Grace Jones

1977: Island Records 422-842 614-2

  1. Send In the Clowns
  2. What I Did For Love
  3. Tomorrow
  4. La Vie En Rose
  5. Sorry
  6. That’s the Trouble
  7. I Need A Man

Before I say anything else, I want to state that I truly do love the bulk of what Grace Jones recorded and released in the 1980s. This album, however, predates the good stuff.

I wanted to say that first because my intention with these commentaries is to *celebrate* the music and musicians featured here, not to snipe and criticize. Unfortunately, most of this album is execrably bad, excruciatingly cheesy, and mind-bogglingly crass…specifically the musical arrangements, which are almost entirely Disco of such generic quality as to be indistinguishable from countless other recordings of the day. But Grace herself isn’t helping any with her singing, which is pretty artless at best and embarrassing more often than not.

The exception of course is “La Vie En Rose,” which is here transformed into something that was like Disco having an out-of-body experience and finding itself in Punk (which I suppose is kind of Blondie’s territory too, but in a different zone). Her stage presence in its performance on the video album One Man Show brings it up to the level of intense deconstruction that cut the song down to its foundations only to raise it higher than any other cover version had done before.

But GOD, the rest of it…! I listen to it in disbelief, wondering faintly at times if it maybe was a joke, a completely over-the-top parody of the worst Disco could do to contemporary non-Disco hits. What they did to Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” has to be heard to be believed, but only the hardiest will make it through the whole song…even if you skip to the next track, just to bring the agony to an end, the next track is every bit as bad as “What I Did For Love” from the musical A Chorus Line gets exactly the same treatment, arrangements, etc. And then “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie! Same way! Except that by now Grace’s voice is trying to sing higher than it was ever meant to do, so every high note brings a new, longer-lasting wince.

So, if you extract “La Vie En Rose” from this, what remains is likely to permanently damage your ears ALMOST as much as The Shaggs, or Florence Foster Jenkins: I think The Shaggs is more purely worse, whereas the effrontery of these Disco arrangements nudges Jenkins out of the competition.