Monday, February 16, 2015

MAHALIA BARNES & The Soul Mates: "Ooh Yea The Betty Davis Songbook"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"And she'll tease you. She'll unease you. All the better just to please you. She's precocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs. She's got Bette Davis eyes". Oh hell no! We're definitely not talking about Bette Davis, the big eyed American actress of film, television and theater as in sung by Kim Carnes. Nope. Mahalia Barnes pays respects and tribute to Betty 'Fookin' Davis as in the wild, free, nasty, raw, funky, intense, powerful and sexy F-U-N-K & R&B vocalist. Known as the cult figure and Queen of freaky-Funk, the Lady recorded three albums between the years of 1973 to 75 (self-titled. They say I'm Different. Nasty gal - all recently re-released) before disappearing from the scene without a trace. In 2007 Betty Davis (she was married to jazz legend Miles Davis in the late 60's) gives her first interview in 30 years.

Fast forward to present date and Mahalia Barnes (the daughter of ozzie cult hero: Jimmy Barnes) records twelve songs by Davis with producer Kevin Shirley (Journey, Divinyls, etc) and with the constant assistance of guitarist Joe Bonamassa to lend his skills on this party record. And that's basically what this is all about. The big FUNK R&B party album as it celebrates one of the most progressive voices of funk and R&B.

They're keeping it real and raw by recording this album live in just about three days at "Dad's" Freight Train studios in Sydney, Australia. Mahalia, no doubt one of the most impressive and interesting voices from down under as she holds her own so to speak. It's vibrating, soul-breaking, earth-shaking, performances from the opening track of "If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up" to the closer of "Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him". In between you have ten smoking numbers where "He Was a Big Freak", "Game Is My Middle Name", "Nasty Gal", and "You Won't See Me In The Morning" are hotter than hell. Davis fronted the open sexual attitude and some of her 70's live shows were boycotted and the songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP. They songs are not *that* filthy though. No need to worry about any four letter words really. Just a lot of innuendos and tongue-in-cheek stuff.

Bonamassa add a lot of attitude to the songs and it's basically the heavy funk album that Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) would love to release. Obviously the hint of Sly Stone and all that hairy funky stuff of the swinging seventies and a couple of tracks are not really relative in the year of 2015. However, overall, fantastic album and the same goes for The Soul Mates, featuring Clayton and Lachlan Doley on keys, Franco Raggatt on guitar, Dave Hibbard on drums and Ben Rodgers on bass. Groovy as FUNK.

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