Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Sharon+Jones+and+The+Dap+Kings+I+Learned+The+Hard+Way/66798640
Read about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Learned_the_Hard_Way
Fun Facts: The Dap-Kings were then hired as session musicians on a number of projects associated with New York based DJ/producer/recording artist Mark Ronson. Most notable of these is their extensive inclusion and somewhat unheralded contribution to Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black (2006). Six of the album’s eleven tracks feature various members of the Dap-Kings with two notable hits from the album, “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”, extensively featuring the Dap-Kings
|Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 4.95
|Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way: 3 stars
Precon: Never heard of them.
Favorite Track: The Game Gets Old
Cool throwback soul. Although, maybe it can’t be throwback if the chick is old.
Magic the Gathering Card: Soul Burn
|Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- I Learned The Hard Way
Preconceived Notions- Old school soul style.
I love the lush arrangement. Those opening notes on “The Game Gets Old” feel kind of like the audible equivalent of the moment when the gates to Jurassic Park open for the first time and Jeff Goldblum queries “what’ve they got in there, King Kong?” I think that the musical breaks on this song are more impressive than the actual lyrical content, but Sharon Jones’ voice has enough of a Gladys Knight/Tina Turner quality to it that I’m happy either way.
Something about the horn section on “I Learned The Hard Way” reminds me of “If You Really Love Me” by Stevie Wonder…and possibly another song that I can’t remember for the life of me.
I really love the raw quality of Ms. Jones’ voice. She’s not the kind of singer who’s going to try to fill songs with a lot of ridiculous runs. Her phrasing is precise and I don’t feel like she ever tries to upstage the music.
After Listening: It’s such a well-crafted album going from that really full opening to the sparse closing of “Mama Don’t Like My Man”, sure it hits all of the 60s soul tropes, but when you’re in the mood for that kind of music, I’m not sure one needs, or wants, a “modern” feel to it. Sometimes you just want the real thing, and I think that what Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings do here is the real thing. Everything from the subject matter of the songs to the experienced raspiness of Jones’ voice to the arrangements to the tone of the guitar feels authentic, and manages to pull it off without seeming to be trying too hard.
Favorite Tracks: Window Shopping/Better Things To Do/ The Game Gets Old
|Preconceived Notions: Had not heard of these guys before putting the playlist together – but it seems promising. A retro soul/funk outfit that lists James Brown? Well allright….
After Listening: This album does a few things very well – the analog warmth I lamented for its absence in the modern day in a recent review, does actually make a strong appearance here. It’s tough to believe this was created in 2010 and not produced through some type of digital to analog simulator or something. However, after researching the band’s philosophy it seems safe to assume they actually went out and recorded the thing old school. And you can hear that on the record in all its dynamic beauty. And there’s no question the other thing the Dap Kings do well on this record is to emulate the 60’s and 70’s soul and funk traditions. Personally I hear a lot more soul on this record than funk, but it’s a faithful representation of both styles. Here’s the problem it’s too faithful to the source material. I see both sides to this argument – one side says that’s their style and they’re damn good at it, and you feel that way for a little while…before it occurs to you that they aren’t doing going to do anything new. If you’re going to make a record like this, and you’ve got the talent and the resources to do amazing representations of 60’s and 70’s soul and funk….why not sprinkle in your own touches here and there to update the thing? I mean I know technically you’re not copying the music of others note for note, and you have lyrics that aren’t the exact same words….but, on this record I didn’t feel like I was listening to anything other than a forgotten 70’s act someone dug out of their closet. There’s precisely nothing memorable about this album – b/c it’s so adept at lifting styles that there’s no growth to it, no uniqueness to it, and sadly no James Brown to it.
Favorite Tracks: Better Things to Do – Probably the funkiest of the bunch, my bias lies there – it’s a very straight forward approach – almost too straight to swing, but it works overall. Sharon’s voice goes through a nice range of deliveries and the backing vocals provide some variation near the end.
I’ll still be true – Truly an excellent blend of instrumentation here: horns, keys, single note guitar licks…representative of the warmth on the record.
Least Favorite Track: Mamma don’t like my man – The perfect example of the record’s shortcomings. Why was this made in 2010? Is it saying anything different lyrically than 100’s of other songs? Nope. Musically is it anything different than the most basic 50/60’s chord progression? Nope.
Overall 2.923 I can concede these guys and gals are talented. I can enjoy the audio quality presented here and even hum along occasionally. But I just keep thinking “why am I listening to this, when I could be listening to so and so – who did it better (or at least as good) 40 years ago?” There’s not much on this record that puts a unique Dap Kings spin on things – and it’s their lack of personal style that really takes away from the effort. All I hear with this record is that these guys could be an all-time great 60’s and 70’s coverband. Good for weddings, not so good when you have other listening options at hand.
|Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Preconceptions: It’s that soul-back band my wife thinks is awesome.
After Listening: She can’t always be right. She did marry me, after all.
Dap Kings: She Ain’t a Child No More, Mama Don’t Like my Man
Overall: The sound is appropriately authentic but the songwriting never quite comes up to speed. Ms. Jones has a great voice but with these generic woman-what-been-done-wrong-by lyrics, she’s a 2 star Michelin chef making Big Macs. I can see why a producer would want this band backing an Amy Winehouse or Sharon Jones and with the right lyricist they could rival any of the old Stax bands that clearly influence them. Ultimately, better than average but coming up a wee bit short of awesome.
Extra Credit: The Commitments – The Commitments because I wished Ms Sharon and her Kings of Dap had just covered these songs. http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/The+Commitments/188045