People always seem to refer to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings as a retro soul band. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but to my ears they’ve always sounded like quite the funk outfit, too. According to Wiki, “They are spearheads of a revivalist movement that aims to capture the essence of funk/soul music as it was at its height in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s.” To that end, I don’t come across many retro soul bands and Sharon Jones and company seem to be the only soul band I ever read reviews of in magazines or on the various websites I frequent. So, they might not be bringing about a full-blown funk/soul movement, but they’re certainly doing quite well for themselves. I don’t think there’s another funk or soul band on the planet that garners half as much attention or accolades as they do. And, guess what? They totally deserve it. Album after album, they’ve repeatedly delivered records that elevate one’s spirits and inform the listener that music does not need a drum machine or auto-tune to sound amazing.
Another interesting thing we learned on Wiki: the label Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are on is called Daptone, so that must be why the band is called the Dap-Kings. In fact, when the band started some of the members were Daptone Records owners.
As you may or may not be aware, Sharon Jones has been battling pancreatic cancer, so it’s really quite amazing that she’s made an album at this time. The mere fact that the album exists is damn impressive. What’s really incredible, however, is how good it is. Then again, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are incapable of putting out a bad album, so perhaps that should not surprise us. In any case, this album sparkles and shines with its shimmering horns, funky bass lines and vibes that just scream of good times, Jones sounding as cool and confident as ever.
The album opens with a witty number that finds Jones channeling the Supremes as she spots a cocky guy coming from a mile away. “If you know what’s good for you, retreat!” goes the infectious chorus. “Retreat, ’cause it’s my way baby and I don’t care if it makes sense to you.” Amen to that!
The horns blare — and simply rule — on “Stranger To My Happiness.” “Feeling like a stranger to my happiness,” sing girl group style backing singers during the infectious chorus. It’s especially interesting because the lyrics are clearly about being down, but the song sounds downright up with it’s danceable, up-tempo beat.
“Cry me a river after I’m gone,” Jones sings during the jangly kiss-off track “You’ll Be Lonely,” one of the album’s most vibrant and energetic tracks. But there are plenty of ballads, too. Although it’s more of a hippie anthem than a love song, “We Get Along,” is a superb R&B-influenced track that calls to mind classic Miles Davis and just about any anti-war song circa Vietnam. It might not be a protest song, but it does find Jones pondering whether war is right or wrong and incites people to “get up and come together.”
If you want a ballad that comes from a place of heartache, there’s “Making Up & Breaking Up (And Making Up & Breaking Up Over Again),” a tune about a relationship that just can’t get back to what it once was. There’s only one problem with it: it feels way too short at 2:24 and leaves one wondering why they couldn’t add a horn solo or repeat the first verse or something and flesh it out further. Its abruptness makes it feel more like an interlude than a full-fledged song, which is unfortunate because it’s otherwise one of the album’s very best tracks. But, hey, that’s the only complaint I can make about the stellar record, which is another crowning achievement for Jones and her band.