Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Soul Time!

Photo: Andrew St. Clair

Soul Time! is evidence that, even when the singer and her backup band isn’t concentrating on working on cuts that will, pardon the pun, make the cut, they’re still turning out ace material.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Soul Time!

Label: Daptone
US Release Date: 2011-10-25
UK Release Date: 2011-10-10

If you’ve seen soul revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings live in concert, you know one thing. Sharon Jones is not merely a performer, she is an entertainer – and one of the most consummate quality. A Sharon Jones concert is a transcendent experience, and she certainly knows how to milk expectation. In fact, she doesn’t walk out onto the stage until her band and backup singers have sufficiently warmed up the audience, and it actually takes about 20 minutes into the set before you get the main attraction. However, whenever Ms. Jones does saunter out, she does so with so much unbridled energy and enthusiasm, you have to wonder how she manages to belt out what will soon be considered soul standards on the level of anything in Aretha Franklin’s catalog (at least, I damn well hope so) while moving and sashaying around the stage. What’s more, a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings concert is a participatory one: the augmentative singer brings up both men and women from the audience to dance around with her. If you walk in with a frown, you’re guaranteed to walk out with a smile.

Every concert begins with the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s soul time!” So it’s apt that Jones’ quasi-follow-up to her breakthrough 2010 album I Learned the Hard Way takes part of that statement as its title. Soul Time! isn’t a record of new material – it’s a set full of rarities and former download exclusives, and is the very definition of the term “stop gap”. However, the dedicated Sharon Jones fan would have had to be very committed to own everything here: three songs are culled from bonus material found on digital download copies of I Learned the Hard Way, meaning that you would have had to buy the record twice from separate online retailers (and once on vinyl – “When I Come Home” was only available to those who downloaded the MP3s from the label via a drop card lobbed in with the LP) in order to fetch everything encompassing Soul Time!. The thing is this: even though Soul Time! is an odds and sods release, the material is generally top notch, and it leads the excited listener to wonder, if this stuff is considered to be Ms. Jones’ throwaways, or is substance that didn’t find their way to a proper album, has the artist actually recorded anything not intended for one of her discs that would be considered to be an outright dud? Soul Time! is evidence that, even when the singer and her backup band isn’t concentrating on working on cuts that will, pardon the pun, make the cut, they’re still turning out ace material.

The title is a little bit of a misnomer as the set often focuses on the funkier side of Ms. Jones’ musical pedigree. Things start off with the one-two punch of “Genuine Pt. 1” and “Genuine Pt. 2”, which is the kind of track(s) that wouldn’t have been out of place in the repertoire of James Brown circa the early ‘70s. “I’m Not Gonna Cry” stakes similar territory with its careening sax and deep rolling beats. “Settling In” is a turn for the bluesy, showing a very different and yet appealing side to Jones’ persona. However, the real showstopper is the inclusion of “When I Come Home”. It is simply the most memorable thing to be found here, in large part due to the structure of the chorus. “I’m gonna ... ,” Jones sings, and then gives a pregnant pause before continuing “when I come home”. It’s that beat that makes the song stick out and gives it a bit of saucy Sam and Dave grit. It’s a real rave up, and for those who didn’t pick up the vinyl of I Learned the Hard Way, it is the main attraction and the real reason to own Soul Time!.

Soul Time! is also a very – bad pun alert number two – timely release for two reasons. The set includes the incredibly groovy “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?”, which is a rallying cry and anthem-in-the-making for the current Occupy movement. While Jones has her target on the government instead of big business, a similar sentiment is there and makes Soul Time! feel a bit newsworthy. The collection also includes the cute, loss-of-innocence tale “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”, which is also opportune as it is a Yuletide song – and we all know Christmas is right around the corner. The track is written from the perspective of a little girl who wonders how Santa is going to deliver presents considering her building doesn’t have a smokestack atop its roof. It’s a more-than-adequate stocking stuffer for the Sharon Jones fan: the sax solo even delightfully cribs a snatch of melody from “Jingle Bells”.

There’s very little to find at fault with Soul Time!, but the compilation makes at least one egregious misstep. It comes in the form of keeping “Genuine” as two separate and distinct “parts”, per the original single release. That means that almost four minutes into the song, which is right where the listener is really getting into its groove, the track fades out on a breathless wail from Jones, and then fades back in for “Pt. 2”. Since Soul Time! is a long-player, as opposed to a seven-inch, it seems a little too bad that the track wasn’t presented as one seamless whole. However, that ain’t horrible if that’s all that you can really knock about Soul Time! – notwithstanding the fact that even at 12 tracks long, the album feels a little short. However, that also speaks to the power of Sharon Jones’ music (and let’s not forget about those Dap-Kings who provide the backbone to her singing). No matter how much Jones gives you, you’re still left desperately wanting and craving more, more, more. Soul Time! is an engaging affair, and will serve as an adequate platter of non-album cuts from whom I’ll dub as the New Queen of Soul for both long-time fans who might not have everything, and curious newer fans looking to stick a toe in Jones’ body of work. One thing: my vinyl copy of the album comes with the promise in tiny type in the upper right-hand corner of the cover that this is Soul Time Vol. 1 [sic]. If that’s an indication that there’s more of this kind of thing sitting in the vaults, I would breathlessly encourage the band to let the hounds loose. Despite being a collection of stuff tossed outside the medium of a proper album, Soul Time! is remarkably and thoroughly consistent, and anyone familiar with Jones will be left craving for even further remainders. So I say, bring it on, and do the funky chicken while you’re at it.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.