When Give the People What They Want (2014) opens with dramatic timpani hits and Morse Code guitar licks, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally queued up Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. box. Sharon Jones & her expert backing band, the Dap-Kings, perfectly capture the sound, the spirit, and most importantly the soul of late-60s-early-70s Motown and especially Stax/Volt.
From the classic analog production to the bracing horn charts to the sassy backing vocals to Sharon Jones’s singular delivery, this is music that could could’ve been made in 1969 just as easily as 2014. “Retreat!” lets you know what happens when a woman doesn’t get another 7-letter “r” word (hint: think Aretha); “Now I See” uses unexpected meter shifts to communicate the disorientation that accompanies the discovery that “once a friend [is] now an enemy;” the economic inequality attacked by the hard-driving “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” is as characteristic of the Great Recession as it was of the Great Society.
This is all pretty standard territory for classic R&B. But it’s exceptionally well-executed; and anyway, innovation isn’t precisely the point. The point is to get funky. And mercy, mercy me do Sharon & the Dap-Kings succeed. This isn’t slavish imitation either: slot these originals into a playlist with Otis Redding and Mavis Staples and they’ll fit right in, in terms of sound and in terms of quality both.
Give the People What They Want was originally slated for release in August 2013, but had to be delayed due to Jones being diagnosed with bile duct cancer. She’s shown the same grit and determination in her fight with cancer that she brings to her performances, here and throughout her career – “Retreat!” applies equally to her ex-lover and to her disease. Both in her personal and professional lives, Sharon Jones is the real deal.
- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (theperfectipodcollection.wordpress.com)
- Sharon Jones on soul music, cancer, and Leonardo DiCaprio (www.avclub.com)
- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “I Learned the Hard Way” (radiomilwaukee.wordpress.com)
- Review: Give the People What They Want by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (earthingsblog.wordpress.com)