Daptone Records’ legacy was forged by two outsized, transcendent talents. Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley were irrepressible forces to be reckoned with, bringing the retro soul style of producers Gabriel Roth and Thomas Brenneck to light with an incandescence that’s irreplaceable.
But what do you do when your two brightest stars are gone? How do you forge ahead?
You can’t just find more people with the trials, tribulations, stories, and presences of a Sharon Jones or Charles Bradley. But you can still find interesting, talented people capable of making music that fits into the Daptone aesthetic.
That’s where the Sha La Das, the brainchild of Staten Island’s Schalda family and Brenneck, and the album Love in the Wind enter the equation. Bill Schalda, the family patriarch, cut his teeth in the music industry singing in doo-wop groups in the ’60s. Two of his three sons were amongst Charles Bradley’s Extraordinaires. Together, the Sha La Das is a family that sings in perfect four-part harmonies.
Teamed with Brenneck and Daptone’s Menahan Street Band, the Sha La Das’ debut album moves the group beyond its roots of Drifters-inspired doo-wop, incorporating Philly and Motown soul and surf pop-rock into the mix for a sound that’s both familiar and refreshing.
Love in the Wind opens with the album’s single, “Open My Eyes.” It freshens up doo-wop, Brenneck and the surrounding cast providing a modern sensibility on classic American music in a fashion similar to Adrian Younge’s work with the Delfonics a few years back. The song is a nice tone-setter, pleasant enough on its own and in conjunction with songs like “Summer Breeze,” the phenomenal ballad “Those Years are Over,” and “Sha La Da La La (Christmas Time)” establishes the Sha La Das as a top-notch modern doo-wop act.
If that’s all Love in the Wind was, that would be fine. After all, there aren’t really any other new groups putting out music in that vein anymore. A straight-up doo-wop album would be something different and a pleasant enough listening experience, but ultimately would end up feeling like a genre exercise that’s more nifty anachronism than anything else. Luckily, that isn’t the case.
The Sha La Das and Love in the Wind excel in moving beyond doo-wop and incorporating other textures into the sonic palette. “Do What” is a prime example of this. It’s anchored by a hot little funky bassline and riff. It moves, providing a beefy backdrop to the Schaldas’ harmonies.
“Carnival” has echoes of the Temptations’ “Get Ready.” It’s rooted less in Motown and more in the gritty soul-funk that’s at the core of the Daptone sound. That sound can also be found in “It’s You.” Lurking underneath the Schaldas’ vocals is a nasty lead guitar lick, something you’d expect to hear Charles Bradley belting out some heartfelt wisdom over on his last LP.
Love in the Wind closes with its title track. It’s tender, Bill Schalda crooning over his sons’ high harmonies and a shimmering lead guitar line. The song serves as a sturdy coda for the album, its wistful tone providing a great contrast with the ebullience of “Open My Eyes.” It showcases the versatility of the Sha La Das and the group’s ability to navigate the nuances of their chosen genre.
The sensibilities of Brenneck/the Menahan Street Band and the Sha La Das sync up nicely on Love in the Wind. A sturdy debut, it shows that doo-wop still has plenty to offer musically and that Daptone has more than enough quality soul music for listeners.