It’s taken just two short years for Dunham Records – an imprint of Daptone Records – to establish itself as one of the most captivating creative forces in soul music. The brainchild of guitarist/producer Thomas “Tommy TNT” Brenneck, Dunham’s indelibly atmospheric sound is epitomized by its flagship artist, Menahan Street Band, whose 2008 instrumental single “Make the Road by Walking” (from the acclaimed debut album of the same name) was famously sampled by Jay-Z for the smash single “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is).” Now Dunham Records prepares to enter the next phase of its evolution with the debut album of its inaugural vocalist. A testament to the power of perseverance, Charles Bradley’s No Time For Dreaming is poised to drop at the top of 2011.
For Bradley the album is the culmination of a lifetime of paying dues, having nomadically labored for decades at various day jobs from Maine to Alaska – singing and performing in his spare time – before re-settling in his hometown Brooklyn and eventually finding a musical home at Dunham. In his distinctively rough-hewn timbre one hears the unmistakable voice of experience – each note and gruff inflection a reflection of his extended, sometimes rocky, personal path. It’s only fitting that No Time For Dreaming’s producer Brenneck (who, in addition to being Menahan Street Band-leader, is a member of The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band) would recognize in Bradley a kindred musical spirit – a singer whose performances exude both raw power and poignant beauty.
The Menahan Street Band (an all-star assemblage of musicians from the Dap-Kings, The Budos Band, Antibalas, El Michels Affair, and Lee Fields and the Expressions) backs Bradley through the entirety of Dreaming with unerring attention to detail. The robust “The Golden Rule” – which rides a brilliant, ringing organ-fueled groove – finds Bradley lamenting society’s misplaced priorities in lieu of love and brotherhood. “I Believe In Your Love” has him achingly testifying over insistent, Stax-reminiscent horn swells memorably accented by a reverb-soaked xylophone. The moving, autobiographical “Why Is It So Hard” chronicles Bradley’s personal struggles with swaying, gospel-like fervor.
Dreaming is permeated by a sense of urgency: Bradley rips through the searing title track with a lyric espousing self-empowerment over complacency and pours his everything into the slow burner “How Long” which resonates with personal meaning for the soul journeyman. The personal and topical continually intertwine throughout Dreaming, particularly on Bradley’s stunning signature tune, “The World (Is Going Up In Flames).” An entirely apropos theme for our anxious times, the album’s impassioned lead track and single, finds Bradley wondering aloud what the world around him is coming to as the Menahan Street Band provides solace with its irresistibly bouncy, break-laden two-step groove. (Something savvy hip-hop producers will undoubtedly take notice of.)
This is the undeniable milieu of No Time For Dreaming – a confluence of commanding performances, precise arrangements, and songs so fundamentally sound you could forge steel on their staffs. Recorded at Dunham Studios, and mixed at Daptone Records’ internationally revered "House of Soul" Studios, No Time For Dreaming is the inspired sound of an awakening.
World, meet Charles Bradley. He already knows you quite well.