If Wilson Pickett could cover the Archies and Al Green could interpret the Bee Gees, why shouldn't Charles Bradley put his spin on Black Sabbath? Bradley's deep, soulful reading of Black Sabbath's "Changes" (from 1972's Vol. 4) became something of a viral sensation when it first surfaced on a Record Store Day single in 2013. Now it's become the title track and cornerstone of Bradley's third album, and in this context it doesn't sound like a novelty, but like the striking, deeply felt performance it truly is. As on his two previous albums, Bradley is one of the most authentic-sounding artists in the 2010s retro-soul sweepstakes on Changes. The production by Thomas Brenneck is straightforward but naturalistically effective, and puts Bradley's rough but passionate vocals in engaging relief with the accompanists. (Most of the album features the Menahan Street Band backing Bradley, though the Budos Band does the honors on two cuts.) Most of the songs on Changes are new, but they sound like they could have been prize Atlantic or Stax rarities from the mid-'60s, and the performances honor the sound and the emotional power of classic soul.
For much of the last two decades of his life, Chet Baker seemed to go in the studios so often that one never knew what to expect. The results were a crapshoot, depending on whether or not Baker was suffering the effects of his drug addiction at the time. Fortunately, his friendship with Chicago-based pianist Bradley Young in the early 1980s gave the younger man an opportunity to sit in with the trumpeter. As a result, Young impulsively suggested a record date during a return engagement in 1986, which Baker accepted, though everything had to come together quickly within two days, including finding a studio and assembling a band. Oddly enough, everything works, from the fine rhythm section…
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A cover of a well-known song often serves as a good introduction to a lesser-known artist, and that is no less true of the opening cut on Vance Gilbert's new album, Angels Castles Covers. "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" opens an album that's mostly filled with pop and R&B covers, delivered in Gilbert's soulful, smooth vocal style and backed by light accompaniment. Indeed, one might think of Gilbert's approach as soul lite, an approach that's easy on the ears and that commingles easily on cuts like "Rainy Night in Georgia," "I'm So Tired of Being Alone," and "Save the Last Dance for Me." The most daunting thing here is that it's inevitable, since these songs are so well-known that they'll be compared to the originals.