The only thing in popular music more valuable than youth is that nebulous quality some call “authenticity.” Soul singer Charles Bradley is following a path similar to his label-mate Sharon Jones, who went from being a prison guard at Rikers Island to the jewel in the crown of Daptone Records, a funk and soul label based out of Brooklyn. In 2011, at the age of 62, Bradley released his debut album, No Time for Dreaming. Victim of Love lacks some of the variety of that recording, but it’s nevertheless a passionate and moving collection.
The oft-repeated Otis Redding and Al Green comparisons are spot-on—Bradley’s signature yelp is as well worn as an old pair of jeans. When he sings, “All I’m asking” at the top of “Let Love Stand a Chance,” he unleashes so much anguish in those three words that you don’t even need to hear what it is he’s asking for. Set to a perfectly paced shuffle, “You Put the Flame On It” demonstrates that same yelp’s capacity for conveying joy as well as pain. The title track features sparse instrumentals, a pure showcase for Bradley’s voice.
Daptone may get flak for its pursuit of aging soul singers who missed their shot the first time around—for the cynical listener, a guy like Bradley might sound more like a museum piece than a living, breathing artist. But when the results sound so obviously, wrenchingly sung from the heart, it’s hard to argue with the label’s approach.
Playlist picks: “You Put the Flame On It,” “Where Do We Go From Here,” “Strictly Reserved For You”
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires play the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne St.) on May 11.