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Family Store Records

Betty Davis - Crashin’ From Passion

Betty Davis - Crashin’ From Passion

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In the 1970s, Betty Davis defied genre and gender by pushing her voice to extremes and embracing the erotic. She articulated a kind of pre-punk, funk-blues fusion that had yet to be normalized in mainstream music – a style that few musicians have come close to replicating. As one of the first Black women to write, arrange, and produce her own albums, Betty was a visionary who disregarded industry boundaries and constraints. Raw, unapologetic and in full control, Betty paved the way for generations of future artists who said “funk you” to the music industry and social norms.

In 1979, when Davis entered an L.A. studio to record her fifth and final album, she was reeling from a series of setbacks. Three years earlier, after recording her fourth album, Is It Love Or Desire, Davis was dropped from her label and the LP was subsequently shelved. In 1978, her beloved band Funk House went their separate ways. Looking for a fresh start, Davis relocated to Hollywood to focus on songwriting. Before long, British manager Simon Lait (Toni Basil), offered to fund her next project.

With renewed vigor, Davis reunited with former Funk House guitarist Carlos Morales and brought together industry veterans like fusion drummer Alphonse Mouzon and session bassist Chuck Rainey. Old friends Anita and Bonnie Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) and Patryce “Choc’let” Banks joined Davis on vocals, as did Motown legend Martha Reeves. The resulting album, Crashin’ From Passion, was her most musically diverse, blending elements of reggae and calypso (“I’ve Danced Before”), jazz (“Hangin’ Out in Hollywood,” “Tell Me a Few Things”), dark synth-pop (“She’s a Woman”), and even disco (“All I Do Is Think of You”). Equally exploratory are Davis’ vocals, as she trades in her signature sass and snarls for more nuanced stylings.

Among the album’s few funk tracks is “Quintessence of Hip,” in which Davis hails musicians like Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, and John Coltrane, while deftly integrating elements of their work. The song also offers a moment of stark vulnerability, as she sings, “Isn’t rich? Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing so late in my career.” It would prove to be a prophetic line in the months to follow.

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