Betty Davis – Nasty Gal (1975/2002)

Betty Davis - Nasty Gal (1975/2002)
Artist: Betty Davis
Album: Nasty Gal
Genre: Funk / Soul
Label: MPC Ltd.
Released: 1975/2002
Quality: FLAC (image+.cue)
Nasty Gal
Talkin Trash
Dedicated To The Press
You And I
Gettin Kicked Off, Havin Fun
Shut Off The Light
This Is It!
The Lone Ranger


Adecade ago, Light in the Attic set about reissuing the long dormant, early ’70s funk catalog of Betty Davis, starting with her self-titled 1973 opus. That album featured her standout “Anti Love Song,” a cover photo of the singer wearing a pair of thigh-high silver platform boots that Rick James probably wished he could have borrowed, and a backing band culled from a large swath of the Family Stone. Moving on to albums They Say I’m Different, Nasty Gal, and the previously unreleased Is It Love or Desire and Betty Davis: The Columbia Years 1968–1969, the whole project sought to clue in new audiences to the legacy of a singer formerly footnoted as the second wife of Miles Davis, who is said to have convinced her husband to change his tamer album title to Bitches Brew. Now, her 1976 album Nasty Gal, with its equally unsubtle title, is being released once again, this time as a long player. While the physical gratification of a deluxe vinyl treatment is reason enough for a new edition, it also marks a new occasion for listening, even more deeply and resonantly than its first reissue nine years ago.

What does it mean to be an artist ahead of her time—twice in her lifetime? In 1975, despite label support and heavy touring, Island Records’ release of Nasty Gal failed to take off in the way those behind it had hoped; shortly after, Davis receded from the public eye. Now at 72, she is the subject of a recent documentary (Betty – They Say I’m Different opened in Amsterdam in November) and otherwise leads a very private life in Pittsburgh. “I even turned your head around now,” Davis unleashes in the titular song, with characteristic formidable, seductive delivery, in what sounds now like lyric self-fulfilling prophecy. “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you now.” In 2009, Nasty Gal continued the job of contextualizing Davis, placing her among peers like Parliament and the Isley Brothers; acknowledging her imprint on musicians from Rick James (“She was what funk was,” he has said), Chaka Khan and Lil’ Kim to Royal Trux’s Jennifer Herrema and, especially, on Prince, who said of Davis to a reporter in 2012: “This is what we aim for.”

To listen the record now—when the album shares a name with both a fashion brand inspired by Davis’ provocative, space-age style and a widely reclaimed slur uttered by the president of the United States—is another thing entirely. Nasty Gal is still as revolutionary and unbending as it was in 1975. In another preternaturally self-aware moment, amid the deep grooves of “F.U.N.K.,” Davis willfully seizes her place in the wider canon of funk, soul, and R&B: “Help me, Barry White!” she calls out and goes on to shout out to “Isaac Hayes, y’all,” Al Green, the O’Jays, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, and Ann Peebles, and ultimately, her good friend Jimi Hendrix (to whom she famously introduced her ex-husband; Miles doesn’t merit a shout-out in this anthem).
by Rebecca Bengal

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