Charles Bradley: “No Time for Dreaming’’

By Stuart Munro
January 25, 2011

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Charles Bradley waited a long time to make his recording debut. The singer, who is 62, nurtured musical aspirations — sparked at age 14 by seeing James Brown in action at the Apollo — through stints of homelessness and the itinerant pursuit of a living that took him from one end of the country to the other. Bradley acted on those aspirations as best he could along the way, including a James Brown tribute show. When one of the owners of Daptone Records happened to catch the act, the chance occurrence finally landed Bradley in a recording studio. Accompanied by the Daptone-style funk and deep soul sounds of the Menahan Street Band and the call-and-response vocal intensifications of the Gospel Queens, Bradley has here traded impersonation for his own voice. It’s a raw, anguished instrument that gives powerful expression to songs informed by his hard experience of life (the gritty “The World (Is Going Up in Flames),’’ the breathtaking “How Long’’) and sometimes by direct autobiography (“Why Is It So Hard,’’ “Heartaches and Pain’’). “No Time for Dreaming’’ is a searing testament to the power of perseverance.

ESSENTIAL “Heartaches and Pain’’