The soul singer, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Nov. 18, 2016, left behind an extraordinary discography that includes the Grammy-nominated 2014 disc Give The People What They Want (Daptone). Before she passed, Jones and her longtime backing band, the Dap-Kings, recorded a studio album, Soul Of A Woman.
The album, which will be released by Daptone on Nov. 17, provides evidence that Jones remained a vocal powerhouse, even in her final weeks.
“The last couple of years, Sharon was battling,” said Dap-Kings bassist Bosco Mann, who produced the album. “When she was strongest, that’s when we’d go into the studio—Sharon couldn’t phone it in, so we would only work when she was really feeling it.”
The initial idea for the album was to focus on string-driven ballads, possibly leading to a tour incorporating symphonies or string sections. But as the band realized that Jones might not have a lot of time left, they decided to record some uptempo and bluesy songs, the kind of material that she had excelled with onstage.
The album’s 11-song program balances these two elements, presenting a full picture of her artistic range: “Side 1 is the more raw, live side,” Mann said, “while Side 2 is more moody and orchestrated—more of a departure from her carnivorous live persona.”
Mann added, “Every time she took the stage, it always felt like Sharon was leaving it all out there. So maybe it was more intense for the band towards the end, knowing what was coming, but that’s the only way she knew how to sing her whole life—like it was her last day on earth.”
The band has released two music videos for the album. “Matter Of Time” features a poignant assortment of clips of Jones, paired with her remarkable vocal performance.
The other video is for “Call On God,” a tune Jones wrote in the 1970s for E.L. Fields’ Gospel Wonders, a choir she sang with throughout most of her life at the Universal Church of God in New York City.
This original recording of “Call On God” made with the Dap-Kings dates back to 2007 and the recording sessions for the album 100 Days,100 Nights. Just like on the song “Answer Me” from that album, Sharon played piano and sang her parts live with the band.
On Dec. 18, 2016, Pastor Margot Fields (E.L.’s widow) presided over Jones’ memorial service in Brooklyn, which was attended by several of the original members of the Gospel Wonders. Together again, they performed a moving tribute to Jones as part of the service.
After the service, Mann and the Dap-Kings invited the singers to the Daptone House of Soul studios in Brooklyn to finish “Call On God” with them. At the studio, the members of the choir put on headphones and heard Jones’ voice singing the song she wrote for them three decades earlier. Jones had always wanted to add background vocals to the song, so she would have been happy to know that her old friends had come through to sing with her one final time.