We’ve written a lot on what a dynamic performer Sharon Jones was—and make no mistake, she was a powerhouse. But what I like about this video is it also show what an artists she was, and where real musical magic comes from.
I won’t dive back into the debates around digital vs. analog recording and the pros and cons of automation or pitch correcting software. The fact of the matter is that artists should use whatever they have to the best of their abilities. And that is what makes the Daptone Records story so compelling: They have built this thing from the ground up with people who share a vision and burn with a talent that had to come out.
Here we see Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings out of their stage gear and away from the lights, sounds and manic energy that reverberated throughout their live shows. It’s a band laboring in its small and unadorned workspace. The meticulously authentic soul sound of Daptone Records doesn’t come from a suite of studios with atmospheric lighting and $10,000 sofas. It comes from people holed up in a live room, playing together in their studio in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. That’s magic.
I first saw Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shortly after that article posted. It was revelatory. In the era of beard-stroking indie rock was this band of crack musicians fronted by a firecracker of a performer who took their jobs as entertainer seriously. Deadly seriously, as it turns out.
Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and documented her fight against it, while trying to also return to her passion and career fronting the Dap Kings, in the film Miss Sharon Jones! It’s a careful, honest look at the struggle and triumphs of serious illness. Jones, who was the personification of energy and strength on the stage, struggles throughout the film with the physical, emotional and financial strains of her illness and shows her vulnerability throughout and fights her way back to the stage and the road shows that pay her bills--and the bills of her bandmates, road crew and label staff. To know how the story ends, despite where the film ends, is heartbreaking.
Daptone Records announced Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ final studio album, Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017. Just typing those words, “final studio album” makes me sad. I hate that we’ll never see her perform again and that she won’t be creating new music. It’s hard to embrace the adage that we should “not be sad that it’s over, but be happy that it happened” when such a talented and big hearted woman has been taken away. But I’ll do my best and I’ll dance in my living room with as much vigor as I can muster. It’s what she would have done.
Post-script: Another Daptone flame was snuffed out by cancer recently when Charles Bradley died on September 23, aged 68. He was a James Brown impersonator in his past and used that time as a sort of apprenticeship that made his own live shows absolutely spellbinding. Seeing the clips of Sharon Jones talking shop and dancing with him brought an actual tear to my eye. The world has a little less soul and a lot less heart in it now. Fuck cancer.
This video illustrates so much of what I love about independent music makers in general and Daptone Records specifically.
Celebrating ten years of service to soul music, Daptone Records takes you on a tour of their Brooklyn studio and HQ with stories of their humble beginnings and continued humility as they do what they love. See Sharon Jones wiring the control room, Charles Bradley roughing in the live room, and label chief Gabriel Roth showing off his pride and joy. Great, great stuff.
First week sales for the album totaled 22,689, putting I Learned the Hard Way at #15 on the Billboard Top 200 this week. This marks the band’s highest chart position yet, despite (or maybe because of) a low sales week.
A blurb about the album’s production and the band’s attention to vintage detail after the jump…
One of the reasons we here at GLONO love Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings is their relentless attention to detail as they strive to recreate the late-60s soul sound—and, of course, how successful they are in that pursuit. From the arrangements to the instrumentation to the recording techniques, a Dap Kings record is a performance art piece in itself.
But what is sound without image? Applying the same sort of focus on the packaging of their material completes the overall effect. For a glimpse of just how far they go to recreate the look and feel of the records that inspired them in the first place, check out this behind-the-scenes report of the photo shoot for their upcoming LP, I Learned the Hard Way (out April 2010).
We used the back yard of the studio and the adjacent fire escape to make a photo that was in keeping with the look and feel of urban group shot covers that were seen a lot in the late 60’s and early 70’s (The Impressions ‘This is My Country’, The Supremes ‘Love Child’, etc.) We went with the square format Hasselblad with negative film to get the same look and feel from the period.
This is the first I’ve heard of “Dinner With The Band” from IFC, but I could watch Sharon Jones perform all day long. From the two clips I watched, I don’t really see anybody eating or even cooking dinner, but what do I know? Maybe “dinner” is a euphemism do something I don’t know about…
Check out a new song, “Are You Gonna Give it Back,” after the jump…
SonicScoop takes a tour of Brooklyn recording studios, and talks to Daptone Records’ owner/engineer/producer/bass player Gabriel Roth, who was in the middle of recording the new Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings record:
“We try to use as few mics as possible, and we’ve been using a lot of ribbon mics on this record. We figure out who’s coming in too loud and have the players and backup singers balance themselves, get the tones all right, in rehearsal, and then we record,” he said. “When you start using a lot of tracks, you end up having to do all that stuff in the mix. If you do it when you’re recording, it’s not really harder, it’s just sooner. People think it’s scary because you don’t have choices later, i.e. bring up the trumpets, but it’s like you’re going to have to hear that at some point. Whether it’s two months from now when you’re mixing, or now. So you may as well deal with it now.”
Awesome. That’s how to make a real soul music. No shit.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at the Crystal Ballroom
Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009
Sharon Jones makes you sweat. Her moves and voice pull sweat from your skin like blood rising in a hickey. Even in the damp cold of a Portland night, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings had hundreds of hipsters dancing and sweating like they were extras in a 60s soul revue.
As has been documented here, I recently moved to Portland, Oregon. Now that GLONO’s Northwest office is up and running I finally got out to a show. We made our way through the fog and drizzle to the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland. For over 90 years, the Crystal Ballroom has been a premier music venue in this city. Everyone you can think of has played there; from Little Richard to Buffalo Springfield to the Grateful Dead to Liz Phair. I was excited to see it as much as I was to see one of my favorite bands.
The first thing anyone in Portland tells you when they hear you’re going to the Crystal Ballroom is, “the floors bounce!” And it’s true, they do. The floors are spring-loaded because along with hosting bands all these years it’s also been a dancehall. What better combination to entice a hall full of kids in baggy pants and hoodies to shake they asses and lose their detached cool, if for just a little while.
What makes this act slightly less than amusing is the fact that Winehouse has built her stardom on recycling the looks and sounds–the Wurlitzer, hand claps and upright bass–of Freedom Ride-era pop music to sell her tale of rapidly unfolding decline. It’s one thing in our celebreality culture of scandals and bad behavior to garner attention by singing a pop anthem about resisting rehab. It’s quite another to set these finely crafted tales from the “gritty” English ‘hood to doo-wop hopefulness and buoyant, “Dancing in the Streets” percussive melodies that recall the upbeat tenor of King-era activism. This summer, the dissonance grew deafening when Winehouse was caught on video singing slurs about blacks and Asians–not to mention gays and disabled folk–to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” while hanging out in what looked like a crack den.
Check out what Brooks has to say about the Dap-Kings after the jump…