TRYING YOUR PATIENCE is a new weekly (maybe) series, where I highlight a record that doesn't necessarily fall into everyone's comfort zone, but one that I think is essential.
WEEK #1: Grace Jones- Nightclubbing, 1981.
at Compass Point Studios under the guidance of Chris Blackwell and Alex
Sadkin, "Nightclubbing" takes reggae and funk and adds a bit of punk attitude. It even dares to be artsy. The album delivers, from the Side One needle drop to the inner groove of
"Nightclubbing" is driven by one of the greatest rhythm sections of all time, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Guitars are handled by long time Marianne Faithful co-conspirator Barry Reynolds and legendary Jamaican producer Mikey Chung. Keyboards are courtesy of studio wiz Wally Badarou. But it's the tunestack that really makes "Nightclubbing" special.
fires up covers of Bill Withers' "Use Me," Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango (I've Seen That Face Before)," the title track, a somewhat faithful yet still very fresh take of the song originally found on Iggy & Bowie's "The Idiot," and "Demolition Man," a song I never cared for by The
Police, and another fairly new tune of the day, that here, given an almost Kraftwerk meets Devo makeover, really stands out as one of my favorites on the record.
famous track on the record is of course, the hit, a Grace Jones co-write
and a disco funk classic, "Pull Up To The Bumper." The iconic car horns, and drum and bass line intro is so funky it'll make your back break. If this one doesn't make you move, check your pulse. Same with "Feel Up," a
repetitive groove for sure, but one so joyous, you'll feel like you're in the Caribbean on white sands drinking out of a hollow coconut the
size of Aunt Bea.
"Nightclubbing" never puts its feet up. All involved here, the players and the observers, those in front of the mics and those behind the boards, are always on their game. There are no weak spots. The arrangements never feel tossed off or standard. The synths sometime offer hooks, but more often than not, they color the atmosphere in fits and starts. They seem to function as a horn section. And miraculously, they never feel cold. Even the background vocals--like the sharp refrains of "Use Me," not unlike the choir in "The Omen" screaming "SANCTUS," or the subtle low harmony underneath the lead on the second refrain of "Bumper"-- feel as if they could only belong to this session.
It's as I mentioned, a
perfect marriage of reggae, funk, new wave and punk, so that even the most ardent
non-supporters of those genres will never be fully subjected to
any of it for a trying length of time. With a little patience, you'll be surfing in and out of what you like and what you didn't realize you liked. At least, that's what I am hoping.
And though I love this entire
record, my favorite track is the closer, a Marianne Faithful/Barry
Reynolds tune called "I've Done It Again" that is absolutely sublime and a perfect way to go out.