SHARON JONES AND THE DAP-KINGS
-- The late, great Sharon Jones may have had to wait til late in life to get the recognition her powerhouse vocals were due, but despite her unfortunate passing last year, in the dozen-plus years of her association with The Dap-Kings/Daptone label, she recorded five pretty amazing albums (plus a bunch of single-only sides and a Christmas record, to boot) and the world of funky soul music is a much richer place for it. Everything about these albums is pretty much perfect -- to focus solely on Jones does a real disservice to Daptone label-owner Bosco Mann, the fabulous musicians who make up the Dap-Kings, and the deep devotion to the '60s & '70s music from which they all draw their inspiration, including the spot-on songwriting and incredible production. These albums are true labors of love and that comes through in every way. In other words, this is my kind of new music: the kind that sounds just as great or better than the old music I already love. (Yes, I know that makes me an old man screaming at the kids to get off my lawn. I can live with that.) I have almost everything these folks recorded and would give all of it the highest grade, if grading records was the sort of thing I did. I could go on and on heaping accolades on this music. Basically, if you love '60s soul, you'll love Sharon's albums. I can't really recommend one particular album over any other -- they're all of a piece, although the final one, 2014's Give The People What They Want
goes a little more in the Motown/girl group direction than previous releases -- so just get'em all and have yourself a soul party. Here's just a handful of faves: "100 Days, 100 Nights"
, "I'll Still Be True"
, "I'm Not Gonna Cry"
, "Keep On Looking"
, "Mama Don't Like My Man"
, "My Man Is A Mean Man"
, "Something's Changed"
There are lots of live performances on YouTube as well, which I urge you to explore on your own.
Sharon, you will be missed.TOM JONES
-- I've got a 24-cut compilation which, let's be honest here, is at least 20 more Tom Jones songs than anyone really needs. Most of it is listenable enough but Jones is a pretty limited singer -- he's powerful, to be sure, but utterly soulless, and incapable of demonstrating anything resembling real human emotion. (Just compare his versions of classics like "Without Love (There Is Nothing)" or "I (Who Have Nothing)" to the versions by Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King and you'll instantly recognize what I mean.) That said, it's hard to argue with "It's Not Unusual"
, even if I don't really need several more carbon copies of it. His worst stuff is terrible less because of Jones himself and more because of awful material unredeemable by anyone, I suspect. Admittedly, I'm not a middle-aged housewife who likes the idea of sexy danger but rock and roll not so much, so I'm not exactly his target audience here. Infinitely better than Englebert Humperdinck, though.
Next up . . . Janis Joplin!