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SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS: I Learned The Hard Way – 2010 – Album review

Rating: ★★★★☆

Over the best part of the last decade the combination of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings has been massively influential in underground funk circles. In fact they are probably the most widely respected act on the scene – with good reason, indeed, if creating the sound of soul/ funk authenticity were a competition, this lot would effortlessly wipe the floor with every rival, every single time. No doubt this is partly to do with their use of eight-track analogue recording using an Ampex tape machine but also a consequence of Jones’ voice and the musicianship of the Dap Kings themselves. But then again, it’s not a competition and so we have to address the fact that like it’s predecessor this LP lacks a big dancefloor banger of the kind that their rivals have been providing. This isn’t to say there aren’t big tunes on here – for example both Money (which finds Jones pondering her inability to hang on to any bucks in her best soulful growl and is the closest thing to a dancefloor single on here) and I’ll Still Be True offer big brassy, funky soul but the horns and vox take priority over the breaks even on these.
Elsewhere Better Things To Do offers a sweetly mellow groove though the emphasis is on the chill rather than the ill. Talking of sweetly mellow grooves – the summery soul vibe on The Reason sees the Dap Kings taking a front seat for once with this instrumental at the halfway point. Without A Heart brings the northern soul (and why not – every other deep funk band has been there recently) while Mama Don’t Like My Man plunders an early Motown vibe. The remainder is much the same – more of the soul – less of the funk – lots of lamenting about blokes who ‘window shop’ (Window Shopping), ‘learning the hard way’ about blokes (I Learned The Hard Way) – and stressing about whether a bloke is going to call or not – If You Call. But then again – why not? They’re all traditional and perfectly serviceable soul-themes.
Musically this has far more in common with last LP 100 Days, 100 Nights than the blazing funk of first LP or even the excellent well-balanced variety of second LP Naturally which I still maintain is their finest hour and ought to have been the one that broke them into mainstream consciousness. Since even the Guardian name checks them these days I think it’s safe to assume that mainstream recognition has now been achieved and frankly no-one deserves it more. It does occur to me though that an end to all that ‘struggling musician’ lifestyle might leave Jones short of lyrical material – although thinking about it – her love life does sound pretty catastrophic, so maybe not. Anyway – enough about that – as long as you remember that this (like its immediate predecessor) is one for late-night driving, and post-dinner drinks rather than late-night drinking and post-pub kicks, you’ll be into it. Nice to see them offering a mp3 download code with the LP too…
(Out now on Daptone Records)

Listen to Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way

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Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Myspace

SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS: ‘I Learned The Hard Way’ LP released 4 May 2010 + Tracklist

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are the most authentic sounding deep funk band in the world and that’s not up for discussion. In fact they’re so authentic sounding I couldn’t believe they didn’t perform in black and white last time I saw them. I Learned The Hard Way is unleashed on 4 May this year. Let’s hope that what they ‘learned’ was not to forget to put some dancefloor belters on it – which, for all its soulful glory, were sadly missing off the last one.
(PRESS RELEASE)
SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM….I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SET TO DROP 4 MAY 2010…
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are already well known as one of the most exciting acts in the nation for both their explosive live shows and their prolific output of gritty studio recordings. Their breakout release, 100 Days, 100 Nights, sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. On Jones’ birthday this year, the band will release I Learned the Hard Way, their fourth full-length on Brooklyn’s independent Daptone Records. The record marks a bold step forward for a band who almost singlehandedly stewarded today’s return of soul music to its more traditional sound.
‘I Learned the Hard Way’ was produced by Bosco Mann and recorded on an Ampex eight-track tape machine by Gabriel Roth in Daptone Records’ House of Soul studios, the record drips with a warmth and spontaneity rarely found since the golden days of Muscle Shoals and Stax. Sharon’s raw power, rhythmic swagger, moaning soulfulness, and melodic command set her firmly alongside Tina Turner, James Brown, Mavis Staples, and Aretha as a fixture in the canon of soul music. From the lush Philly-Soul fanfare that ushers in “The Game Gets Old” at the top of the record, to the stripped down Sam Cooke-style “Mama Don’t Like My Man” at the tail, the Dap-Kings dance seamlessly through both the most crafted and simple arrangements with subtlety and discipline. I Learned the Hard Way is the “Daptone Sound” at its finest………
Discography:….
‘Dap-Dippin’ with the Dap-Kings’ – May 2002….
‘Naturally’ – January 2005….
‘100 Days, 100Nights’ – October 2007….

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way– Track List
1. The Game Gets Old….
2. I Learned The Hard Way….
3. Better Things….
4. Give It Back….
5. Money….
6. The Reason….
7. Window Shopping….
8. She Ain’t A Child No More….
9. I’ll Still Be True….
10. Without A Heart….
11. If You Call….
12. Mama Don’t Like My Man….

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Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Myspace

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