Soul returns, not her ghost
Often noted as the “21st Century’s Godmother of Soul,” Sharon Jones’ posthumous album with The Dap Kings dove into some grooved out classics. Starting her career at the age of 40, some said she was late to the game. But she covers a wide selection of hits, from Stevie Wonder to Janet Jackson, with her new album Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In). Jones’s reaching vocals coerce the lyrics of these classics into the afterlife with her.
The first track is quite a tall order, with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” Stevie’s original passion and depth of voice are not lost in this nostalgic tune. When the song fades to end, people are hoping her voice continues. But nonetheless, she continues to ‘deliver’ with Dusty Springfield’s “Little by Little” after a short delay.
Jones has always been reputable for her distinct voice, where she revives soul back into this century. Despite her passing from pancreatic cancer in 2016, The Dap Kings maintain the vibe of their band’s uplifting sound. Soul involves the twist of Gospel and R&B with a dash of funk, which The Dap Kings do not fail to provide. It’s as if listeners are in a 1970 club but in the year is 2020. This nostalgia cures the berating negativity this year has regurgitated.
“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In)” is the R&B of this album. It reaches, it grooves and it obliterates the posthumous sadness of Jones. While originally a Kenny Rogers classic, this track deserves the album title with its nuanced personality and elegance.
Prince’s “Take Me With U” is spot-on, with less flash. It’s rooted in the soul genre with heavy ties to the raspiness of Jones’ vocals and some spectacular horns. This is the same with Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?,” without the melodramatic performance people never needed from Janet.
On a different wavelength, is the band’s exclusive cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” which is the second release since Jones’ death. This song is a polar opposite of Guthrie’s originality. With attitude, charisma and, most importantly, soul, this song adds the fifth element to take the tracklist further and root it into the soul music of a century before.
The Marvelettes “Here I Am, Baby” and Shuggie Otis’s “Inspiration Information” add the conversation to this album. Jones’ magnificent tune carries throughout generations of music. Wrapped into the mix, accompaniment from The Dap Kings add the electricity of a live show within the crisp sound of this album, despite losing their lead singer. The band could lose their rhythm, but they remain creative and on their toes, as seen with their instrumental closer of Bad Medicine’s “Trespasser.”
Turning the RPM’s down in the cloudy ballroom dancefloor is Jones’ cover of The Wailing Wailers’ “Hurts to Be Alone.” Swaying with content, Jones and the band add the passion of the lyrics in full swing. Among the same is their cover of Gladys Knight and The Pips’ “Giving Up.” With a dash more suspense in this version, they add gasoline to a song that was never burnt out.
Back with the swing of the mid-20th century, the band’s cover of Fontella Bass’ original “Rescue Me” includes a new attitude and a bit more pace. But to spin even faster is their cover of Musique’s “In The Bush,” which is sure to dismantle the soles of any platform shoes.
Soul music is meant to reach the bellows of the deepest oceans with its vocal integrity. Before, this music echoed through the streets, but now it will echo within people’s living room walls with Jones and The Dap Kings’ fresh and crisp take on some magnificent classics in Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In).