Now this is my kind of funk music.
The songs are not greatest, though this is funk we are talking about. The riffs are knotty sometimes, which is great, but they’re not necessarily that memorable (compared to, say, Funkadelic). And the lyrics aren’t much more than female James Brown. (Well, they’re a little more than that.) But that’s to expected. (Though I must admit that I once again am left wondering how a singer can “write” all these riffs. Though Davis was a songwriter before this so I guess she just chose not to play an instrument here.) We don’t come to funk for the songs.
Davis is not the greatest singer, which is again something that’s not that unusual for the genre. But what she is is a performer – and a great one at that. Her charisma just oozes from this record. And her voice, though not incredible, is unique enough you’re not going to mistake her for some more generic female soul singer.
But the real star here, for me, are the lean arrangements and production. This record is lean. Even when there are 5 or more instruments on a track, there is so much space and room to breathe. This is the furthest thing from those murky and dense psychedelic soul records, or from those over-produced Philly soul records. Instead we have Davis’ voice, some pretty “rock” guitar, the odd keyboard (handling the wah parts), pretty minimalist drums, and a less prominent bass part than you’d expect (on many of the songs). (This makes sense. Betty Davis is Betty Davis because she was once married to Miles Davis. She is attributed with turning him on to Hendrix and other rock music. So it’s not a huge surprise that this funk records skews more rock than most.) Even when the horns come in, they’re pretty minimalist and don’t drown out anything else.
This is really great stuff. If the songs were better it would be very close to my platonic ideal of a funk record from this era.