If for some obscure reason you are yet to discover the funk and soul gold of Daptone Records’ Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, then time is of the essence. Music this good deserves to be unearthed and revelled in, hence our inclusion of their funkily hard cover of Janet Jackson’s ‘What Have You Done For Me lately?’ on our Summer Glow playlist. Dripping in the retro sound of the best of 1960s and 1970s soul and funk, one of our favorite places to dwell, the group eschew digital recordings and stick to an analogue technique, also limiting themselves to the other instruments and recording styles of the era. No pro-tools wizardry for this outfit.
Their four full length LPs have the feel of instant classics. They really do evoke the era that inspires them, to the extent that it is almost impossible to believe that they are not reissues from some vault of precious musical gems at Stax or Curtom. But original is what they are, and if you think that borrowing heavily from your influences is some kind of short-term gimmick then you couldn’t be more wrong. This is no Acid Jazz scene. For though they wear their influences on their sleeves, and indeed their record sleeves (with even cover design taking on the appearance of old classics) their music is innovative, crazily soulful and downright funky. It might hark back to the good old days, but is also somehow definitively modern in its sound and sentiments, a stunning feat if you can pull it off. It is helped by the fact that the Dap Kings are no average house band but rather made up of some of the best funk and jazz musicians from the New York scene, and especially the Deep Funk movement that has coalesced around Daptone Records (and previous incarnation Desco Records), including such key players as Neal Sugarman on saxophone and Bosco Mann on bass.
And then there is Sharon Jones herself, a heaven-sent voice of such sweetness and power as to be almost improper. Jones’s own career has been a story of ups and downs, the fickle music industry over-looking her major talent because she did not fit their aesthetic. And now, in her 50s, Jones’s own renaissance is at full tilt, where she seems to make up for the forgotten years with every vocal performance, live or on disk. Jones brings raw fire to the microphone, and sings with a soul voice drenched in passion, heartbreak, commitment and sometimes pure sex, some of the finest ingredients of any soul stew. From all out funk jams to mellower sultry soul, this band has it all in abundance. Form is temporary, but class is permanent.