Sharon Jones and the fabulous Dap Kings have been making music since 1996 and they’re one of the few outfits who still fly the flag for authentic soul and funk. Sadly their recordings are few and far between, possibly because the band is too busy gigging. They have a full schedule and their shows are awe-inspiring throwbacks to the 60s and 70s testifying soul revues that used to criss cross the States. When they do get into the studio it’s often to work with other artists. Their list of recent supporting credits is extensive. The band’s own last full LP was released back in 2010 so with nothing new on the horizon Daptone has assembled this “new” 12 tracker. The material is all old stuff – a mix of vinyl-only B sides, downloads (some which had to be accessed with a voucher) and Dap King obscurities. However, it’s hard to believe that anyone will have all this material already. Getting it all previously would have taken expert detective work, so it’s difficult to accuse the label of any kind of exploitation. Equally a lot of projects like this often have the feel of something that’s just been cobbled together. But ‘Soul Time’ doesn’t sound like that. It’s a unified piece of work and if you weren’t aware of the music’s provenance, you’d easily think it’s a new “proper” album. The reason, of course, is the sound. Sharon and the band produce a consistent sound that is easily identifiable as their own. They don’t follow the vagaries of musical fashion; so it matters little when a track was recorded … what matters is the quality of the material and its delivery… and here both are first class.
The set opens with a blatant homage to the Godfather. ‘Genuine’ is out and out JB funk and as if to ram that message home the tune is divided into Parts 1 and 2 – the way he did back in the day. ‘I’m Not Gonna Cry’ is another that Mr. B would have been proud of – ditto the Christmas song ‘Ain’t No Chimneys In The Ghetto’ (remember the man’s own Christmas album?). ‘Settling In’ and ‘Without A Trace’ are bluesier while ‘What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes’ is the lady’s fine attempt at socio soul.
On ‘New Shoes’ Sharon visits Northern soul territory – with the emphasis on the “soul”. Soul-a-plenty too in the cover of Shugie Otis’ ‘Inspiration Information’ but the outstanding cut is the burning ‘Longer And Stronger’. This could have come straight out of Stax and shows that the lady’s not just about feisty bluster. ‘Soul Time’ indeed … and eagle eyed sleeve readers will spot the “Volume 1” legend atop the corner of the back cover….. an indication of more to come. Real soul fans sure hope so.