Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Light In The Attic

One of the more tangible results of the civil rights movement came when Race Music moved into the mainstream American eye. Right about then, Betty Davis was a young woman in the right place at the right time. She sported an amazing look — on this album, she’s a skinny kid with an enormous afro, cut-off jeans, and thigh-high silver space boots. She looks like Super Fly’s kid sister, but sounds like his voodoo aunt. This disc ranges from fashionista ballads “Steppin’ High in Her I. Miller Shoes” to wacca-wacca influenced urban chants “Come With Me.” Opening track “If I’m Lucky I Might Get Picked Up” has a feminine take on the not-too subtle sexuality of the old Blues singers. “Keep on Walking” is another blues-influenced cut, jazzed up with the brassy arrangements typical of the early ’70s. Her music combines a scorching sexuality with a powerful control of both her voice and her men.

The disc comes with a nice multi-page booklet that explores Davis’s life and music. She married Miles Davis, but she kept a low profile and avoided most of the self-destructive urges of success. Oliver Wang interviewed Betty and many of the people who worked with her including producers, session musicians, and family. He paints a picture of Betty as a talented, self-assured woman who wouldn’t bend over to the rapacious polices of the industry. And if music didn’t work out, she had a degree in fashion and a career in modeling.

While the booklet makes some excuses for “sonic imperfections” resulting from old master tapes, I found the sound clean and crisp. The imperfections we tolerated in vinyl might seem enormous to a digitally mastered recording of today, but the old vinyl engineers knew how to squeeze the maximum dynamic range out of a record, and let the listener set the volume where it felt best. Turn this one up to “7.”

Light in the Attic Records: www.lightintheattic.net

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