Confident, distinctly American soul.
Charles Bradley shows no signs of stopping. The oft-sampled soul artist has released an immaculate album at 67 years old. Bradley does not overplay his hand on Changes. He foregrounds melody over unnecessary musical or lyrical complexity, and expounds on his reflections on love, pain and America.
“God Bless America,” which commences the album, opens with Bradley delivering a boldly optimistic message. Over a thin organ and piano arrangement, Bradley speaks: “America, you have been real, honest, hurt and sweet to me.” Before breaking into a rousing melody, Bradley affirms, “Just know that all the pain that I’ve been through, it made me strong.” Bradley’s monologue rings a bit empty and overly positive. However, he quickly breaks from lecturing and starts delivering impeccable soul tracks, the power of which is hard to refute.
Changes begins to drag a little following its halfway point, especially on “Ain’t It A Sin” and “Things We Do For Love,” which both feel like filler tracks. Regardless, the momentum that Bradley builds throughout the album’s first few tracks, and cements in a powerful, faithful rendition of Black Sabbath’s contemplative “Changes,” buoys the album throughout its entire run.
“Good To Be Back Home” and “Nobody But You” evidence Bradley’s expertise. For three tracks in a row, Bradley serves up tight soul, riff after riff. “Good To Be Back Home” alternates between a throbbing, overcast arrangement (one that reveals why so many rappers love to sample him) and breakout back-and-forth riffs between vivacious guitar and brass forces. However, on “Nobody But You,” Bradley switches to the opposite end of the soul spectrum. A beachy, shimmering guitar riff and a climbing, delicate keyboard run usher in the song. Although Bradley focuses on romance rather than national identity, his main themes—perseverance, loneliness and acceptance—remain.