Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings have long been at the forefront of the 1970’s funk/soul revivalist movement. Since their inception in the early 2000s, Sharon Jones and her backing band, the Dap-Kings have released a plethora of singles and four albums. The most recent album is I Learned the Hard Way. The album continues down the retro path their previous album have set forth.
The album’s first single “I Learned The Hard Way” really showcases the band’s skills. It begins with menacing horns and timpani, setting a troubling mood. Jones’ vocals are strong yet sexy, reminiscent of Tina Turner in her heyday. She is backed by a Motown-style choir that repeats the words of every line she sings. The troubling minor verses give way to a major chorus that gives the aural stimulation of dark clouds breaking up to give way to a sunny day. The song’s bridge features trumpet solo from one of the talented members of the Dap-Kings. The song stays true to the Motown formula that made the label a hit machine in the 1960s and 1970s.
While Jones’ vocals are strong, the Dap-Kings are the linchpin to the entire operation. This is especially apparent because of how good the entirely instrumental “The Reason” is. The Dap-Kings have already been recognized as one of the best backing bands in the land. They were hired as the session band for Amy Winehouse‘s Back to Black. It is they who provide the backdrop for hits like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”. They provide as good if not better backing tracks for Sharon Jones to shine on. The major difference between Winehouse and Jones is that Winehouse had Mark Ronson at the helm, producing the album.
For everything that Back to Black was, I believe I Learned the Hard Way is a better album. Nearly every song on the album is perfect. From the production to the instrumentation, everything seems meticulously placed. The end of the album scuffles a little with “If You Call” or “Mama Don’t Like My Man”. If not for those two songs, the album would have gotten a perfect score.
Rating: 8.6/10
MP3: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “I Learned the Hard Way”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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