Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings like to do things the old way rather than the easy way. All of their music, as well as all of the recordings on the Daptone label are recorded in a Brooklyn studio on vintage equipment. They only use analog recording equipment. While people can argue the merits of this back and forth all day, this matters greatly on the recordings, and especially on the new album Give The People What They Want. Sharon is something of an anomaly. She didn’t start recording as a proper signed artist until her mid 40s. She doesn’t look like your textbook pop star. She has the demeanor of the sweet neighbor you bump into once in a while and then realize one day she has some amazing pipes.
The Dap-Kings are mainly the house band of the Daptone label. In fact many people don’t realize that the band backing Amy Winehouse on her Back To Black album is the very same band. The songs are written by the band musicians, with about half of them by Bosco Mann, the label’s mastermind. The point of the records they make, especially GTPWTW, is to recapture what made 60s and 70s soul music so great. When you put this album on, you *feel* that.
“Retreat!” kicks the album off with equal parts Supremes, Martha Reeves and maybe even a bit James Bond at the beginning. The song sounds like it *could* be from the late 60s. In fact, the album, like all Daptone albums, is designed to look like a 60s album cover and does not contain the date. This song especially has new meaning for Sharon as she has just overcome a bout with cancer last year. The result is she now sports the bald look. And she does not care one bit if you don’t like it. She’s gonna make you love her anyways! The second track here is the energetic “Stranger To My Happiness”. This one is part Motown, maybe part Aretha Franklin. Sharon has so many influences and they are mixed up in one great big soulful gumbo here. “Stranger…” is definitely a song to get you moving and put a smile on your face. The band is tight and the horns are always on point here. “We Get Along” has a bit of Al Green in there and slows it down a bit. This one sounds like it could have been slipped easily into the Jackie Brown soundtrack. “You’ll Be Lonely” loosens up a bit and gets funky. Like blaxploitation movie funky. And then side one finishes off with “Now I See”, an upbeat song with funky horns and a different time signature on the chorus not usually heard in a soul song.
Side two (because this was meant to be heard on vinyl – despite my owning it on CD) kicks off with a smooth slow jam called “Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again)”. This one also has an Al Green/Bobby Womack feel to it. I will admit, I only have so many references for classic soul. Being born after the classic soul era, I’ve found most of my favorites by mention here or there or by a friend’s reference. So I’m sure there are many better references that I’ve yet to learn. “Get Up and Get Out” sounds like one of the 60s girl groups that you didn’t really know about. The sound is so authentic – if I didn’t know, I’d think this was something I’d hear at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “Long Time, Wrong Time” is one of my favorites. The guitar has the perfect sound here, oddly something like CCR, and the groove is irresistible. “People Don’t Get What They Want” takes things way faster. Very Motown or even Phil Spector. Although there’s an echo chamber effect on many of the songs here though, it isn’t quite the same wall of sound, which is good, because that would drown out the details I think. Finally “Slow Down, Love” bring in some slowed down (of course) jazzy horns, and some early quiet storm slow jam vibes.
Both Sharon Jones and the band The Dap-Kings are both the stars here. Together they successfully create the atmosphere and the feel that those old soul records captured. The mixing, placing the instruments with space apart in the speakers, the levels, the reverb, it’s almost too perfect. The album is short at 10 songs, but 10 songs was usually the standard on 60s albums. It makes for a concise track list and leaves you wanting more. I have to hand it to all involved for making a spectacular record. And my personal apologies to Sharon and the band for having slept on checking this stuff out for so long. I’ve got a lot of back catalog to catch up on now. Definitely one of my favorites of 2014 so far.
Pick up Give The People What They Want HERE:
Check out these great videos and performances from the album:
“Stranger To My Happiness”
“Now I See” (Live on CBS This Morning):
“We Get Along (Live on QTV):
“Long Time, Wrong Time” (Live on QTV):
“Stranger To My Happiness” (Live on Ellen):
“Artists Spotlight” Daptone segment:
“Get Up and Get Out” (Live in Orlando – fan footage):