Don’t call it a comeback.
Give the People What They Want, the fifth studio full-length album by the retro funk-soul group Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, may mine familiar territory, but it fundamentally resonates as a triumphant testimonial to resilience.
In June 2013, Jones announced she had been diagnosed with Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, and, understandably, the band canceled the remaining dates it had scheduled. After undergoing chemotherapy, Jones emerged victorious from the health scare and in a seemingly spiteful move to the defeated malignancy, almost immediately dropped the successor to 2011’s immensely acclaimed Soul Time. Never try to hold back a survivor.
The classic-soul record picks up where the last left off: Jones voice is alternately smokey and eruptive, remaining an instantly recognizable mix of sass, yearning and retribution, while solid R&B grooves that sound straight out of a late ‘60s Stax Records compilation swirl around her.
As is the case with their previous records, the Dap-Kings’ horn section doesn’t miss a beat, providing swaggering, catchy lines in songs like "Get Up and Get Out" and "Retreat!" while laying low with subtle, melancholia-tinged stabs through slower numbers like "Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making and Breaking Up Over Again)" and "Slow Down Love."
But for the most part, Give the People What They Want thumps along with an infectious, upbeat funk pop step (just watch the video of "Stranger to My Happiness"). The rhythms swing along with an organic, locked-in feel that only the best funk/soul groups can master. Jones is the star here, belting out "Retreat!/What a fool you’d be to take me on!" in the leadoff track, under the guise of rebuking an unfaithful lover -- but after realizing the battle she was embroiled in last year, we can’t help but think it’s an indignant exclamation aimed at her own mortality.
It’s good to have her back.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings play the House of Blues on March 22, with openers DJ Claire and Valerie June. Doors at 8 p.m.; the event is 21+. Tickets are $30 in advance and are available for purchase here.