January 17, 2014 in Features

Album reviews

 

SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS “Give the People What They Want” (Daptone)

The circumstances behind the release of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ fifth studio album make you appreciate all the more the verve and vivacity with which the soul revivalist band put over the rawboned sound. “Give the People What They Want” was originally scheduled to be released last summer but was pushed back after the 57-year-old singer was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer.

After she finishes chemotherapy treatments, Jones and her snappy Brooklyn band will return to the road, and although they were recorded before she became ill, songs like the lead single, “Retreat” and “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” take on added gravitas considering the troubles of the pint-sized powerhouse singer.

What the people want from Jones & the Dap-Kings are hard-driving, old-school rhythm and blues jams in which the spirits of cherished singers like Otis Redding and Joe Tex are reanimated, and these 10 tunes take care of that business as effectively as ever.

Dan DeLuca, McClatchy

VARIOUS ARTISTS “And I’ll Scratch Yours” (Real World)

Turnabout is fine music. This album is the reciprocal to Peter Gabriel’s 2010 album “Scratch My Back,” on which he covered artists from Paul Simon to Arcade Fire.

Now those singers and a couple of new additions return the favor, interpreting Gabriel’s songs. The results range from dutiful (Regina Spektor on “Blood of Eden”) to transformative (the late Lou Reed on an elegiac “Solsbury Hill”). Highlights include “Come Talk to Me,” which Bon Iver translates as a cascading banjo ballad, and “Not One of Us,” which Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields twists into a jumped-up robo-song.

David Hiltbrand, McClatchy

Jennifer Nettles, “That Girl” (Mercury Nashville)

As lead singer in the contemporary country duo Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles and partner Kristian Bush kept growing increasingly experimental over four albums. For her first solo album, “That Girl,” Nettles takes a different tack, stripping her songs to their basics – both sonically and emotionally.

Nettles is blessed with a wide range and a distinct, vinegary tone – and an ability to connect with a song’s emotional content. “That Girl” shows off that quality remarkably well, whether she’s singing an open-hearted ballad like “This Angel,” a playful yet meaningful bopper like “Moneyball” or a complicated confessional like the title cut. Producer Rick Rubin balances spare acoustic arrangements with inventive rhythms and orchestrations.

“That Girl” is a 1970s-style creative statement, recalling classic Carole King and Linda Ronstadt. It’s a reminder of how powerful music can be when it comes from the heart – and tilts more toward talent than technology.

Michael McCall, Associated Press


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