Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – Soul Time!

written by: December 23, 2011
Release Date: December 20, 2011


Sometimes, you just wish new “old” music would come out. That glowing, old-timey feel has slowly vanished at the behest of hypercompression, loudness and digitization. At best, you get artists informed by it (Adele, the late Amy Winehouse), artists who record like it: (The Walkmen, Drive-By Truckers), and artists who take it and try to morph it into something contemporary (Gnarls Barkley). But how often do we have someone basking in the thing itself? Put aside originality; here is an album meant solely (read: soul-ly) to be enjoyed.

Serving as house band for New York venue Daptone Records, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have been around in some form or another since the mid-1990s—with an aesthetic that sounds like it came out of the mid-1960s. After five studio albums, Soul Time! is a compilation of their live hits never previously laid to tape. For those who haven’t had the chance to catch them in their Brooklyn abode, unfortunately, this release is UK only. And by all accounts, The Kings have one of the most invigorating funk shows this side of the drip. They’ve even gone as far to hail themselves “the world’s premier live soul act.”

Actually, The Dap-Kings’ most recognizable recording is barely attributed to them at all. On Winehouse’s album Back to Black, they laid down a majority of the horns, including those in “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.” Compare the two sounds side by side—Boscoe Mann’s production for Jones versus Mark Ronson’s for Winehouse—and you see firsthand the generational divide between recording quality: same band, same aesthetic, different producer.

Soul Time! is so comprehensively funky, so period-accurate that you could fool just about anyone into thinking this is a lost Tamla recording.

Especially “Longer and Stronger” (written on the occasion of Jones’ 50th birthday), with its cascading horns and rotary organ. It’s an album that eschews structure and dynamics in favor of the raw power of a live set. That being said, the album is pitch-perfectly produced; balanced and warm, it touts that ear-ripping James Brown testimony. The band’s arrangements mimic soul in its heyday, before it became prone to the trappings of disco.

“What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” was written in 2002 on the eve of two wars and is just as appealing a prospect today; it’s a dipping, jiving round with influences of Afrobeat’s drone and riffiness creeping in, where Jones cries, “They can’t take nothing from us/That we ain’t ready to give.” Some frontwomen could take a page from her book: she is in the proudest tradition of Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, “owning it” and empowering others through her performance.

Because Jones and the Dap-Kings were born after their time, they may never be fully appreciated or thrust suddenly into the limelight. Who cares! Grab your record player, call up some cats (Don Cornelius while you’re at it), plug in, plug out and dig it.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – Soul Time! tracklist:

  1. “Genuine, Pt.1 “
  2. “Genuine, Pt. 2”
  3. “Longer and Stronger”
  4. “He Said I Can”
  5. “I’m Not Gonna Cry”
  6. “When I Come Home”
  7. “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?”
  8. “Settling In”
  9. “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”
  10. “New Shoes”
  11. “Without a Trace”
  12. “Inspiration Information”