Betty Davis

(Light in the Attic)

Betty Davis

They Say I'm Different (Light in the Attic)

Hell yes she was different. She couldn't help it. Thankfully, Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records has had the good sense to re-release soul sister Betty Mabry Davis' first two albums. An accidental feminist, her frank, unrestrained lyrics capture the zeitgeist, as we see on the North Carolina-born/Pittsburgh-raised singer's 1973 debut, which features her in hot pants and silver knee-high boots. Bookended with the bass-fed tease of "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up" and the pavement-melting slink of bonus track "I Will Take That Ride," Betty Davis was part funk, part soul, all fire. Having former Sly & the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico twiddling knobs and Neal Schon on guitar didn't hurt. Even so, it's all about 1974's They Say I'm Different, appended with four unreleased tracks. Davis took over as producer and arranger, allowing for a more provocative groove. The album proved prescient: "Git in There," with its funky, gunky bassline, was a hip-hop prototype, and "Don't Call Her No Tramp" preceded the riot grrrl movement by two decades. On "He Was a Big Freak," she tells of beating a lover (reportedly Jimi Hendrix) with a "turquoise chain." Damn. The repackaging is tight and slick on both, housing accompanying booklets and liner notes by hip-hop scribe Oliver Wang and photos – even a few of Betty with ex-husband Miles Davis. Betty proved too freaky for Miles, as some of the first words we hear on They Say I'm Different attest: "Gals, I can't help myself."

(Betty Davis) ***.5

(They Say I'm Different) ****

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