May 15, 2009

Something Different: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Dap Dippin' With... (2002)


I just double-checked the past history of Hip Hop Isn't Dead, and I noticed that I haven't written about a non-hip hop album since November of 2007. I also realized that I made an older comment regarding the likelihood of HHID running a Sharon Jones review, and someone wrote that they would actually want to see that go up sometime. Hopefully, that person still frequents the blog, and I'm sorry that I didn't get to this sooner.

Sharon Jones is best known as the soul singer who used to be a corrections officer on Rikers Island, but unlike a certain other former corrections officer, Sharon doesn't brag about how much coke she's moved or how many yachts she currently owns. (Yet.) A singer all her life, Sharon Jones sang gospel with her church choir, and lent backup vocals to many studio sessions, one of which, a song for funk and soul legend Lee Fields, inadvertently propelled her to stardom. The producers of the track were so impressed by her performance that they invited her to cut a solo song of her own, and the rest is in the history books.

After a lengthy history of creating record labels that no longer exist (such as Pure and Desco), co-producer Gabriel Roth (also known as Bosco Mann), along with saxophonist Neal Sugarman, created Daptone Records, which Jones would eventually be a part of (although she released at least three singles for Desco). Her debut album, Dap Dippin' With Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (containing songs almost exclusively written by Bosco Mann, who also plays bass), would be the new label's first release. The Dap-Kings of the title are not only Sharon's backing band (born out of the leftover parts of The Soul Providers and The Mighty Imperials), they're stars in their own right, as they have also provided musical accompaniment for Amy Winehouse (after her producer, Mark Ronson, liked what he heard) and even played the instruments for Ronson's own Version. Along with Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings are responsible for recapturing the essence of soul, something that has eluded many contemporary artists.

Dap Dippin' With Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings proved to be a critical success, and Sharon Jones has seen her profile increase exponentially with each new release.

On with the music!

1. (INTRODUCTION)
This intro receives a begrudgingly-given pass. Not because this isn't a rap album, but because the concepts introduced and the overall sound contribute to the feeling that the album is striving for.

2. GOT A THING ON MY MIND
Like most lovers of music, I believe it to be a very visual experience. Whenever I hear a good song, my mind creates a scenario where the track could serve as the perfect soundtrack to a scene in a film (probably because I'm a film guy, but whatever). This could easily double as opening credit sequence music for a Judd Apatow-esque dramedy, and I mean that in the best way possible.

3. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY
Somehow, Sharon Jones (with assistance from The Dap-Kings) manage to make this song sound like it predates Janet Jackson's original version. Even though Mrs. Jermaine Dupri (seriously?) has the better song, Sharon still manages to make this hers.

4. THE DAP DIP
The song responsible for that annoying-as-shit vocal sample that infiltrated Rhymefest and Kanye West's “Brand New”, but when the phrase is used in its proper context here, it's not any less annoying, but at least it makes sense. This song is only alright.

5. GIVE ME A CHANCE
This is just a great song. That's all I got.

6. CUT THAT LINE
This song isn't even listed on the back of the CD packaging. Of all the songs on this album, this is the one I liked the least, and yet, it still sounds decent. That says a lot about this CD in general.

7. GOT TO BE THE WAY IT IS
For those of you whose musical tastes don't venture very far beyond rap music in general (and especially if you listen to the radio exclusively), the downside of this album is that some of these Dap-Kings instrumental efforts can be a bit hard to distinguish from one another. Just another reason why you folks need to broaden your horizons.

8. MAKE IT GOOD TO ME
Sounds like an outtake from the Motown or Stax vaults. Sharon Jones relaxes a bit and slows the mood down, and the result is this plea to her lover that could be played on oldies radio and nobody would bat an eyelash. (Somehow, that's supposed to be a good thing.)

9. AIN'T IT HARD
The drums that start off this song are certainly hard. The sound is massive, movie score-ready, and is so good that you're distracted from the fact that the lyrics come off as bad grade school poetry.

10. PICK IT UP, LAY IT IN THE CUT
Not much in the way of songwriting, but the track is a fun joyride into the night, driving from club to club on a Saturday night without a care in the world. I miss those days.

11. CASELLA WALK
Although it seems to take fucking forever to get started (the track is over ten minutes long, but the song itself takes up less than three of those minutes), this instrumental piece is the shit. This is some montage-quality stuff: you can plan a heist of three separate casinos in Las Vegas and count your money to this. Fan-fucking-tastic.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Thank God someone had the good sense to both create Daptone Records and sign Sharon Jones. Her voice is a throwback to an era long since past, and Dap Dippin' With Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings is the perfect antidote for what passes as “singing” in the R&B field today. The Dap-Kings also deserve kudos for accurately recalling a time when music was made because of the love of the sport, and not just to peddle fashion lines and shit. A very impressive debut, and a good straightforward listen, which is rare in all musical genres today.

BUY OR BURN? If you appreciate music at all, picking up this album should be at the top of your to-do list. Run out and grab this disc before you take out the garage and paint the trash, or else you don't love music as much as you say you do, and you're a dirty liar.

BEST TRACKS: “Casella Walk”; “Got A Thing On My Mind”; “Give Me A Chance”; “Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut”; “Make It Good To Me”; “Ain't It Hard”

-Max

1 comment:

  1. “take out the garage and paint the trash”? Max is a goofball in every sense of the word. Anyway, in a world where good soul music is as hard to find as good hip hop, I will look for this album while picking up Blackout 2 and Relapse. Luckily, a record store in my area sells most new releases 4 days before the actual release date. Keep up the great work, Max.

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