Betty Davis

Vinyl Corner : Betty Davis ‘Betty Davis’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Today we’re taking a look at the Vinyl Me, Please pressing of Betty Davis’ relentlessly funky 1973 self titled debut.

The Music:

There’s something of a dichotomy to Betty Davis’ eponymous debut. It’s stamped with the righteously funky, unerringly punchy characteristics of the era it was recorded in but in many ways it’s an album ahead of its time. Davis‘ primal, raw howl manages to be incredibly funky, confident, sassy and gutsy all at the same time, backed by a relentlessly locked-in band of tight, dry drums, pulsatingly melodic bass and taut guitar licks that run the gauntlet from the zesty and vibrant to the gnarled and fuzz-drenched. It’s a sound that allowed Davis to exist in a stylistic in-between; heavier than all but the fuzziest of funk-rock – the album at times suggesting a less psychedelic take on fellow grooveanauts Funkadelics’ dirtier moments – but still far too much of a hip-shaker to be outright rock music.

Wildly individualistic both in her overtly sexual lyrics – they’re fairly raunchy even by today’s standards, let alone those of 45 years ago – and in the gyrating, urgent grooves that backed them, ‘Betty Davis’ is an album that never lacks in impact – and the fact that it’s creator has only in the past decade or so enjoyed a significant upsurge of interest is of no surprise. Although in many ways very much a product it’s time in terms of sonics and production, considering the raw sex appeal stamped all over the album it’s no wonder that it took a while for the world to catch up with Davis and it’s a record that helped lay the foundation for a whole raft of albums to come.

The Pressing:

This 2017 Vinyl Me, Please pressing sounds excellent and really does justice to the dry, highly immediate sonics of the recording. Surface noise is very low and our copy is free of defects such as distortion or popping; pressed on heavy weight coloured vinyl, it’s an album that looks as good as it sounds. The chosen blend of silver shot through with pale blue is really unusual but works well and looks great. Our copy is perfectly flat during playback and is free of any signs of handling from the factory, suggesting good quality control on the release. Sound quality is excellent, with the overall soundstage being clear, forthright and driven. This release boasts a remaster from the original tapes and sounds great, lending the recording a modern precision without robbing it of the old-school analogue charm so abundant on the album.

The Packaging:

Packaging and presentation is exceptional on this release; the sleeve is very high quality and accurately reproduces the feel – both visually and in more tactile terms – of a vintage early ’70s US-made sleeve, albeit one with a few modern bells and whistles. The release comes with a multiple page 12″ booklet, not only featuring photos of Davis herself but plenty of supplementary reading, detailing and contextualising both artist and album. Another quirky inclusion is an A4 colouring-in sheet; it’s perhaps not something that collectors are going to want to use but certainly a fun add-on and a nice inclusion to round off the package. In terms of the actual sleeve, we’ve already discussed how thick the stock of cardboard used is but also worthy of mention is the clearly defined, chunky spine and silver-plated logo on the sleeve, both of which add a level of distinction to an already fine package.

Final Thoughts:

A rock solid release through and through, the Vinyl Me, Please pressing of Betty Davis’ self titled debut has the same confident swagger as the album itself. Presentation is top notch throughout and the pressing itself is excellent with a low noise floor and dynamic sound. A great way to hear an underappreciated funk rock gem.