REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/15/2010
Following her exceptional fourth album Warm Leatherette could not have been easier for Grace Jones. She wisely decided to go back to the Bahamas and Compass Point Studios again to recreate the formula that made that record so special. Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, and Barry Reynolds were again joined by producers Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin to help make another reggae/electronic album that would not only match its predecessor for quality and style, but this time, Jones would be rewarded with hit singles and a much bigger fan base.
Nightclubbing crossed all areas of music, becoming a hit on the R&B, dance and mainstream charts as well as having success throughout Europe. Jones’ knack for selecting the right songs to rework is one of her best assets as an artist. It has rarely let her down, and to this day, she makes incredible covers of songs that really shouldn’t respond to her drastic treatment all that well.
A case in point is the opener here: the George Young/Harry Vanda gem “Walking In The Rain.” It was a minor hit in Australia for local band Flash In The Pan, but here Jones has transformed it into a dark and slick New Wave track that gets the disc off to a great start, picking up from where Warm Leatherette left off.
“Pull Up To The Bumper” was an instant Jones classic and still stands today as one of her signature songs. Grace peppered the lyric with a swell of sexual innuendos (“Pull up to the bumper, baby / In your long black limousine / Pull up to my bumper, baby / Drive it in between.”) that thrilled her fan base and only served in heating up her now famous raunchy stage show.
That cut caused controversy, but it only helped to make it a hit record – the first of many for Jones. Perhaps the most drastic redo of a song here is Jones’ awesome take on The Police’s “Demolition Man.” Jones proclaiming not to mess with the Demolition Man carries much more weight than hearing Sting wail it on Ghost In The Machine; the aggressive track matches her delivery blow-for-blow.
Another great interpretive moment comes with a sonically twisted take on Bill Withers’ “Use Me” that is right up Jones’ alley, topped off with some great backing vocals for maximum effect. The title track is a masterful take on the Iggy Pop/David Bowie song that appeared on Iggy’s The Idiot. It’s another great moment for Jones; she used it recently to open her shows on the Hurricane Tour and it has lost none of its ambiance.
Even the album tracks (can’t call them filler, ’cause they’re too good for that) are of great value, none more so than Jones’ own “Feel Up” and “I’ve Seen That Face Before.” The disc closes with a Reynolds tune (“I’ve Done It Again”) that Marianne Faithfull first recorded, but Jones has more luck with it here, giving it a softer approach was definitely the right way to go.
Released each year from 1980 to 1982, Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing, and Living My Life solidified Grace Jones’ place in the ‘80s popular culture. She would go on to star in several movies and continued to create some fabulous music before suffering from burnout following the disappointing Bulletproof Heart in 1989. But it’s these three albums that represent her glory days and where anyone curious should start their discovery from.