Movie Review: Miss Sharon Jones! (2015) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “M” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “M” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Mad Hot BallroomMan on WireMaradona ’86March of the Penguins, Mathematically AliveMysteries of the Rimet TrophyThe Myth of Garrincha and possibly My Winnipeg.

TitleMiss Sharon Jones!
Release Date: 11 September 2015
Director: Barbara Kopple
Production Company: Cabin Creek Films
Summary/Review:

This is the second straight movie in the A-to-Z project that focuses on a creative person dealing with the effects of cancer on their lives and career.  While Life Itself showed Roger Ebert’s treatment at a rehabilitation center as a frame for the full story of his life, Miss Sharon Jones! focuses entirely on Sharon Jones’ treatment and recovery and her return to recording and performing filmed over the course of 2013-14 with only brief mentions of her earlier life and career.

This film is very intimate showing Jones cutting off her hair in preparation for surgery, the boredom and pain of chemotherapy, and her daily schedule of tv viewing while recovering at a friends’ house.  Jones often seems to be the happiest one around while her friends and colleagues worry about her health and deal with the stress of not knowing if they can commit the band to tour dates.  But sometimes her facade cracks such as the moment when her band suggests canceling their Thanksgiving dinner and Jones loses her cool.

Near the end of the film, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings make their triumphant return to the stage at the Beacon Theater, the camera catching Sharon Jones waiting nervously in the wings before confidently strutting on stage.  The performance isn’t perfect – Jones forgets the lyrics to a song – but the support and love from the band and audience makes it all the more exhilarating.  The movie ends on a happy ending, but it doesn’t last.  Shortly after the film’s premiere, Jones announced that the cancer had returned, and she died in November 2016 at the age of 60.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

First of all, if you don’t know the music of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, this is a wonderful introduction.  More importantly, this is a story of human resilience and joy in life from someone who has encountered more than her fair share of adversity.

This is best summed up in her song “I’m Still Here.”

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Read my Music Discoveries post offering a comprehensive summary of the output of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings up to 2016 as well as my album review of her posthumous final album Soul of a Woman.

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Soul of a Woman by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings


AlbumSoul of a Woman
ArtistSharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Release Date: 17 November 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Matter of Time,” “Come and Be a Winner,” “Rumors,”  “Searching for a New Day,” and “Call on God”
Thoughts: It’s hard to listen to this album without feeling tearful, not just because of the music, but the knowledge that Sharon Jones’ voice was silenced forever with her death last year.  The final Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings album seems to recognize her mortality with more down tempo tracks, calls for reconciliation, messages of peace, and finish with the gospel hymn “Call on God.” It’s not intended as a final statement, but it’s what we get and serves as a reminder of the beauty and power that the great Sharon Jones brought to the world.
Rating: ***1/2

 

 

Song of the Week: “Matter of Time” by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings


On November 18, 2016, Sharon Jones died leaving behind a musical legacy and broken hearts everywhere. A year later, the final Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings album Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017.  The first single, a peace anthem called “Matter of Time” reminds us of what we lost and what we’ll always have from Miss Sharon Jones’ musical gift.

 

 

 

Music Discoveries: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings


I’m a fan of soul, funk, and R&B of the 1960s and 1970s, so naturally I’m drawn to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. The band keeps alive the sounds of an earlier music with new songs that sometimes sound eerily as if they’ve been hidden in a vault for decades. Nevertheless, there’s a strong musical talent in Jones and the band that makes this more than just a nostalgia trap. Jones’ off-told story of resilience against a reluctant music industry as well as her battle with cancer also lends the music a poignancy.

A documentary released recently called Miss Sharon Jones! documents her life and struggles. I hope to see it soon and to prepare for it, I listened to the full catalog of brilliant music.

AlbumDap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Date: 2002
Favorite Tracks: “What Have You Done For Me Lately?,” “The Dap Dip,” “Ain’t It Hard,” and “Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut”
Thoughts:

The debut album sounds more like it could have been from 1972 than 2002.  Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are built on a retro soul and funk sound, but it sounds ever more retro here, if that makes sense.  Effects like a James Brown-style introduction and inter-song banter add to the effect.  And then you wonder if Janet Jackson covered Sharon Jones rather than vice versa.
Rating:  ***1/2


