Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Album Review: "Give The People What They Want" by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Give The People What They Want was released
on Jan. 14 on Daptone Records
It's been one hell of a year for Sharon Jones. 2013 was set to be the release of the highly revered soul singer's sixth album with the Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want, but instead Jones found herself sidelined for the better part of the year due to a hard bout with cancer. The album was pushed back and the usually headstrong, all-out soultrain was de-railed for what many thought would be a long period of time. But sure enough Jones' resilience shone brighter than ever before, although her chemo just ended on Dec. 31 Jones is already set to return to tour in February. Last week Jones and the Dap-Kings took to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for a dazzling performance and today marks the release of the long-awaited album Give The People What They Want.

And as if anyone had any other expectation, Jones and the Dap-Kings have done just that. Give The People... is a riveting display of the guttural yet smooth soul that has propelled the group to international acclaim. Although the album was written and recorded before Jones' diagnosis, the album feels like a triumphant statement proclaiming that nothing will stop this old soul revival from turning the clocks back to when Motown ruled the world.

As always, Jones' vocal performance is enough to leave you breathless. Whether she's belting out the righteous refrains in album opener "Retreat!" or hesitantly pining over bittersweet love as found in "Get Up and Get Out," Jones' vocals ooze with sincerity. But to only pay attention to the vocal acrobatics is doing the whole band a disservice, as the Dap-Kings continue to prove themselves as one of the finest backing bands around. Triumphant horns, groove inducing bass lines and tight guitar riffs are the meat and potatoes of the act. Between Jones' vocal prowess and the Dap-Kings dazzling instrumentation, it's easy to become disassociated with current times. The funky, soulful vibes thrust the listener back into the days when Motown reigned supreme and if Jones and the Dap-Kings had been together then they'd surely be atop the charts.

But that's not to insinuate that this music feels outdated or antiquated, but rather it proves that the songs found on Give The People What They Want are collections of timeless tracks. While contemporary soul fans may herald top 40 acts like Adele, it's hard not to feel like the genre has been bastardized in modern times. All the while though, folks like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are doing all they can to prove that funk and soul is here to stay.

Whether the subject matter is somber or uplifting, it's always approached with the same level of tenacity with the Dap-Kings. Granted, that's a bit of a double-edged sword here though. At times it feels like they're trotting over the same ground that they have in previous tracks, but they're doing so with such finesse that it's always an enjoyable experience.

Ultimately though, Give The People What They Want proves to be another stellar release amidst the sea of the Dap-Kings' already fantastic work. Clocking in at just over half an hour, these ten songs serve as brilliant spurts of high-energy retro-tinged goodness that's as accessible for the old as it is the young. It'll be a joy to watch how the band continues to radiate strong-willed positivity in the face of Jones' tumultuous year, but I have no doubt that they'll continue to power through by making some of the most infectious and ageless music of our time.

Rating: 8.5/10
Standout Tracks: "Retreat!", "Stranger to my Happiness", "Now I See", "Get Up and Get Out"

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