Grace Jones

Wall Of Sound, 2008

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Grace Jones is probably best described as an enigma.  Born in Jamaica, Jones relocated with her family to New York in the mid-‘60s.  Before long, her exotic beauty and statuesque frame became her ticket to the big time, winning her many modeling contracts that took her all the way to the catwalks of Paris.  It was to be the music world, however, that would send Jones into outright stardom.  After being signed to Island Records, Jones became one of their prize finds.  She went on to release an album every year from 1977 through to 1982 to varying degrees of success but always challenging herself and the record buying public.

Her best efforts, Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing, released in 1980 and 1981 respectively, still sound as cutting-edge as they must have back then.  They were a glorious mixture of original and cover songs reworked in her own unique style that often bettered the originals (“Private Life” and “Demolition Man” to name but two).  Towards the end of the decade, though, Jones was showing signs of burnout not only creatively but personally, no doubt due to the lifestyle of partying she had become accustomed to.

So as quickly as Jones appeared on the scene, she went into a period of self-imposed exile, occasionally making appearances but never entertaining the thought of recording new material.  Until now, that is. Nineteen years after Grace Jones released her last album, the disappointing Bulletproof Heart, she has finally released her tenth studio album Hurricane.  I’m pleased to say it’s a definite return to form for Miss Jones, who has updated her signature sound to perfection without sounding like a has-been.  Her voice hasn’t aged, nor has the way she wraps it around the seriously infectious grooves dished up here.

The album kicks off with the sublime “This Is.”  It’s a defiant statement to announce her return and state of mind, which I’m pleased to say, is optimistic to say the least.  When Jones raps the opening line, “This is my voice, it’s my weapon of choice,” nothing could be further from the truth.  Her voice has long been her most appealing feature, at times reminiscent of the sing-speak delivery of Marlene Dietrich; Jones is about the only singer I can think of that uses a monotone voice to such brilliant effect.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next up is the equally appealing “William’s Blood” (co-written with Wendy and Lisa,) which is groovy, funk inspired and lyrically straightforward story-telling.  Jones milks it for all it’s worth, and the track also gives her a chance to show off her newfound vocal range. 

“Corporate Cannibal” is a new take on a much written about subject:  an ode to the grossly overpaid CEOs, the fat cat shareholders that own us, and those belligerent bosses who take pleasure in their divide and conquer micro-management roles.  Jones eerily delivering the lines “Corporate cannibal, digital criminal / Corporate cannibal, eat you like an animal” should make you think twice before taking that high-paying Wall Street gig.  

“I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears)” is better still with Jones channeling her childhood innocence to deliver the album’s most heartfelt moment.  “Well Well Well” follows and is the disc’s most retrospective track both in style and lyric.  It’s heavily reggae influenced and could easily have made its way onto any of Jones’ Island records from her decade of decadence.  The title track meanwhile is a cool affair of minimalist proportions, with plenty of room here for Jones voice to fill the air with the storm warning, a metaphor for her much publicized mood swings.

Jones turns on her romantic charms for the obligatory love song of sorts, “Love You To Life.”  Musically, it has a light and airy quality to soften the harsh beat which Jones weaves beautifully around.  “Sunset Sunrise” is an ode to Mother Nature and her gift to us, Planet Earth.  It’s another example of Jones ditching her dominatrix persona to reveal her sensitive side, which is a welcome surprise.  Hurricane closes with the fuzzy funk-fueled “Devil In My Life,” which is easily the most original moment here and comes complete with a beautiful string arrangement that should sound out of place but somehow doesn’t.

So when all is said and done, it was well worth the wait.  Grace Jones is back sounding refreshed and revitalized, all the while retaining her domineering charismatic charm and wicked sense of humor.  Having said that, this album (as with a lot of Jones’ work) is not for everyone.  The jive bunnies out there expecting it to explode into club thumping beats will be left feeling jibbed.  And if you really don’t care for the “anti-diva” styled vocal delivery (i.e.: no pointless vocal gymnastics), then don’t bother at all with this album, or any Grace Jones album for that matter.  If you’re cool, though, really cool like me, then you’ll love it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A



© 2009 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wall Of Sound, and is used for informational purposes only.