Various Artists – Daptone Gold

January 01, 1970



For lovers of modern-vintage soul music, the rise of
Daptone Records since 2001 has been one of the most exciting label foundings
since… well, since Stax Records abandoned Memphis and Motown left Detroit,
both moving to Los Angeles in the early ‘70s. There are other labels out there
releasing authentic soul (and its glossy cousin neo-soul), but none as prolific
or ambitious as Daptone.


With Daptone Gold, the savvy folks at Daptone
have fashioned a compilation that will appeal to both newcomers and label-heads
alike. The 23 tracks include both key, previously released tracks from almost
everyone on the label (sans their
reissues of earlier material) and a good number of rare 45s, b-sides and
previously unreleased tracks. Released as a double LP with a gold foil cover,
it more than lives up to its name.


The key to the magic of the Daptone sound and groove
is that they understand that it’s not enough to merely get the sound right, but
they also have get the feel right. The uninitiated may mistake a track
by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Lee Fields or Sugarman Three for a track
recorded in 1968 or ’71. Using analog equipment, including vintage tube amps,
ribbon mics, a vintage board, recording straight to tape and releasing their
records on vinyl (7 and 12 inch) and CD, Daptone manages to have their soul and
eat it, too. Meaning that they pull of the tricky feat of sounding vintage and
just-a-little contemporary at the same time.


That mysterious mojo is due to both the warm, analog
sound generated at the Daptone studio in Brooklyn,
and in the arrangements for all their acts. But it’s also the by-product of the
collective group-think aesthetic and philosophy of the label, which mixes and
matches players into several different combos with different band leaders and
different approaches to 21st century soul, funk, gospel and Afrobeat.   Led by Daptone’s three major in-house label
figures, Bosco Mann, Neal Sugarman and Tommy “TNT” Brenneck – who
trade off various duties of production, arranging and playing on virtually all
the Daptone releases – Daptone fashions arrangements that exist in a parallel
universe that fuses 1968, 1972, 2002 and 2010 into a funky whole. The fabulous
all instrumental Budos Band perfectly embodies the Daptone new/old aesthetic;
it sounds 40 years old, it looks 40 years old, but there’s just a little
something in the horn charts, the tone of the organ, the sophisticated,
slippery grooves and the mix on “Budos Rising,” “Ghostwalk”
and “Up From the South” that subtly tip their hand that these are
recent recordings.


Daptone flagship act Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
represent with seven killer tracks, including a previously unreleased version
of Gladys Knight and The Pips “Giving Up,” the label’s first ever
release “Got a Thing on My Mind” and five more tracks of hot-blooded,
instant-classic soul and funk. 45-only releases by sweet/hot soul guy Lee
Fields, Sugarman and Co., the Menahan Street Band and Binky Griptite & The
Mellomatics, and previously unreleased tracks 
by the Dap-Kings and Binky Griptite with Sugarman Three will be prized
by Daptone completists and casual fans alike. Naomi Shelton and the Gospel
Queens provide deep gospel, while “Che Che Cole Makossa” by Antibalas
with Mayra Vega relocates Afrobeat to the streets of Staten Island and Brooklyn.


True-blue Daptone heads may wish for a few more or
different tracks to fill in the big picture. I’d like to have a couple of more
hard-funk instrumentals by Sugarman & Co/Sugarman Three, one of the most
potent barroom-floor funk weapons in the Daptone arsenal. Just check their
“Down To It” to see what I mean, although the previously unreleased
instrumental “Nervous Like Me” by the Dap-Tones compensates quite a
bit. The SJ&TDK version of “This Land is Your Land” is a
high-water mark for the label, notable by its absence here. And nothing by the
Afrobeat warriors The Daktaris is puzzling. But I’m sure Daptone didn’t want to
do any groove cramming, and having too many great tracks to include is the kind
of problem any label would love to have.


Having a house party? Put Daptone Gold on the
sound system and walk away for an hour or so. It’s guaranteed the party will
keep going. Hopefully for many more years to come.


Standout Tracks:
really pretty much all of them! [Agreed.
– Ed.


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