GRACE JONES, sale part 1 of 2: The Disco Years (1977-79)
I became curious about the catalogue of Grace Jones when I found out that her first new album in twenty years, asthma “Hurricane”, had just been released. Having only heard a few tracks of hers here and there, I only had a passing knowledge of her music, having been way more familiar with her film appearances (who among my generation of now-thirty-year-olds didn;t catch “Conan The Destroyer” or “A View To A Kill” a gazillion times on cable over the course of their childhood?).
After a little investigation, I found that between ’77-’82, she had six albums in six years, plus a handful of others across the rest of the ’80s. That kind of prolificness can, occasionally, prove to uncover a goldmine of interesting and fun tracks, as in the case of Scottish post-punkers-turned-stadium-rockers Simple Minds. With Ms. Jones, it’s the case only half the time.
Minus her new comback album, her career can be divided into three phases: 1) disco diva, 2) new wave chanteuse, and 3) hungry-for-airplay mainstream warbler. The first phase, while curious, is the least interesting of the three. That’s not to say that her first three purely disco albums (’77-’79) aren’t worth a listen — they’re just noticeably awful, and are only for hardcore disco fans, lovers of so-good-it’s-bad, or gay men (it goes without saying that there’s very little that separates these groups. I should know.)
The first of the three albums below, “Portfolio”, is one of the stranger disco albums I’ve ever heard. Its A-side is a twenty-minute medley of popular Broadway songs — which is not an artistic crime, until you realize that two of the three songs on display are “Tomorrow”, from the show Annie, and “Send In The Clowns”! On top of that — Ms. Jones can do that sultry, low-key thing just fine, as demonstrated by her on later albums, but when she tries to belt out these kinds of show-stopping diva numbers, her effort is what American Idol judge Randy Jackson would call “a little pitchy, dawg.” The cumulative result of “Portfolio”, upon inspection, is an incredulous frying-pan-across-the-noggin.
Her second album, “Fame”, unfortunately, is duller, a batch of average ho-hum disco numbers, and is included here for completists only. The third album, “Muse”, picks up the pace, with some interesting sonic touches, and songs featuring completely wacko song-poemesque lyrics — the tune “Atlantic City Gambler” has all the inexplicable tackiness of your average Dubai condominium.