Album: Naturally
Date: 25 January 2005
Favorite Tracks: “How Do I Let a Good Man Down?,” “My Man Is a Mean Man,” “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?,”  “This Land Is Your Land,”  and “Fish in the Dish”
Thoughts: If the debut album is a time capsule holding a lost album from the early 1970s, Naturally is more of a compilation of an lost soul band’s hits over the course of the 1960s and 70s, echoing stylistic changes of Motown, Stax, Atlantic, et al.  It includes an Aretha Franklin-style ballad (“You’re Gonna Get It”), an Otis Redding/Carla Thomas-style duet (“Stranded in Your Love” ) and even a Civil Rights Era folk crossover (“This Land is Your Land”).
Rating: ***1/2


Album100 Days, 100 Nights
Date: 2 October 2007
Favorite Tracks: “100 Days, 100 Nights,” “Nobody’s Baby,” “Let Them Knock,” and “Answer Me.”
Thoughts: This album oozes with confidence with Jones’ voice stronger than ever, and the Dap-Tones tighter than they’e been before. The inspiration is still retro, but this album feels more contemporary than its predecessors, evolving a sound that’s been lost over the decades.
Rating: ****


AlbumI Learned the Hard Way
Date: 6 April 2010
Favorite Tracks: “I Learned the Hard Way,” “Mama Don’t Like My Man,” and “The Game Get Old”
Thoughts: If we lived in a just world, or maybe if this was released 40 years earlier, this would be the album remembered for containing the big hits that dominated the airwaves all summer long.  The album is less cohesive than its predecessors, but at its best moments it knocks you out.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumGive the People What They Want
Date: 14 January 2014
Favorite Tracks: “Retreat!,”  “Stranger to My Happiness,” “People Don’t Get What They Deserve,” and “We Get Along”
Thoughts: This album has a more melancholy air to it than its predecessors although there’s a strong resilience to it as well.  Seems appropriate that it comes from a time when Jones was stricken with pancreatic cancer yet perseveres and not only keeps a musical style alive, but also vital.
Rating: ***


AlbumIt’s a Holiday Soul Party
Date: 2015 October 30
Favorite Tracks: “8 Days of Hanukkah,” “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects,” and “Silent Night”
Thoughts: Holiday albums can be a cynical cash grab where an artist records new renditions of old standards with maybe a treacly original tune and the guarantee that the songs will played one month a year for eternity.  Fortunately, you can tell that Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings put their heart into this.  I don’t know if anyone in the band is Jewish, but the opening track is an authentically celebratory – and funky – celebration of the Festival of Lights.  That’s followed by the touching story of a mother’s love at the heart of Christmas.  The rest of the album is a mix of standards and originals that are worth putting on at a holiday party.
Rating: ***


AlbumMiss Sharon Jones!
Date: 16 August 2016
Favorite Tracks: “Longer and Stronger,” “Genuine Pt. 1,” and “I’m Still Here”
Thoughts: This is a soundtrack rather a compilation so I assume it follows the needs of the film rather than being a comprehensive overview of the band’s career.  Surprisingly, it contains no live performance tracks which is disappointing.  Nevertheless, it’s a good introduction to the newbie of the power and beauty of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.  And it includes some songs previously unreleased on albums including the new, autobiographical song “I’m Still Here.”
Rating: ***1/2

One final song I love – and one that made me first aware of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – is only available on the compilation album Dark Was the Night, a cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Inspiration Information.”

Songs of the Week: Christmas Special


A very Merry Christmas to you if you celebrate, and if you don’t I hope it’s a peaceful day off and the Christians and consumerists don’t get you down.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have been featured twice before on Song of the Week for holiday-themed songs and now you can hear an entire holiday-themed concert courtesy of NPR’s All Songs Considered.

More holiday music to accompany present unwrapping, eggnog sipping, and walking in winter wonderlands:

Ten Favorite Songs of 2009


The project continues with my favorite songs of 2009.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

2009 is the first time I made a list of favorite songs at the end of the year, so we can look back and see what songs stood the test of time, and what songs I’ve learned of in the intervening years.

The End is Near – The Fiery Furnaces

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Home – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

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Inspiration Information – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

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People Got a Lot of Nerve – Neko Case

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The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists

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Sabali  – Amadou & Mariam

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Stillness is the Move – The Dirty Projectors

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The Strangers – St. Vincent

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Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear

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Wavin’ Flag  – K’naan

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And here are four additional songs from 2009 that I thought worthy of an honorable mention:

Bonkers – Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden

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I and Love and You – Avett Brothers

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My Girls – Animal Collective

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1901 – Phoenix

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What were your favorite songs of the last year of the last decade?