The album cover for 100 Days, 100 Nights looks like a ’60s soul record. Sharon Jones stands solitary in a sleeveless gold dress, white pumps and all. The backdrop is the same cream-orange color as your grandfather’s velour armchair.
Whether it’s the album cover art or the music, it’s tough to believe this album wasn’t made in 1969. On this, their third proper album together, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings unleash a medley of thick horns and bass with Jones’s dominating vocal display to produce an album oozing with ’60s funk reverberation. But this isn’t a revival – it’s the real thing.
Since 2000, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have spearheaded the funk/soul label Daptone Records, co-founded by Dap Kings saxophonist Neal Sugarman. The Brooklyn-based band’s hard funk sound, enhanced by analogue recording equipment, has attracted a relatively new cult following as well as a handful of guest spots. The Dap Kings play back up on more than half of Amy Winehouse’s Back in Black. But on this album, the band plays back up to nobody – except for maybe one of its own members.
On the title track, bluesy, mournful horns reminiscent of classic big band jazz from the ’50s erupt into a sultry strut anchored by Jones’s commanding, soulful vocals. Midway through the song, Jones takes a cue from James Brown and orders the band to slow it down. Over a crawling pace that stays just as funky, she passionately belts out the slogan that a man’s love lasts only 100 days, 100 nights.
By the end of the second track, it’s clear that Jones is the unquestioned centerpiece of the group. She sings lines like “I ain’t nobody’s baby / I ain’t nobody’s fool” with such authority that comparing her to Aretha or Tina Turner just seems silly. She’s a different species of soul singer with an inimitable vocal ferocity that shows up on almost every track. At the heart of the album, songs like “Let Them Knock” and “Something’s Changed” showcase her dexterity. “Let Them Knock” starts with tense anticipatory guitar picking and Jones’s passionate whine before unfolding into a calamity of cries and horn blasts. Likewise, on “Something’s Changed,” Jones’s voice stretches along with the instrumentation before climaxing at the song’s end.
But even on the record, the song never really ends. Fade-outs seem to be the only thing capable of stopping the band’s rhythm or Jones’s voice. Jones sounds as if she could keep belting out impassioned love lessons for hours without getting hoarse. Unlike other artists reveling in the success of funk and soul homage, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have created an album that owes as much to Otis Redding and James Brown as it does to their own interplay. The combination of tight downbeat, sleek horns and Jones’s powerful, sultry voice amount to an album bursting with undeniable melodies and frenzied beats. It’s the sound of a collaboration that still has something to prove.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
100 Days, 100 Nights