Full of brass to the very end, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings was truly one of the last great acts of funk-soul. Leaving the world all too soon, there was certainly an eyebrow or two raised when words of a posthumous record trickled out, but Jones was never one to do what’s expected. Guiding her band through some of their strongest songs ever, Jones wails throughout, on a production that sends the album into the stratosphere. While so many soul and funk records these days feel like they’re missing something, even ones from the greats, Jones leaves the world with a record that should be heard by everyone, and will no doubt become a modern touchstone for the genre.
Charging out the gate with a furious rhythm section, Jones and her band play of each other with powerful excitement on “Matter of Time.” Showcasing the album’s powerful mix and a boundless sense of true soul, the track sets the tone for the album perfectly and makes it clear how much spirit she had to the very end. It’s hard to overstate just how essential the mix on this record is, as even the very classic hooks of a track like “Sail On” feels elevated by the crisp nature of each horn and guitar, and the dynamics of its stereo panning.
Jones’ delivery however is what really carries the record, as she places “Just Give Me Your Time” as this perfect blast from the past that never was. Able to give a modern and oldies sense of writing with a production that matches this idea, the record constantly feels familiar yet fresh. Her rhythm section is also incredibly on point for this record, making grooves that never distract from the heartfelt lyrics, especially on “Come and Be A Winner.” Jones ability to constantly one up her own vocals on this track is a constant surprise that will satisfy listeners to no end.
“Rumors” transcends all of it however to be this cutting pop track on the record, whose constantly electric background vocals kick the song above the rest of the record. Simple and to the point, it just hits you with hook after hook to make the record’s catchy standout. Sinking back into touches of gospel tones, “Pass Me By” finds Jones at her most reflective and personal. A much more subdued slow-jam, it showcases the incredible mix even more through how much Jones’ vocals pop without making the instruments weak.
There’s a seamless ability for Jones and her band to lull you into a dance on this record, that has been so hard to find in modern soul. Tracks like “Searching For a New Day” immediately carry a timeless quality as the harmonies grow and grow, and the bass manages to be more than just a supporting piece in the groove. What’s interesting however is the more unique tracks like “These Tears (No Longer For You)” where Jones takes retro pop song frames and completely revitalizes it in her performance. Her band to their credit as well are a force to be reckoned with on these songs as they swing between complementing each other to accented chorus hooks.
“When I Saw Your Face” lets the brass really drive along with Jones as a strong but controlled second voice that provides another harmonic layer that makes the song soar. It’s also one of the most poignant showcases of the record’s affinity for little touches with big effect, as the subtle string lines give the song a heart-warming quality.
Fluttering little strings dance around the brass on “Girl (You Got To Forgive Him)” as Jones and Co. reach their most intricate and bizarre, as they expand a simple love song into something that truly nails the emotional complexity of the subject matter. A true pioneer to the very end, the group doesn’t play it safe on this track. While the most derivative and inherently corny song on the record, the personal relevance is at its most potent on “Call On God” as Jones ends the record on a personal note. This said, even with the track’s predictability, the layers added to the song and the unexpected twists from supporting band mates closes the record on a strong and spiritual note.
Words by Owen Maxwell