Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Is It Love or Desire?

Light In The Attic Records

Out of the fetid super-fly disco inferno of the ’70s, Betty Davis might have set the record for raw, erection-inducing sex appeal. She performed in costumes that would raise eyebrows today, and her lyrics were about as explicit as anything by Redd Foxx. Unfortunately, this particular album was stillborn, going right from the mix studio to the vaults without release or promotion, or so claim the extensive liner notes. The opening track “Is It Love or Desire?” makes no bones that either answer gives the same results — sweaty, hip-grinding action that goes on until everyone agrees it’s time to order out for a basket of ribs and a six-pack of beer. “Whorey Angel” slows down the pace, but not the results — it’s not the lyrics exactly, but the delivery. Just like a good blues song can make any innocuous activity sound like a weekend in a cathouse, Betty Davis plays the seductress, and you’re more than willing to let her have her way with your body or your Visa card. By the time we reach “When Romance Says Goodbye,” things have cooled down a bit, or maybe Betty just wore that last man down to a nubbin. This is a calm eye in the storm encased in Is It Love or Desire?, and it’s followed by a lowdown ghetto number about food. “Bottom of the Barrel” mixes the primal need for food with procreation, and takes a poke at disco along the way.

This album spent 33 years in limbo, possibly due to a rift between Betty and Island Records. Oliver Wang chronicles the story of the music in the extensive liner notes, which are interspersed with suggestive photos and publicity shots of Ms. Davis. This is ’70s soul and funk at its finest and an eye-raising view into what you could just barely get away with a generation ago.

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