Last year, Daptone Records celebrated its 20th anniversary. But while taking a victory lap on its past, the label was looking ahead to its future: the recently launched California-based Penrose imprint and its promising young act, Thee Sacred Souls.
With the release of their eponymous debut LP, Thee Sacred Souls more than live up to the potential. In doing so, the group moves away from Daptone’s established James Brown-inspired funk ‘n’ soul and offers an enticing mix of Latin soul, neo-soul, and the type of vocal harmony-based R&B popularized by acts like Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions.
Thee Sacred Souls starts with the saccharine ballad “Can I Call You Rose?”, and it sets the tone for the entire affair. The lush, bass-and-horns heavy arrangement serves as a backdrop for vocalist Josh Lane’s pleading croon that’s augmented by some wonderful backing vocals.
“Lady Love” plays like an unearthed gem from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The arrangement is silky smooth, with a subtly funky rhythm section, and Lane’s beautiful delivery captures the yearning of someone looking for a second chance with an ex-flame.
The dramatic sweep of “Sorrow for Tomorrow” makes for a compelling listen, while “It’s Overflowing” resurrects doo wop and filters it through classic Latin soul. Lane deploys his falsetto to great effect on “Weak for Your Love,” a track that offers up a convergence of Daptone’s past and future.
Producer Bosco Mann (aka Daptone founder and chief Gabriel Roth) weds the funky low end of the classic Dap-Kings (after 21 years and an unimpeachable discography, “classic” isn’t hyperbole) sound to Thee Sacred Souls’ eclectic range of influences. In doing so, Mann contextualizes Thee Sacred Souls within Daptone’s past and points toward its future.
At their core, Thee Sacred Souls fit into the life-affirming, throwback soul-funk aesthetic of Daptone; those elements are there. But the textured, earnestly saccharine approach of the group adds a new flavor to the label’s sound and a way for Daptone to tastefully move forward after the deaths of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.
These qualities combine with Thee Sacred Souls’ charming spin on smooth soul to offer up a refreshing listening experience. It makes Thee Sacred Souls one of the most pleasing debut albums to come out in quite some time.