The Listen || Betty Davis - Nasty Gal

It's fairly certain that if Betty Davis released Nasty Gal in todays music market it would be received in much the same way as it was back in 1975. That's not a derogatory remark, by the way. Among it's core audience, it was seemingly met with much love. The music on this album still sounds fresh four decades later, and if you ever meet a funkier female (Janelle Monae, in some ways her modern counterpart excepted) then they better be good to match the sheer attitude and grooves found here.

There's many reasons to look at Betty Davis as an icon of sorts and one of them is quite simply because she didn't give a fuck what anybody thought and got on with being herself despite the voices of disapproval in the press, (to whom a song is dedicated here) and the closed minds that couldn't accept her in your face style. Like her former partner, a certain prolific horn player named Miles, she forged a path forward rather than being regressive. Nasty Gal is a record that you either love or not, and in this decade of constant focus on female artists and their prevalence, it's one that should be revisited.

With grooves that would surely inspire a young Prince, and an attitude that said it loud and clear, Nasty Gal, to quote it's track, is IT. The band probably couldn’t have given it any harder and the grooves are tight and nasty. It's hard to truly imagine how it was taken on it's original release but if the artist herself is to be believed in the liner notes it wasn't for lack of effort that it was a commercial failure. Quite honestly, this is a close highlight of the her four official studio albums and quite a way to go out by any artist's standards.

The tight running time makes it all the better with not a song wasted and the momentum sustained throughout, from the in your face title track to the allusory, slow groove closer The Lone Ranger. It's hard not to see why the stereotypical white American listener may have been an unwilling participant in such a liberated album when you consider the racial politics of the time and it's sad that it was perhaps denied a wider audience because of that.

There’s the brilliant roll call of black funk talent of the time, notably still all considered so almost five decades later, that is FUNK alone as testament to the energy of this music. Sly Stone, Tina Turner, Larry Graham and Jimi Hendrix are all namechecked and still stand as icons to this day. But Betty Davis herself is surely a missing link in the timeline, her role often forgotten in showing just what a tight band and attitude can truly do to transcend the theoretical barriers. The one ballad on the album, (co-written with ex-partner Miles Davis) is You and I, which remarkably emphasises the unique flow of the record rather than being an unnecessary side step.

Indeed, Nasty Gal hasn't really aged very much at all, it's ideas and grooves sounding very modern, far from the age of conservatism in which the record was born.

In many ways, this is IT. 

SRCZ Magazine

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