(4 out of 5)
Daptone Records is one of those labels that feels like it’s been around forever. Maybe it’s the vintage designs that adorn the albums and singles the label releases — or the timeless soul sounds created by mainstay artists like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, the Budos Band, and others — but one could be forgiven for stumbling upon a Daptone-released album and thinking they’d found some lost funk treasure from the ‘60s. In reality, the label was founded at the opening of the decade (although its roots in the similarly-positioned Desco Records go back to the mid-‘90s), though Daptone’s fidelity to analog recordings and organic soul are meant to evoke a time period long since passed. Still, with the 23 cuts on DAPTONE GOLD, the label makes a strong case that it’s engaged in something much more interesting than nostalgia. Mixing single cuts and album tracks with rare and unreleased numbers, the collection neatly sums up the Daptone philosophy of “raw is better, real is best.” Unlikely but well-deserving label star Sharon Jones is wisely featured on nearly a third of the tracks here (most notable: a previously unreleased cover of Gladys Knight’s “Giving Up,” and “Stranded In Your Love,” Jones’ jaw-dropping duet with Lee Fields). Another good chunk is given over to the nouveau-afro-funk groove of groups like the Budos Band and Antibalas, with the balance of the track listing held up by lesser-known but still amazing artists like Fields, Naomi Shelton, and the Menahan Street Band. Conceived and sequenced as a full album, DAPTONE GOLD is meant to be taken in its entirety, so single-song cherry-picking is to be avoided here.