Charles Bradley rose to fame late and left too early. Aptly nicknamed the Screaming Eagle of Soul, Bradley’s last release, Black Velvet, is a collection of B-sides and outtakes that features covers of Nirvana (“Stay Away”) and Neil Young (“Heart of Gold”). The title of the album originates from Bradley’s stage name as a James Brown impersonator; he was inspired by the legend after attending his 1962 concert at the Apollo Theater. Bradley lived a difficult life, and his harrowing experiences come through vividly in each line and note. Always the optimist, his spirit shines on tracks such as “Can’t Fight the Feeling” and “Luv Jones.” The Screaming Eagle ended every concert by jumping off stage to embrace the crowd, a special moment with artist and admirer sharing an intimate bond. Hopefully listeners of Black Velvet will feel that same connection.
Sean Schultz is a lifelong musician who enjoys consuming popular culture. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, daughter and two dogs.