Charles Bradley,The Screaming Eagle of Soul, tragically passed away after a battle with cancer last year, but his remarkable voice screams on in posthumous album Black Velvet, which you can listen to now on NPR Music’s First Listen. “Black Velvet” was Bradley’s working name as a James Brown impersonator and the soul icon’s presence is tangible in Bradley’s music.
Musical inspirations aside, Black Velvet stands on its own. The album collects ten songs recorded during the sessions from each of his previous three albums, including three covers: Nirvana’s “Stay Away,” Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and “Slip Away” by Rodriguez.
Opener “Can’t Fight The Feeling,” charges in, splintering front doors in the process. Bradley croons over a gleeful, bouncing horn section, urging, “Take a chance on me, baby!” That unceasing, fiery energy carries through until the title track, “Black Velvet” turning down the heat to a simmer. The track is entirely instrumental, laced with gospel organ and soporific saxophone. “Fly Little Girl” oozes tenderness, the lyrics nudgingly paternal. “Victim of Love” is a perfectly orchestrated finale, returning to those familiar R&B roots from where Bradley originated.
Listen to the full album here, via NPR’s First Listen.
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