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Album Review: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Give the People What They Want

After winning the fight against pancreatic cancer, Sharon Jones & her band the Dap-Kings have returned to their Brooklyn studio for their fifth album proper, Give the People What They Want.

Opener ‘Retreat!’ is a drum-enthused entrance, one that sets up the instrumental tones of the album nicely, though Jones’ luscious vocals more than demonstrate her staying power from the off in that arena too. As a whole, Give the People What They Want is chock-full of scratchy drum and horn infusions that go far to lend the album its Motown-tinged feel. Brooklyn meets Detroit; love at first snare drum. ‘We Get Along,’ while retaining that same hold as ‘Retreat!,’ portrays a more connected message: put simply, it’s a call to get together.

‘You’ll be Lonely,’ meanwhile, opens with chugging, jazz-tinged guitars and intermittent drums before Jones’ powerhouse vocal performance takes centre stage, eclipsing everything bar the most ear-catching brass. Here, Jones sounds raw and ready, vocals reaching from high to low, pulling from a fiery innermost source. Give the People What They Want is rife with moments such as these—spot on in its balance of gut-grabbing arrangements and, of course, those firebrand vocals that recall many a great soul siren.

‘Making up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again)’ is the kind of track that you’d find your mum dancing to in the kitchen, which is by no means a downward remark. It’s all ‘Dock of the Bay’ smoothness, clipped guitars and refrains of that titular phrase, angelically harmonised to ‘60s-tinged perfection. ‘Long Time, Wrong Time’ is similarly interest-piquing and equally rewarding. Make time for this track, you won’t be wronged by its smoky atmosphere, rolling bass lines and handclapped backdrop.

Give the People What They Want ends in a contrasting duo of tracks. ‘People Don’t Get What They Deserve’ is a mixture, if not a full-blown mirror image, of what’s preceded it. It’s got the stamina to last too, racing along with all the fervour of the most intense of sermons. ‘Slow Down, Love,’ on the other hand, does exactly what it says on the tin; while not hauntingly dark, the devil’s in the details here, in every slightly offbeat kick, in those reverb-laden guitars and in Jones’ ever-so-slightly eerie performance.

It serves as fine proof that even after such a body moving, soul-strengthening album, Jones is still plenty able to surprise us, and that Give the People What They Want, just like the songstress herself, has time-proven staying power.

-Caroline Murphy
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