Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’

Versus – Cash Rules

February 3, 2012

Money – Pink Floyd v. Money – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

On the surface, beyond sharing a common title and being the fifth track on the album they come from (at least on the CD version of Dark Side), there wouldn’t appear to be much in common between a Pink Floyd and SJ&TDK song.  Dark Side of the Moon is one of the highest selling albums while I Learned the Hard Way has achieved modest success since its 2010 release (it hit number 15 on the Billboard 200).  Pink Floyd is known as one of the preeminent purveyors of psychedelic rock and the “concept” album.  Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are modern throwbacks to funk/soul bands of the late 60s and 70s known for their infectious live shows.

But when you get down to it, these songs are definitely in orbit around the same planet for me.  Both are essentially blues songs, dealing with a topic near and dear to many a blues song, wealth or the lack thereof.  And it’s really not too surprising.  Remember, Pink Floyd had roots as a bar band playing American blues until Syd Barrett took them off into outer space.  Check out some of the soundtrack work they did on More and Obscured by Clouds for examples of that background.  And for SJ&TDK, funk and soul often can blend into the blues genre, so it wouldn’t be surprising they would delve into blues, though it’s not something they do often.

So, there is definitely a blueprint (blues song about money) shared by both songs.  How they execute is fun to compare.  Starting with the intro, Pink Floyd’s sound effects of cash register, tinkling coins and tearing paper is iconic and leaves no doubt what this song is about.  Roger Waters was never one for subtlety, see Wall, The.  On the other hand, SJ waxes philosophic talking about our need for money and the state of the economy in 2010 before the song kicks off in earnest.  One strange connection I noticed is that the guitar in the opening bar of SJ’s Money sounded a lot like the opening bar of Fearless from Pink Floyd’s Meddle.  I’m positive this is unintentional, but something I never noticed until writing this.

Musically, Pink Floyd’s version is anchored by Roger Waters’ bass line and Rick Wright’s keyboards that pace along at a blues-appropriate gait, though Wright’s keys strike me as downright funky at times.  The Dap Kings are bluesy to the core during Jone’s monologue, but then they kick in a little more funk themselves as they bust into the core of the song.  One definite similarity between the songs is that saxophone is front and center.  The heart of Pink Floyd’s Money is really the extended saxophone and guitar solos by Dick Parry and David Gilmour, which accounts for the three extra minutes in Pink Floyd’s version.  While not giving them the same solo treatment, the Dap Kings have saxophones popping out throughout the track, as well as some killer trumpet.

And while I’m not always interested in lyrics, it is definitely interesting how the two lyricists approach their subject matter.  Roger Waters, in addition to a lack of subtlety, makes Morrissey seem optimistic.  Sharon Jones, on the other hand, seems, based on seeing her live a few times, a lady with a love for life and a sharp wit to boot.

So, Rogers, predictably, in an arc beginning with this album and continuing on through his departure with the band, views money and greed associated with money in condescending and mocking terms (“grab that cash with both hands and make a stash” and “think I’ll buy me a football team”).  In a way, he’s flipping the script on a traditional blues view of the subject, which would be to lament the singer’s lack of the green stuff.

Sharon Jones takes the traditional blues view, but puts a clever twist on it.  She is wondering why she doesn’t have any money, but money is personified.  Rather than moaning about “i got no dough”, instead she sings “money/where have you gone to/where are you hiding” and “money, why don’t you like me/was it something that i said/was is something that i done/i always loved you plenty/but you never liked me none.”  Money is no different than a person who’s ignored our advances.

Both also cover the “money is the root of all evil” maxim.  Waters sums up his mockery of greed and says “money so they say/is the root of all evil today/but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise/they’re giving none away.”  Jones says “we say money is the root of all evil/but nothing evil about money/because we need that money/to pay the bills/ to pay the rent.”  In a way it’s an agreement with Waters in that she agrees that money itself is not evil, but instead of being envious of those who won’t “giv[e] none away”, Jones is just concerned with getting money so she can keep a roof over her head.  It’s an interesting dichotomy, Waters is able to philosophize about the evils of the rich (not their money)  since he himself is in a place of comfort; Jones doesn’t have the luxury of Waters’ ivory tower, she’s “scrimping” to get that money so she won’t be hungry and homeless.  The difference in view reminds me of the recent rant by Adam Carolla on Occupy Wall Street.

