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No Time for Dreaming

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  • Posted January 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Meaningfulness Of R&B Has Been Regained

    At a time when rock and roll really struggled to get a foothold in 2011, it was reassuring to see soulful, R&B performers kicking up the ante. We saw it in performers like Adele, who delivered probably the best album of the year, "21", an album that was chock full of believable heartbreak. However, if Adele hadn't made that album, Charles Bradley's "No Time For Dreaming" might qualify for that covetted spot. It's a brilliant album that perfectly recaptures the glittering sound and sweet feeling of 1960's R&B performers like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and it, too, has believable heartbreak. Bradley is 62 years old. This is his very first recording. He spent most of his life working as a chef. However, the transplanted Brooklyn native was lucky enough to see James Brown perform at The Apollo Theater in 1962. This impressed Bradley enough to become a James Brown impersonator under the name "Black Velvet". But it wasn't until he fell under the auspices of producer Thomas Brenneck and The Menahan Street Band that Bradley's aching, soul-searching voice found its true outlet. "No Time For Dreaming" sounds like it could've been recorded at Stax Studios with The Bar-Keys and Booker T. & The MGs. It's amazing to hear The Menahan Street Band playing with that kind of soulful accuracy. What's so impressive about this album isn't just Bradley's voice---which, by the way, is sensational---it is also the choice of songs, most of which Bradley wrote. Nearly all of these songs convey the feeling of the current social environment the way all those Stax, Atlantic and Motown songs conveyed America under the Civil Rights Era. That is definitely apparent in "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" and the semi-autobiographical "Why Is It So Hard?". The most dramatic song on this record is also the most personal, "Heartaches and Pain", where Bradley recalls his darkest moment, when he found out his brother had been murdered. If Otis Redding had lived long enough to make his own version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?", it might have sounded like this. "No Time For Dreaming" not only recalls a time where soulful R&B songs had a deeper meaning but that they can regain that meaningfulness once more. Bradley has just given us a few more of his own. Let's hope he becomes a huge star.

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