Charles Bradley: No Time For Dreaming

Late-blooming soulman's debut is worth the wait and then some.

Charles Bradley

No Time For Dreaming

Label: Daptone
US Release Date: 2011-01-25
UK Release Date: 2011-02-14

Listen to Charles Bradley and you will hear a man living his dream. Born in Brooklyn in 1948, he spent much of his childhood on the streets. The brightest moment of his youth came in 1962, when he saw James Brown's fabled performance at the Apollo, which left him so astounded that he instantly decided his future would be as a singer. However, there were plenty of setbacks and delays -- he lost jobs, he moved a lot, his brother was murdered. But in 2002, Daptone Records spotted Bradley's talent and drive and signed him soon thereafter. And now, roughly a decade after that deal and 49 years after that fateful 1962 night, Charles Bradley is finally releasing his debut album, No Time For Dreaming.

As you may have guessed, it nods to the great soul men of yore -- Brown, Al Green, and Otis Redding included -- and does a fine job of paying them homage. After all, Bradley was around when the music he imitates was in its prime, so he undoubtedly has a good grasp of his particular genre. But unlike Aloe Blacc, Raphael Saadiq, and Bradley’s fellow Daptone late bloomer Sharon Jones‘ records, which make welcome stabs at soul revivalism but still sound unmistakably modern, No Time For Dreaming doesn't sound contemporary in the slightest. But that’s the point. It sounds like everything was recorded at once, and the occasional female backing vocals could have been plucked directly from Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.

But most of the authenticity has to do with Bradley’s voice, which is rugged, full and, above all, powerful. It's also very versatile: Over the course of a few tracks, Bradley transitions from a desperate, Brown-esque near-shriek ("The World (Is Going Up in Flames)") to a smooth croon ("Lovin' You, Baby"). Those pipes are at their most affecting on “Why Is It So Hard”, which is the album’s apex and Bradley’s story in capsule form (“Why is it so hard to make it in America/ I’ve tried so hard to make it in America”). Maybe this guy is why there’s an age limit on “American Idol” -- he’d put all the younger contestants to shame.

Musically, No Time For Dreaming is mostly brass-heavy Al Green-circa Call Me pastiche. The Menahan Street Band, who accompany Bradley throughout the record, do everything a great backing group should: Stay away from sounding stagnant without knocking the front man from the fore. The trumpets and saxophones are usually out front and often trace the vocal melody, highlighting the powerful hooks. The guitars sit a little lower in the mix but still add a subtle flair, providing a foundation as integral as the rhythm section.

All of this functions as a necessary reminder of how awe-inspiring bona fide soul can be when done well. You don’t need to know his back story to fall in love with Bradley -- the music speaks for itself. This album has been a looooong time coming, but it's more than worth the wait.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.