Exclaim!'s Top 15 Soul and R&B Albums Best of 2016



8. Charles Bradley
Changes
(Dunham)
 
On the gospel-tinged opening track to Changes, "God Bless America," Charles Bradley says in his distinctive rasp, "America you've been real honest, hurt and sweet to me. But I wouldn't change it for the world."  
 
Pain, acceptance and gratitude have immeasurably shaped the artistic outlook of Bradley, whose well-documented journey has been narrated by great highs and lows. Here, on his third album, he conveys emotion rivetingly, belting about heartbreak, social injustice and passion in a love letter to the ever-changing tides and contexts of love. 
 
Bradley's brawny, husky voice is utterly satisfying, his James Brown howls goosebump-inducing, especially when paired with doo-wop ("Crazy for Your Love), squealing saxophone ("Nobody but You," which samples Seals & Crofts's "Summer Breeze") and smouldering grooves ("Ain't Gonna Give It Up"). The album's most poignant moment, though, comes in its title track — a Black Sabbath cover — that beautifully coaxes out the blues roots of the original while bringing new, heart-wrenching meaning by its dedication to Bradley's late mother. 
 
While Bradley's soulful style is warm and familiar, his perspective makes it both current and intoxicating. Here, vintage is not antiquated, but rather used as a vehicle to push things forward.
Yasmine Shemesh