At the beginning of this decade, sax player Neal Sugarman and bassist Gabriel Roth founded Daptone Records in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. They put together a studio in a small house there, and since then they have turned out a variety of soul, r&b, gospel, and funk recordings. Daptone’s unique sound is a result of their studio acoustics, recording only to analog tape, and Roth’s skills as a mixing engineer. The most well known project to come out of Daptone was the Amy Winehouse album Back To Black. Although Winehouse is not a Daptone artist, she was accompanied on the album by label mainstays the Dap-Kings, who also toured with her.
Daptone Gold collects recordings from the label’s archives. Some of these are appearing on CD for the first time, having previously been released only as 7″ vinyl singles. Other tracks have never been released in any form. The album also includes several tracks each from the label’s most popular artists, the soulful Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and the funky Budos Band. Elsewhere there is gospel from Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, afrobeat from Antibalas featuring Mayra Vega, and further funk from Lee Fields, and Sugarman & Co.
Sharon Jones waited a long time for her break. She sang in church, but professional success seemed elusive. She worked as a corrections officer at Riker’s Island, and as an armored-car guard for Wells Fargo. Her break came when she got a gig as a back-up singer for Lee Fields in 1996. That session was put together by future Daptone founder Gabriel Roth who never stopped believing in Jones, and the very first Daptone release, a 45 rpm single by Sharon Jones called “Got A Thing On My Mind”, is included here.
As a reference point, Daptone is a lot more Stax than it is Motown. That speaks to the raw quality that the label prides itself on. The music may recall an earlier time, but as Douglas Wolk says in the album’s liner notes, “Daptone’s aesthetic is based around sounds, attitudes, and even design sensibilities that were invented 35 or 40 years ago, but their best records end up sounding timeless rather than retro.”
If you’re a fan of soul music, as I am, this is the kind of label that you root for. Daptone is the real deal, positioning themselves at the forefront of the current soul revival. If you’re not familiar with the label, Daptone Gold is the perfect place to begin. If you are, you’ll appreciate having all of these tracks in one place.