No matter how contrived the sound there’s no writing this troupe off as lazy pastiche: like Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black – on which the Dap-Kings were backing band – Give the People What They Want breathes passionate new life into the past.
Slowly rising to power over the course of sporadically released albums and years of touring, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings grew into one of the most rock-solid conglomerates of classic soul revivalism, making it look easy as they turned in increasingly exciting albums. With a fifth album of new studio material, Give the People What They Want, Jones and company are in top form, delivering a collection of classic Northern soul, deep funk groovers, and heartstring-tugging balladry. Tracks like “Now I See” and the burning album opener “Retreat!” slink along with a creeping shuffle reminiscent of the more cracked Supremes hits, while the greasy tremolo guitar and handclap-heavy beat of “Long Time, Wrong Time” call on a more swampy Southern soul influence.
Jones’ voice is the true star of the show, as usual, soaring and coasting with complete command and never sacrificing any character or nuance for the sake of sounding more like any of her ’60s reference points. While Give the People What They Want is somewhat brief by 2014 standards, clocking in at just over half an hour, if it had been released in 1966, it would be regarded as a picture of soul perfection. Jones and her band manage to touch on everything from early-’60s horn-heavy dance-craze soul sounds to the slightly psychedelic flutter of the sublime lazy Sunday ballad “Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again).” These ten songs sound almost designed to be played on repeat, and keep with the always colorful and ecstatically fun sound audiences have come to expect from one of the best acts going in retrofitted classic soul.