Retrospect: Grace Jones' albums from 1997 to 2008
The legendary Grace Jones is due to bring the disco to the Heath on Sunday, 14th July. If you’ve already got your tickets, sit back and enjoy a retrospective look back on her studio albums - you deserve it. If you haven’t, make sure you pick up your tickets to ONBlackheath 2019 now.
1997 - ‘Portfolio’
Grace’s debut, ‘Portfolio’ was mixed by the daddy of disco and extended mixes himself, Tom Moulton - this was the start of a three-album relationship between the pairing. Recorded and mixed in Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, the album gifted us with the stand-out tracks, ‘Send in the Clowns’, ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘I Need a Man’ which displayed Jones’ true vulnerability.
1978 - ‘Fame’
Just a mere year after her debut burst onto the scene, Grace was back with ‘Fame’. The rapid follow-up was again worked on by Tom Moulton and consisted of a set of mainstream-orientated disco tracks. Like on ‘Portfolio’, side A was a continuous medley, and side B opened with a re-interpretation of a French classic, ‘Les Feuilles mortes’, sung in English as ‘Autumn Leaves’.
1979 - ‘Muse’
The last record in Jones’ disco trilogy recorded with Tom Moulton, ‘Muse’ continued the magical format where the first side of the album is a continuous medley of four songs - in ‘Muse’ this is also joined by the narrative about someone who has sinned. In contrast, the B side consists of disco songs with no lyrical relation to one another.
The album art for ‘Muse’, designed by Richard Bernstein is still instantly recognisable today.
1980 - ‘Warm Leatherette’
The fourth studio album from Grace was released on the 9th May 1980 by Island Records. Unlike her earlier sounds in ‘Warm Leatherette,’ we see her moving towards a new wave-reggae direction. BBC Music even described her new album as “a post-punk pop album that delved into the worlds of disco, reggae and funk music more than most of her ‘alternative’ contemporaries, while still retaining a blank-eyed alienation that was more reminiscent of David Bowie or Ian Curtis than most of her peers. It’s on this album that we’re treated to covers of songs by The Pretenders, Smokey Robinson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Roxy Music and more.
The cover artwork for ‘Warm Leatherette’ was the first album cover designed by her then-boyfriend Jean-Paul Goude, which showcased her androgynous look for the first time. This powerful image of Jones is one that’s not easy to forget!
1981 - ‘Nightclubbing’
Grace’s fifth studio album came just a year later on the 11th May 1981. ‘Nightclubbing’ marked her second foray into a new wave style that blended genres, including reggae, dub, art pop, synth-pop and funk.
The unique sound introduced to us in ‘Nightclubbing’ influenced many popular songs in recent years. Fashion, art and music all converge in the form of Grace - the iconic artwork seen below is a painted photograph titled ‘Blue-Black in Black on Brown’ created in New York by Goude.
1982 - ‘Living My Life’
After already treating us to two reggae-twinged albums, Grace returned to Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to record ‘Living My Life’. Unlike her previous albums, ‘Living My life’ only included one cover, ‘The Apple Stretching’, which was originally written by Melvin Van Peebles and used in the Broadway show Waltz of the Stork.
Like most of Grace’s offerings, the visuals are also instantly recognisable. The cover art for ‘Living My Life’ was again created by Jean-Paul Goude, but with an additional contribution from Rob O‘Connor.
1985 - ‘Slave To The Rhythm’
After releasing albums in quick succession, Grace took a break from recording music and focussed on her acting career. ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, her seventh studio album is a concept album that featured several, radical interpretations of one title track.
‘Slave to the Rhythm’ intersperses different genres again, ranging from funk to R&B, incorporating the go-go beats throughout the album. All eight tracks are also interspersed with excerpts from conversations with Jones about her life, giving it the ultimate personal touch.
1986 - ‘Inside Story’
‘Inside Story’ saw Grace working with the legendary producer, Nile Rodgers of Chic. Recorded at Skyline Studios in New York, ‘Inside Story’ is notable for being her first foray into production. Like many of Grace’s releases, the album explores varied elements of jazz, gospel and Caribbean sounds.
In her 2015 book, ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’, Jones said: “When I listen to ‘Inside Story’, I can hear the energy of what was going on the moment it was made. It’s where I was at the time. Nile’s ear was different from mine, and he was responding to his idea of me, and it was an American Nile production, with all that entails, but I think it is beautiful. There were other ways of doing that material, but I like how it ended up. I don’t listen to all my records, but I play that one a lot because it is interesting to hear what Nile was thinking.”
1989 - ‘Bulletproof Heart’
The ninth studio album from Grace came in the form of ‘Bulletproof Heart’ in October 1989. After taking a short break from music to focus on her acting, Grace started work on her latest album with producer Chris Stanley, who at the time had become her first husband.
‘Bulletproof Heart’ continued the commercial pop sound of the previous record, showcasing material heavily influenced by synthesisers, drums and electronic percussion.
2008 - ‘Hurricane’
After deciding to “never do an album again” Grace changed her mind after meeting the music producer Ivor Guest via a mutual friend. The album includes a number of autobiographical songs that Grace has been open about, these include ‘This Is’, ‘Williams’ Blood’ and ‘I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears)’.
Fun fact: At least some of ‘Hurricane’ was reportedly recycled from several sessions stretching back as far as a decade.
‘Hurricane’ is an album where Grace shows you who’s boss, demanding your complete attention with crawling menace.
If you want to pull up to the bumper (or barrier) at ONBlackheath 2019 - tickets are on sale now.