So, in the end, you have two songs that I really like musically, but it’s Jones’ witty take on the traditional blues formula that wins out over Waters’ envy and sarcasm.

Here’s the SJ&TDK version (since everyone has probably heard the Floyd version at some point in their life):

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Buying Music…At An Actual Record Store!

December 4, 2011

Yes, it is still possible to buy music without the use of a computer.  I had heard that LA’s Amoeba Music was worth checking out, so I snapped up a Groupon for their store.  I finally cashed it in a few weeks ago.

On their website, Amoeba dubs its Hollywood store as the world’s largest independent record store.  That’s no joke, walking in I was struck by the size of the store.  It reminded me of some of the old Tower Records locations (RIP).  Rows and rows of bins with CDs confront you after you get past the cash registers.  They sell both new and used CDs, as well as records, cassettes (!), DVDs, books and magazines.  The rock section dominates the main floor, including smaller areas for rock subgenres (you’re not going to find a death metal section at Best Buy).  Toward the back of the store is another whole section with jazz, blues, classical and soundtracks.

That back section, which played jazz selections over a PA, offered some respite from the frenzy of the main floor.  Their CDs being encased in plastic guards, there was a steady CLACK CLACK CLACK as patrons shuffled through CDs.  While we were there, the main PA was playing Aphex Twin (again not something you’d hear at Best Buy), which I thought was very cool.  The people watching was good too, skate kids, goths, hippies all milled around each other, searching for their musical match.

The selection was good, the prices were a little more expensive than you could get online for the new stuff, but their were good deals to be found in the used bins.  Wanting to get something new, I picked up My Morning Jacket’s Z.  I was also looking for some older Sharon Jones stuff but initially couldn’t find anything.  I thought that was odd, but then I found a whole Soul section tucked away on the other side of the main floor.  I ended up getting Sharon Jones and the Dap King’s Dap Dippin’ With… and for some local LA flavor, the Thee Midniters In Thee Midnite Hour and needed to vacate the area before I bought a lot more.

I am definitely going to head back to Amoeba in the future, if for nothing else to remember that feeling of glee that I had as a youngster thumbing through CDs and records at local record stores.

Someone Published A List on the Internet, It Must Be Critiqued!

October 23, 2011

As I mentioned in my last Spotify post, NME, English indie music mag, celebrated the 15 year anniversary of its website with an ambitious 150 best songs of the past 15 years list.  And as the very astute MeadowMuffins pointed out to me once, lists are Internet gold because anyone who cares about the subject of the list is going to have an opinion about it.  So, a couple thoughts from this music lover:

  • A good chunk of the time period for the list was a dark ages of finding new music in the “indie rock” world as I generally had other stuff going on in my life and what new music I was into was mostly in the East Coast independent hip-hop scene and electronic music.  So, there’s some stuff from this list that I definitely want to check out.  The Foals and the Libertines each have a song in the top 20 and I don’t really know anything about them, much less have heard these two songs in particular.
  • Radiohead clocks in with 5 songs, including #1 Paranoid Android.  My thinking is that over a time period of 15 years, there’s so much music getting put out that any one band getting more than 2 songs in a list like this leaves me skeptical.  As for Paranoid Android, I can think of several songs on OK Computer that I would have put ahead of that song, so obviously it wouldn’t be my #1.
  • I’m a big Blur fan, so while I understand the inclusion of Song #2, it’s not really representative of some of the really good music in their post-1996 output.  Coffee & TV, if I had to choose one song, would be it.
  • I’d flip-flop White Stripes’ Fell In Love With a Girl and Seven Nation Army.  Seven Nation definitely would be in the top 10 for me, I can’t get enough of that beat.
  • Nothing from DangerMouse’s Grey Album?  The king of mashups didn’t have a song better than Crystal Castles?  I don’t think so.
  • Also no love for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  I could think of a few tracks that could easily make the list.  From their last album, say Money?
  • And probably the biggest omission, no Black Keys.  What?!  Their last album is an absolute classic, and opener Everlasting Light would be a top 20 track for me.
  • Glad that Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony got such a high rank.  Such a good song and kudos such is this is pretty much all the band gets from the song, thanks to Allen Klein.