Sound — 8
The Screaming Eagle of Soul strikes again with the Menahan Street Band in tow, as always. Charles Bradley has always brought a refreshing energy to a genre plagued with lackluster James Brown carbon copies (ironically enough, Bradley started out as an impersonator of Brown) and he certainly doesn't disappoint on "Victim Of Love", his latest offering. As far as sheer sound, it's not hard to argue that the man has a voice. And boy, does he know how to use it. Between cries, wails, growls and crackles every song drips with Charles' soul. The members of the Menahan Street Band are no slouches either; their rock-solid musicianship gives a solid foundation for Charles Bradley to knock you out cold with his huge voice. Obvious influences are early R&B, '70s crime dramas (listen to "Love Bug Blues"), and Motown. On the negative side of things, I would've really liked to have seen the record flesh out a bit more musically than debut "No Time For Dreaming". Charles' and the band really seem to harp on the same old tunes this time around, and sonically haven't changed much. However it is not all stagnant water, noticeable increases in reverb to the recording, and psychedelic influences in the guitars (see opener, "Strictly Reserved For You") bring out a warmer sound. The biggest element to the band's sound has to be Charles' history. This is soul music, the music of truth. You can hear all the pain, the love and the joy pouring out of Bradley with every breath.
Lyrics — 8
To some, the relatively simplistic lyrics of a Charles Bradley song may not have any semblance of genius, but that is to a man who has not heard or seen him perform. It is in the performance that the lyrics truly take life, they become something more powerful than anything you could write on paper, or even etch in a 12" vinyl. Look up any live recordings, and you will witness a man bearing his all (metaphorically speaking) to the audience, a master of performance. I'll simply conclude by saying that Charles speaks in the poetry of the common man. He sings of things we all understand, things that bring us together. While the lyrics certainly aren't breaking any new ground, I think the real message lies in his emotion rather than his words.
Overall Impression — 10
While Bradley and his band seem to still be playing in the same ballpark in terms of songwriting, "Victim Of Love", still succeeds as an excellent showcase of stalwart musicianship and Charles' incredible voice. Personal favorites are "Victim Of Love", whose sugar sweet backing vocals and steady acoustic groove give way to some of Charles' most impressive singing on the album. Opener and first single, "Strictly Reserved For You" is another favorite; showcasing the whole Menahan Street Band in full force, the tight funk and reverb give a very psychedelic vibe before being pushed over the top into full '70s glory with some great Wah playing from Thomas Brenneck. Whenever people complain about the death of modern music, I'm always sure to point them to the Screaming Eagle. A man of truth, and a voice of gold, this record will remain a gem in my collection for many years to come. For more info on Charles Bradley, I recommend the documentary "Soul Of America".