Tuesday, August 30, 2011
CHARLES BRADLEY :: SAN FRANCISCO TONIGHT
Charles Bradley was down and out when Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records happened upon him performing his Black Velvet act at the Tarheel Lounge in Bed Stuy. Roth recognized his raw talent and directly brought him into the Daptone “House of Soul” Studios for a session with the Sugarman 3. "Take It As It Comes" was Charles' first single on Daptone and it proved him as a worthy vocalist. Roth eventually brought Charles out to Staten Island to see Dirt Rifle and the Bullets, a young funk band playing James Brown and Meters influenced songs. Thomas Brenneck, songwriter and guitarist for the Bullets, hit it off with Charles and they began working together. They released two singles on Daptone under the name “Charles Bradley and the Bullets,” but the Bullets soon dismantled in order to form the afrobeat influenced Budos Band.
However, Brenneck knew that Charles had something more to give and after moving to Bushwick himself, he and Charles reunited. In time, they became close friends and Charles confided his life story in Brenneck. The young producer was moved when he heard Charles tell the painful story of his brother’s death. Brenneck said, "Charles, we gotta put that story to music."
At the time, Brenneck was in the process of forming Menahan Street Band, an amalgamation of members of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, El Michels Affair, The Budos Band, Lee Fields & the Expressions and Antibalas. You may not know it, but you've probably heard the Menahan Street Band. Jay-Z sampled their signature horn sound for his smash "Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)" while Kid Cudi sampled their guitar lines for "Mr. Solo Dolo." The list goes on as Menahan Street Band is quickly becoming one of the most sampled current bands in the business. All this shouldn't come as a surprise for those who have checked out the band on their own. The music is steeped in classic soul and afrobeat but displays an acute awareness for hip hop. It is lush, gritty, retro and modern all at the same time.
Formed in Brenneck's bedroom, Mehanan Street Band began as a studio project. Brenneck was looking to record music in between his busy tour schedules when he called in friends from all sides of the Brooklyn Soul Scene. Each track was recorded over time with a rotating rhythm section all topped with the unique horn stylings of Dave Guy and Leon Michels. The final result was exciting to all those involved, and Brenneck released the first Menahan Street Band single, "Make The Road By Walking" on his burgeoning label, Dunham Records, a division of Daptone Records. Dunham continued to release Menahan Street Band singles and eventually a full-length album, Make The Road By Walking.
The records are characterized by an experimental element. Whether it be a unique instrument or simply an unusual beat, Menahan Street Band attempts to broaden the horizon of funk and soul music through these qualities. However, the term experimental far from describes the final product. The music is always founded in a solid beat and simple changes making it accessible to a broad spectrum of listeners. Brenneck's dedication to high quality analog sound is another staple element of the “Menahan Sound.” The process of recording to tape -- the limited track count, the tape edits, the natural tape compression -- has a great influence on the final product.
Brenneck’s new sound was the perfect compliment for the heartfelt and troubled lyrics that sprang from Charles’ story. With drummer Homer Steinweiss, Brenneck launched Dunham Records in 2008 and released Charles’ "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" and "Heartaches and Pain" as its’ second single. A departure from his Black Velvet act, the songs showed a new side of Charles as a compelling artist in his own right and proved to be a great success. Many late night writing and recording sessions later, he and Brenneck completed their first full-length record, No Time For Dreaming. Charles always knew he was born to entertain, but in the making of this record he discovered a proclivity for songwriting as well. The record was a labor of love for both Charles and Brenneck. Charles and the Menahan Street Band have been touring, while Charles has been honing his passion as a singer and an entertainer. After years of working together, No Time For Dreaming is due for international release on Dunham Records.