Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Soul Time! 2011 Brendan Benson Upstairs At United 2011

For the last four years the third Saturday in April has been Record Store Day. Record companies big and small release new music, and they also release some limited edition products aimed at the "collector" market. This year the Record Store Day folks decided to have another Record Store Day on Black Friday, and for the first time in what feels like forever I went shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I went specifically to purchase the new Sharon Jones record, which her web site had announced for release on Record Store Day. The guys at the store had to dig into a shipping box to produce the LP. They didn't think they had it. Record stores never change.
The new Sharon Jones is killer. The sales pitch calls it the funkier side of Sharon Jones, and the liner notes say the songs are live show staples that never made it to a record. I'd have to say that they nailed it. Jones and the Dap Kings have long emulated the best of James Brown, but their sound is more sixties Brown sounding, in a good way of course. This new one digs deep groves more like Brown's remarkable seventies output. Genuine Parts 1 an 2 is seven minutes of if you ain't dancin', you dead. He Said I Can, I'm Not Going To Cry, and When I Come Home keep the funky soul driving right at you.

You've got to love What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes, and they make a pretty good lyrical point. Settling In and Without A Trace are deep soul highlights, and the remarkable Christmas funk of Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects is spectacular, and previously existed only in 45 rpm, 7 inch format. Everything they've done has been great, and they just keep getting better at it. I really didn't think they could outdo I Learned The Hard Way, but they've at least matched it right here.

The only thing that Sharon Jones and Brendan Benson have in common is that I bought them both on Record Store Day. While at the store, I looked through the special Record Store Day limited edition vinyl releases, and I was tempted by some overpriced Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan 7 inch "box sets" of four singles in a set. The Dylan stuff was original sixties mono mixes, and the Janis had some "rare" versions. Snap out of it!

But there was this 12 inch 45 rpm four-song Brendan Benson Upstairs At United, recorded live to tape and pressed on black plastic. Benson sings and plays guitar, and is ably assisted on drums (Nicole Childrey), bass (Young Hines) and keyboards (Andrew Higley).  As you wouldn't expect from a songwriter of Benson's talent, they do four cover songs: David Bowie's Candidate, Dave Davies' Strangers, Elvis Costello's Beyond Belief, and Randy Newman's Love Story. Strangers and Beyond Belief are top notch, and Benson delivers them reverently. The all-analog direct to tape sound is very immediate. It sounds like you're in the room with the band. Lovely really.

If I'd known that shopping on Black Friday was this much fun, I would have done it long ago.

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