Bradley (November 5, 1948 – September 23, 2017) was born in
While performing as
"Black Velvet," he was eventually discovered by Gabriel Roth, a
co-founder of Daptone Records. Roth introduced Bradley to Daptone
artist and his future producer Tom Brenneck, then the songwriter and
guitarist for The Bullets, and later for Menahan Street Band, who
invited Bradley to his band's rehearsal. Bradley asked that the band
simply perform while he made up lyrics on the spot. After writing
several songs, Daptone released some of these initial recordings on
vinyl starting in 2002.
"No Time For Dreaming" (Daptone 2011)
1 The World (Is Going Up In Flames) 3:22
****1/2 Bradley spent a good deal of his career as a spot on James Brown impersonator under the name "Black Velvet" and vocally the similarity is undeniable. He was discovered by Daptone Records in the early 00s who re-issued some of his recordings on vinyl but "No Time For Dreaming" was his first proper album. It's a marvelous throwback Soul/R&B album hearkening the 60s and 70s and the critical acclaim was off the charts. So much so in 2012 a documentary titled "Soul Of America" featured a piece on Bradley's history. "Dreaming" features 8 co-writes by Bradley of it's generous 14 tracks. Retro-Soul just doesn't get better than this.
"Victim Of Love" (Daptone 2013)
***** This LP manages to outdo his terrific 2011 debut for Daptone "No Time For Dreaming". The stately, Motown-flavored Soul-Pop "You Put The Flame On It" is pure aural bliss. Morphine for the ears. The mood of the album isn't as dire and weary as the previous one, possibly due to the heartening reality that this Soul belter finally got his due at age 62. That first album had years to gestate during some harrowing personal history exposed in the documentary "Soul Of America". A song like "Let Love Have A Chance" is downright hopeful. Wait, maybe I spoke too fast since the next track goes by the name "Victim Of Love". Nope, he's thrilled to be a "victim" in this case. I hear a Curtis Mayfield circa early 70s influence on "Hurricane". It's like James Brown singing "Freddie's Dead". May God bless Daptone for bringing Bradley into my life.
"Changes" (Daptone 2016)
****1/2 Third and final album from this lost and found Soul singer who has left a monumental legacy even if only spread over three discs. The title track is an out of left field cover of a Black Sabbath song. You heard that right. It was a stroke of genius if only for the attention this garnered for Bradley and the album. This fiercely powerful track is no gimmick, however. It's otherworldly in it's Soulfulness. What's even more impressive is the whole album is equally as fab. The effusive praise for Bradley and this record is ubiquitous so I'll defer. Why wasn't James Brown doing this kind of material the past two decades before he passed?? Bradley is the next best thing to the artistic comeback Brown never achieved...but Bradley will be remembered as his own man if there's any justice in the world.