By James Calemine
Born in Mabry, North Carolina, Betty Davis ranks as a classic diva. She married Miles Davis and turned him onto Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and various other funk greats. Davis, a songwriter before she met Miles, wrote a hit for the Chambers Brothers in 1964. She recruited Sly’s bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico, The Pointer Sisters, Jerry Garcia’s sidekick Merl Saunders and various others for her self-titled first album originally released in 1973.
This Light In The Attic reissue contains 3 extra songs not included on the original. The opener, “If I’m Lucky I Might Get Picked Up” epitomizes Davis’ unrestrained and sultry voice. Her band proves a versatile, backstreet group that accentuates her every line in appropriate fashion. “Walkin’ Up The Road”, a gritty blues-funk, creeps along in a dangerous way, which makes it easy to see why Miles Davis wrote in his book she was “too wild and crazy” for him.
Ice Cube, Ludacris, and Talib Kweli have all sampled her songs. Carlos Santana once said this of Davis: “She was the first Madonna, but Madonna is more like Marie Osmond compared to Betty Davis. Betty was a real ferocious Black Panther woman. You couldn’t tame Betty Davis.”
The “Anti-Love” song portrays a scheming lover. “Your Man My Man” emits an infectious groove behind her duplicitous lyrics. “Ooh Yea” makes one realize even the greatest talents are often doomed to obscurity. “Steppin’ In Her I. Miller Shoes” contends as another ode to the women’s liberation. Davis’ voice resonates with perfection the depths of her wandering soul.
“Game is My Middle Name” stands as an incandescent rock and roll song. “In The Meantime” reveals a softer, more vulnerable side to Davis. Great song. The three bonus tracks—“Come Take Me”, “You Won’t See Me In The Morning”, “I Will Take That Ride”—continue the late-night invasion of the booty snatchers and free your mind and your ass will follow sentiment. This reissue demonstrates Betty Davis’ career represented that of one cursed diamond.