By now you probably know that the ever-wonderful DAPTONE label is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The forward-looking/retro/enthusiast label was founded in 2001 by Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) and Neal Sugarman after the closure of Desco Records – an ill-starred label Roth had set up with maverick French soul enthusiast, Philip Lehman. Decso had just “discovered” Sharon Jones and so as not to lose her, Roth and Sugarman established Daptone as a home for her music. (The label name, it’s suggested, was a nod to a 1972 funk workout by Ernie and the Top Notes, ‘Dap Walk’). From that inauspicious start, the label has grown to a position of pre-eminence in the indie soul world and, as a by-product, has encouraged the growth of labels with similar ideals – Colemine, for instance. Not that the success and notoriety was what Roth sought out. His passion was (and still is) the music and its visceral power.
Anyway, to celebrate their big 20th, Daptone is about to release this magnificent live album – 32 explosive tracks recorded at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre between 4th-6th December 2014. Most have lain in the Daptone vault till now but what a time to get them out there officially – the collection is a huge celebration of what Daptone has achieved over the last two decades. Naturally the artists performing are those at the core of the Daptone roster – Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Naomi Shelton, Antibalas, The Budos Band, Menahan Street Band, Sugarman 3, Saun & Starr and the Como Mamas. Most every soul fan will know most of those names – maybe Naomi Shelton and The Como Mamas aren’t so well known. They’re gospel performers and bring a mighty righteousness to the show. The Como Mamas’ input in particular is remarkable – a stark, emotive, a-cappella rendition of ‘Out Of The Wilderness’.
Sadly, of course, Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley have died since the recording (Naomi Shelton too) but that duo are the undoubted stars. Jones’ sometime backing singers Saun and Starr open the Apollo show in wonderful fashion and 30 odd tracks later Ms Jones finishes things off – and how! In words it’s hard to explain just how dynamic and explosive her music is – but it’s not all power and pyrotechnics. Her ‘Making Up And Breaking Up’ is a magnificent piece of mid-tempo soul by anyone’s standards while her rendition of Gladys Knight’s ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’ gives Ms Knight’s version a real run for her money. Sharon and the Dap Kings even nail that lovely, sweet doo-wop harmony ending.
Dap King, Binky Griptite is the enthusiastic MC throughout the show and he keeps the energy levels at max right up to the final curtain when he calls all the artists back for a rousing version of ‘Family Affair’. Then, it’s all over! All you’ll be able to say is phew, before hitting replay.
Live albums aren’t everyone’s cup of soul tea. James Brown’s live Apollo LP is usually cited as the benchmark, but this Daptone one sets the bar even higher and, of course, recording techniques have improved hugely since that famed night in October 1962. I’d urge you to give this one a try! The Daptone live album is released on October 1st.
To find out more about Daptone and its 20th anniversary, check out our Daptone book review here: https://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/reviews/book-review-jessica-lipsky-it-aint-retro-jaw-bone/