Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Soul of a Woman | Album Review
‘Soul of a Woman’ is a fitting ‘final act’ for soul-revivalist collective Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, following the passing of Jones in 2016.
On November 18, 2016, the world lost a true treasure in soul musician Sharon Jones, at the age of 60. After a late career breakthrough, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings were among the crème de la crème of the soul revivalist movement. Listening to any of the collective’s albums and there’s no ‘neo’ – it’s authentic, soul music. It’s sad that we will no longer hear new music from Jones, but her musical legacy will live on, as it does on her ‘closing act,’ the posthumously released Soul of a Woman.
“Matter of Time”
“Oh yeah!” “Matter of Time” commences Soul of a Woman energetically and fully invested. After the initial instrumental burst (organ, rhythmic bass, horns) and cheerleading from Jones (“Oh yeah!”), she balances poise and oomph. Instinctively, she always had a knack for when to hold back and when to let loose. “Matter of Time” is well paced, with Jones growing more spirited as the gem progresses.
“Sail On!” keeps Soul of a Woman funky, chocked-full of attitude and energy. Jones remains feisty, filled with passion and spirit. Her background vocalists further accentuate her skill, adding fuel to the fire. The horn riffs by The Dap-Kings are some of the funkiest of Soul of a Woman. Following a dramatic opening statement, the brief “Just Give Me Your Time” ends up slackening the pace, opting for balladry. Even so, there’s still fire, whether it’s The Dap-Kings’ horn hits, or grit exhibited by Jones.
“Come and Be a Winner”
“Come and Be a Winner” also keeps things relatively short, clocking in at under three minutes. It contrasts “Just Give Me Your Time,” embracing funkiness and ‘the art of groove’ more. Even with a foundation built upon electricity, Sharon Jones never over-sings, packing just the right amount of punch and pushing at the appropriate moments. Keeping things ‘short and sweet’ is the rollicking “Rumors,” which has a bass line “to die for.” One listen, and the head is nodding and the foot tapping. Throw in the bari sax, and it’s a serious, soulful vibe. The playful vocal performance is another selling point.
Standout “Pass Me By” is among the most beautiful songs from Soul of a Woman. Furthermore, it’s one of the most vintage soul cuts – it sounds as if it would’ve been a home in the 60s. The ‘church’ is written all over it, given the prominence of the organ within the production. No, it’s no gospel song, but the southern, gospel soul game is strong.
“Searching for A New Day”
Following the balladry of “Pass Me By,” The funk returns in full force on the enjoyable, well-rounded “Searching for a New Day.” This is feel-good, pleasant soul through and through. On “These Tears (No Longer for You),” Jones is resolute – she’s moving on from the heartbreak. What better way to do so than a brilliant, incredibly dramatic soul ballad? Jones is tender at times, yet always in command of her vocals and emotions. Stunning.
Straight out of the 60s, the strings and horns haunt on love-centric “When I Saw Your Face.” After the ‘feels’ are complete (including “tingles down my spine”), the mood shifts. After depicting infatuation and true love, Jones is struggles with her man “doing her dirty” on “Girl! (You Got to Forgive Him).” Nonetheless, she can’t give up on him: “Girl are you crazy? / Are you gonna let true love slip through your hands?” “Call on God” fittingly concludes Soul of a Woman in the gospel-infused, deep-, southern soul style. Jones’ vocals are incredibly powerful and sincere. Here, at the very end, Jones is witnessing – testifying to God’s goodness, mercy, and ‘wonder working power.’
How does the final (sniff) Sharon Jones & The-Dap Kings album stack up? It’s magnificent. As sad as it is to say goodbye to a truly gifted artist like Sharon Jones, she reminds us all what made her so great throughout Soul of a Woman. There are no miscues on this album. It is, hence, a fitting finale, and among the best albums of 2017.
Gems: “Matter of Time,” “Pass Me By,” “Searching for a New Day,” “These Tears (No Longer for You)” & “Call on God”