt vocal performance on this album might be on the track “How Long”. Around the 3 minute mark Mr. Bradley lets out a Jay Hawkins-like scream that makes you wonder if he’ll survive this song! This tune could only be sung by someone who has lived the life Charles Bradley has.
Born in Florida in 1948 and raised in Brooklyn NY, Mr. Bradley has spent the majority of his adult life on the road. Usually having to travel by way of hitch hiking, he tried to find work and establish himself as a professional musician in a number of cities across the country before ending up in California. After finding a steady job and playing gigs with pick-up bands Mr. Bradley thought he had finally found a place to call home. But as he was just about to put the down payment on his first house he was laid off from his job of 17 years. Frustrated but not accepting defeat, he gathered his belongings and returned to Brooklyn where he began performing as a James Brown impersonator in local night clubs. Going by the stage name “Black Velvet” he wowed audiences with his amazing showmanship and impressive vocal abilities. Now 51 years of age it seemed as if things were settling down for Mr. Bradley, but alas, this was not the case. One morning, while staying at his mother’s house he awoke to devastating news that his brother had been murdered.
Mr. Bradley kept at it though. He continued to perform as Black Velvet and take care of his Mom. One night during one of his performances he was visited by Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records. It was soon thereafter that Mr. Bradley found himself in the Daptone Records studios recording his first single for the label “Take It As it Comes”. Thus beginning a whole new chapter in life of Charles Bradley. Well done Charles! You’ve earned this.
UPDATE 2017: After several years of sold out concerts and a number of albums for Daptone the world lost Charles Bradley on September 23, 2017. While he is sorely missed by many all over the world his music continues to find new listeners and undoubtedly change lives.