Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Betty Davis

Nasty Gal

Light in the Attic Records

Nasty Gal took the erotically-charged Betty Davis from the obscure label to Island records, most well-known for surfacing Bob Marley and Traffic. With a big studio and high expectations, this album sounds slicker than yet not as exciting as her earlier albums on Sunshine Records. It’s strong out of the sleeve with title track “Nasty Gal.” It drips funk and soul attitude, but holds a note of passing regret “I was an evil witch… I used to love it.” Clearly the sex is still there, but these lovers can smell smoke in this cockpit. She segues into a similar sound with “Talk Trash to Me” with the classic come on “I’m yours, I’m over 21.” It’s not so much what she says, but how she says it. The funk continues until Betty switches gears on track 4 “You and I.” She abruptly slips into a slow Burt Bacharach style arrangement that, according to the liner notes, is her reconciliation with ex-husband Miles Davis. A few oriental chords sneak into the following cut, but the mood is somehow broken.

In her previous two discs (Betty Davis and They Say I’m Different) the story was raw, unadulterated sex, but now that Ms. Davis is on the verge of the big-time, considerations beyond her horny creative spark arise. Of all the Betty Davis records, this is the one you really need to follow along with in the liner notes. While her life wasn’t falling apart (she avoided the stereotypical drug and alcohol issues), her stage show was upstaging her music and her lyrics show new concerns beyond physical love. Expectations were high at Island, but this disc never sold many copies. While she recorded another LP (Is It Love or Desire?) it never was released, and Ms. Davis effectively quit the business. Perhaps I’m just searching for symbolism, but the final cut, “Lone Ranger,” is a dreamy farewell as she sings, “Your riding days will be over… when I’m through with you.” Ms. Davis’ ride was just about over, and while she survived physically, something else died with this release. But it’s sure nice we can finally hear what all the excitement was about, way back in the misty shroud of the early ’70s.

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