Written Before Listen
Rest In Peace Betty Davis. I’ve always wanted to listen to Betty Davis but here I am today celebrating the life of a female icon in music. The former wife of jazz legend Miles Davis has recently passed away and to celebrate her life, I will give her most famous album a review so without further ado, let’s get into it.
Let’s start by mentioning her vocal performance. God damn….she is so raunchy and scratchy as she oozes sexual tension and glam. On the opening track, she shows us how much energy she can bring to a track and the remaining tracks on this album continues with that undeniable energy. Betty Davis was surely one of a kind when it came to vocals.
With this being uncut funk music, there is bound to be some connections to blues music, rock music, and psychedelic music and that is rightfully shown in these 28 minutes. With tracks like the opener and “Game Is My Middle Name”, Betty gets funky but in more of a rock sense. With tracks like “Anti Love Song” and “Steppin in Her I. Miller Shoes”., the grooves and scales surfaced are reminiscent of some blues music and the song “Your Man My Man” is like a psyched-out piece of funk-rock. Betty might not be the most adventurous when it comes to genre-bending but she does make every track stand out stylistically.
Now let’s talk about my favorite part of this album, the instrumental choice. Most of the songs consist of bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, and vocals but there are also occasional horns and backup vocals. The drums are thick and busting through the mix, the bass is dense and throbbing, the guitar is wha’d to death and the keyboards fill the gap for any empty funk space. Alongside that, we have some amazing guys musicians. The producer of this record also happened to be the drummer of Sly & The Family Stone, Greg Errico. Speaking of Sly & The Family Stone, we also have Larry Graham on nearly every track and almost every bass line is amazing. We have Neal Schon on occasional guitar duty and he is known to be the guitarist of AOR band Journey. We also have Skip Mesquite the saxophonists of Tower of Power, The Pointer Sisters, and many members of Santana’s backing band. I will have to say that Errico chose amazing musicians for this record as every groove is done proficiently well.
Another thing I realized about this record is how ahead of time it was. It was released in 1973. Before artists like Prince and albums like “Mothership Connection” and “Rejuvenation”. It might not be the first album to do what Betty Davis does, but it did refine it.
Looking at some of the backstories on this album, I realized how controversial this album was. She was banned from televised performances because of her sexual lyrics and visuals. Surely its time to today’s standards, but let’s take a look at some of the sexually related acts of the 60s and 70s. We had Jimi Hendrix who also had trouble finding success in America as he had to get his fanbase from the UK. We had The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin who were surely rock n roll icons but also stirred some people back then, but now we have a woman talking about these things. That was completely different as the only person that was female doing sexually related music was Janis Joplin and even then, it was Childs play compared to Betty. No one during this time had lyrics about wiggling fannies and possessing someones body. She wasn’t hesitant about any of that whatsoever.
Rest In Peace to a one of a kind artist. Her career was surely short, but the music she left off was something I’m glad I introduced myself to. That has instantly become one of my favorite funk albums of all time without a doubt.