Whatever the reason that Betty Davis' Is It Love or Desire -- also known as Crashin' from Passion -- remained unreleased until 2009 no longer matters. Davis remembers a personal rift with Island's Chris Blackwell. Studio In the Country manager Jim Bateman (in Bogalusa, LA) claims the studio was never paid and therefore refused to release the masters to Island, etc. It makes no difference, because hearing this album, a ten-song set that was to be Davis' and Funk House's final recording, is a revelation. (In 1976, funk was slowly giving way to the popularity of disco). Hindsight is 20/20, but had this album been released at the time, things might indeed have been different. Musically, Is It Love or Desire is so forward and so complete, it moves the entire genre toward a new margin. It is as groundbreaking in its way as the music Ornette Coleman was making with Prime Time à la Dancing in Your Head, and the blunt-edged fractured jazz-funk James Blood Ulmer laid down on his own a couple of years later on Tales of Captain Black and Are You Glad to Be in America?. The songwriting is top notch; some of it transcends the proto-sexual excesses of her earlier records though that's still in this wild mix, too. The production is so canny, it seems to get at the very essences of singers, songs, and musical arrangements, and then there's the music itself created by Funk House, one of the most amazing funk bands in the history of music. Being Davis' road and studio band had gelled the unit, which also practiced when they weren't working with her in a practice space at home in North Carolina. Check the dark voodoo-groove bassline Larry Johnson plays on "It's So Good," with Carlos Morales guitar filling the spaces with spidery, silvery lines, and the machine-gun snare groove laid down by drummer Semmie Neal, Jr with breaks and pops that underscore the outrageous distorted keyboards of Fred Mills, the band's music director. Speaking of Mills, his duet vocal on "Whorey Angel,"a spooky, psychedelic soul number that is far better than its title, is scary good. Check out the gris-gris choruses by Davis and her backing chorus with all that bass leading the entire band in its slow, backbone-slipping attack. The sheer sonic attack of "Bottom of the Barrel," may be country in its lyric intro, but the music is diamond-hard funk that makes no secret of its-anti disco sentiment. The ballad on the set, "When Romance Says Goodbye," is a steamy, sultry jazz noir number that gives the listener an entirely new aural portrait of Davis - Mills' piano work on the tune, with its sparse chords and spacious approach, gives Davis' natural singing voice -- rather than her sexual growl -- plenty of room to shine here. There's a bluesy number in &"Let's Get Personal," and a strutting rutting, gutter anthem in "Bar Hoppin'" with some in excellent interplay between Mills' synth and Morales' guitar. The final track, a nocturnal, midtempo sexy number called "For My Man," features the violin talent of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, to boot. It's easy to say that this the best thing Davis ever cut, especially when a record has existed in mythology for as long as this one has, but that makes it no less true. Many thanks to the Light in the Attic imprint for bringing Is It Love or Desire out of the realm of myth and the dustbin of history, and into the hands of music fans.
|Label:||Light In The Attic|
Performance CreditsBetty Davis Primary Artist,Vocals
Larry Johnson Bass
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Violin
Carlos Morales Guitar,Vocals
Betty Jack Davis Vocals
Fred Mills Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals
Nathaniel Corbett Percussion
Semmie Neal Drums
Carrie Background Vocals
Technical CreditsBetty Davis Arranger,Composer,Producer
Betty Jack Davis Arranger,Producer
Fin Costello Cover Photo
Bill Evans Engineer
Matt Sullivan Producer,Executive Producer
Josh Wright Executive Producer
Oliver Wang Liner Notes
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Is It Love or Desire based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
If you are into old school Funk, the real thing, every recording by Betty Davis is a must have!