Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette [1980]

I listened to Grace Jones for the first time only a few weeks ago. I’ve long been aware of the significance that her first two albums of the 1980s had on the artists of that decade and beyond, but I assumed much of that influence was due to her androgenous stage persona, rather than the music itself. So it was from a sense of obligation that I downloaded the 1981 Nightclubbing LP, hoping only to fill in another gap in my musical background. What I found was a scintillating collection of dubby new wave pop tracks that immediately sunk their hooks in my ear. It’s a rarity that a pop song speaks to me that quickly, so I quickly downloaded 1980’s Warm Leatherette, widely regarded as Jones’ other masterpiece. Most reviews I’ve read assert that Nightclubbing is the better of the two albums, both produced by reggae hitmakers Sly and Robbie, but I disagree. It certainly is the more balanced and consistent of the two, confident in the icy electro-funk reggae sound that exists in a more primitive form on Warm Leatherette, but I’m a sucker for a heterogeneous albums that play fast and loose with diverse conventions, and that’s what WL is all about. The title track (a cover of the Suicide-esque song written the guy who founded Mute records) revolves around a hard rock guitar sting and bluesy piano that adds warmth to the original, but keeps the detached, emotionless vocals. “Love is the Drug,” another cover, marries an urgent dance beat to discordant guitar riffs. The best track, however, has got to be “My Private Life,” (yet another cover) which uses pitch-shifted vocals over clattery percussion, augmented by a rhythmic electronic squelch which I think is a guitar skank modulated beyond all recognition. The result is an alien dub gem that I have yet to hear topped
Unfortunately the version I have uploaded here is a rip of the CD version, which uses extended mixes of several songs, adding and extra minute or two to songs that are already teetering on the edge of overindulgence. Don’t let that deter you though; this is a great album.

01 - Warm Leatherette
02 - Private Life
03 - A Rolling Stone
04 - Love is the Drug
05 - The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game
06 - Bullshit
07 - Breakdown
08 - Paris

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