ShareI LEARNED THE HARD WAY - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Daptone)
So I accidentally picked up a copy of (Australian) Rolling Stone last week and read a review that panned this album for "sounding too authentic".
Forgive me for picking up that rag. I feel so unclean but it was next to Mojo. It's Rolling Stone in name only and it's in the thrall of horrible, pre-fabricated major label acts and fashion labels. Maybe it always was. (Caveat and saving grace: I didn't buy it.) So let's suppose that I agree with the general tenor of the statement, if not the moderate rating the review bestowed. What's so "authentic" about "I Learned The Hard Way"? Here are a few things…
It sounds "authentic". As in all warm and analogue. It was recorded at Daptone's Brooklyn House of Soul so you wouldn't expect much else. You can bet they don't have ProTools there or if they do, they save it for the clients whose custom they need to pay the bills, and that the closest they get to pitch correction is when one of the neighbourhood kids goes to Little League practice to be coached in how to let go a slider.
Of course sounding genuine does not always equate to Being The Real Thing - just as wearing a starched uniform does not make you King of the Burger Flippers at Macca's. In both instances, you need the Special Sauce. God knows, the garage rock world is full of pudding bowl haircuts and bands that sound "authentic" without the members having so much as written a decent song between them.
Sharon Jones does sound like an "authentic" soul singer. Yes sir. With an "authentic" eight-piece soul revue behind her playing the big band, soulful thing with nuance and power and feels so real you can sense the sweat dripping from their brows.They have the Special Sauce.
The opposite of "authentic" would be "counterfeit" which is the music Rolling Stone obsesses about, so let's not get hung up on what they say. The real story is that the playing on this is consummate and the songs are crackers. Sharon Jones sings like she was born to. You could just read the rest of the reviews on this page to hear more of the same.
Move along, there's nothing more to see here. Just go buy it. - The Barman
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DAP-DIPPIN' WITH - Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings (Daptone Records/Reverberation)
Doing the retro thang is all the rage these days, and why should that surprise? Rock and roll, in all its permutations, abstractions and variations, is 50-years-old, the popular press has recently been so kind to inform us, and its mutant spin-offs and precursors have always provided inspiration for their bastard child to re-invent itself, ad infinitum. One listen to "Dap-Dippin'" will make you say: "May it ever be so".
This is not rock and roll, per se. More hard funk. Brooklynite (via Augusta, Georgia) Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are unashamedly throwbacks to "James Brown Live at the Apollo" (take your pick of which volume - bits of both, actually). Jones is the best thing to happen to soul music since Aretha while the Dap-Kings are the Famous Flames, writ large. An eight-piece revue that's as hard as the funkiest James Brown band. If you don't believe it, here's the stinging faux live introduction to this album, verbatim:
"Right now for your enjoyment and pleasure we would like to introduce to you the funky and dynamic sister who is exciting dance floors across the nation with her dynamic new sound. Soul brothers and soul sisters from coast to coast would get up and get down whenever her records would get played. They doin' all the funky new dances! They doin' the bump-and-tuck…They doin' the dap-dip…They doin' everything! Ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking about 110 pounds of soul excitement comin' for you. This sister is so bad, she's badder than bad! I'm talkin' about the same sister that brought you such hits as 'The Landlord,' 'Damn It's Hot,' 'Ain't It Hard'…And now, ladies and gentleman, the star of our show…The super soul sister with the magnetic je ne sais quoi! Miss Sharon Jones! Miss Sharon Jones! Miss Sharon Jones!"
Geddit? Good! Delivered straight, with no hint of self-parody. It might not be Maceo spinning forth those words (more likely bandleader Bosco "Boss" Mann) but you'd be best advised to Get on the Good Foot!, regardless.
So what's this stuff doing at the I-94 Bar? D'oh, dummy, where do ya reckon the MC5 copped "Born Under a Bad Sign" and their James Brown medley? No shortage of Soul Brother Number One moves in the Hitmen stage show, Sydney circa 1980, or under the white tails and schtick of Birdman's ex-MC. The same stuff even runs through the crypto-funk of the bassline of "She-Creatures of the Hollywood Hills" if you want to name check the Raw Power Stooges. Fact is, half the shit we listen to here at least owes a small loan, if not a major debt, to the Detroit, Memphis and New York black music wellsprings, from where Ms Jones also draws her stuff.
And so this album made it down to Australia (thanks to the prescience of burgeoning Sydney label-cum-distribution-operation Reverberation) and what's more surprising is that Triple Jay like it. You could tell me that "What Have You Done For Me Lately" (track three) is a Janet Jackson hit and it still wouldn't register (no shit, actually) but it's all cool. Damnit, "Got a Thing on My Mind" is more James Brown than James Brown!
The final instro cut, "Casella Walk", is a curio, not hidden but separated from the previous track by seven minutes of dead air. Don't know what genius tracked that, but it's no big deal. Whoever mastered it probably needed a bit of time to cool down. The whole disc is a bracing walk backwards - a true gem that's harder than an 18-carat diamond and three times as dazzling. - The Barman
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