Sixty-seven year-old soul singer Charles Bradley returns with his third Daptone Records album Changes. The album is a personal soulful interpretation of modern life. Bradley’s presence in music today is not without an impact, as he proves that music is a timeless experience that can be made relevant in any age.

‘Changes’ by Charles Bradley Album Review

Changes is a well-crafted and carefully devised album. Bradley is more unwavering than ever and he makes each song his own with a dynamic delivery. His experience as a James Brown impersonator shows through in the album’s high points, but isn’t necessarily distracting or over the top. In a similar cultural mode to his idol James Brown then, Bradley’s highly patriotic and somewhat nostalgic sentiments on Changes make it a record that is particularly relevant to the current social and political context.

Opener “God Bless America” is equal parts pride and sadness. Somewhat naively, the singer talks about how “America represents love for all the Americans in the world,” before he launches in expressing soulful blessings for the country, despite the racism and injustices encountered in modern society. The same melody is echoed in the groovier “Good To Be Back Home,” which follows, asserting the singer’s endearing position towards his homeland. Bradley’s positivism, however seemingly naive at times, is not without a healthy dose of painful reality. This is perhaps where the urgency in his songs that makes him relevant to a modern listener stems from.

Bradley’s positivism, however seemingly naive at times, is not without a healthy dose of painful reality. This is perhaps where the urgency in his songs that makes him relevant to a modern listener stems from. Even on more personal jams such as “Ain’t Gonna Give It Up” and closer “Slow Love” Bradley’s arrangements don’t feel in any way forced or devised, which reveals his wholehearted sincerity.

The title track “Changes,” a stripped-down rendition of Black Sabbath’s piano ballad of the same name, comes about halfway through the album. It is one of the highlights of the record with its slow tempo Gospel style and honest tale about loss. “I’m goin’ through changes,” Bradley repeats over and over with emotional vocals that drive the message home. There is no doubt that this track is the centerpiece of the whole record. The accompanying video, which was directed by Eric Feigenbaum, features close-ups of the singer as he responds to the song, which carries such a profound personal meaning to him.

Ultimately, Changes is the kind of life-affirming record that is difficult to pass on. Despite its resort to old-time musical styles from the 1960s and 1970s, the record can also have a modern appeal in its sense of urgency and its allusions to timely yet timeless experiences. Despite the obvious social ramifications that an album such as this could potentially have, Changes is not meant to be received as such – it is rather a personal exploration of loss, emotion and identity.

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