Melissa Etheridge once said “Once I overcame breast cancer, I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore”. It is very tempting to look at ‘Give The People What They Want’ as singer Sharon Jones’ response to overcoming the pancreatic cancer she was diagnosed with in mid-2013. This fails to take into account the fact that the album had already been recorded and slated for release in August of that year. While it was delayed, this was more to allow the group the ability to promote the album properly and tour on the back of its inevitable success. It is incredibly tempting to view it through this lens though because throughout ‘Give The People…’ Jones is incredibly defiant.
Impactful, powerful and with a healthy dose of attitude tossed in, ‘Give The People…’ is filled with tracks that refuse to be ignored and out the front standing front and centre, bolder than ever, is the inimitable Sharon Jones. In strong voice and backed by a stellar backing group, if there is anyone capable of introducing a new generation to soul music, Jones may just be it and this album is her best shot at it yet.
Backed by the power and vision of Daptone records (who pushed the soul agenda last year with Charles Bradley’s excellent ‘Prisoner Of Love’) Jones has had time to hit her stride. Four studio albums already under her belt have proved the perfect build-up as she unleashes on this effort. The powerful ‘Retreat!’ opens up the album and tells you just about all you need to know about Jones. ‘Play with me and you play with fire’ could sound corny and clichéd in others’ voices and yet here there’s nothing trivial about it.
Even during the album’s ballads, ‘We Get Along’, ‘Making Up and Breaking Up’ and ‘Long Time, Wrong Time’ Jones’ voice retains its gravitas. Unfortunately despite her best efforts the slower numbers do meander a little bit and don’t seem to go anywhere. Except that is for ‘Get Up and Get Out’, a jaunty, innocent track that recalls Zooey Deschanel’s work as She & Him on their third volume.
All up though it is on the faster tracks where Jones and her crew really exert themselves. As well as hitting a high point with the opening track, the group surpass themselves with the perfect combination of tight orchestration and punchy delivery that is ‘People Don’t Get What They Deserve’. Jones and the Dap Kings hark back to a golden time in music though they are not content to be a tribute act. They have something to say and not Jones or the Dap Kings are afraid to say it, whatever comes their way.