Grace Jones - Hurricane

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

"I can give birth to sheep," Grace Jones exclaimed on the title track of her comeback album, and only a fool would dare to disagree. Hurricane saw Jones return from a decade-plus exile from mainstream pop life. As with Morrissey, it seemed the pull of her persona was increased by her absence. Both Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack enlisted her services for their Meltdown Festivals, while echoes of her early-80s cross fertilisation of UK new wave chill and NY disco heat could be heard from Santigold to TV on the Radio.

Still, the calibre of her collaborators on Hurricane surprised - Brian Eno, Tricky, and her original partners in rhythm, Sly & Robbie. Then there was the genius album cover by Banksy, showing a factory line of Grace Jones heads molded in chocolate, and the body morphing nightmare of Chris Cunningham's video for comeback single 'Corporate Cannibal'. That song itself was a fierce warning shot to anyone who expected Jones to content herself with the regulation disco diva lap of honour. The bastard glitch-punk offspring of Massive Attack's 'Risingson' and the industrial techno of Nine Inch Nails, it served notice that Jones was not content to be viewed as a relic from the decade of big hair and monumental shoulders. Of its parent album, only 'Hurricane' itself mines a similarly confrontational seam. Her collaboration with Tricky, the song elevates Jones from mere formidable woman to vengeful force of nature over six-plus minutes of lurching, writhing trip hop.

Aside from such devil woman antics, the rest of Hurricane revealed a hitherto unseen Grace Jones - vulnerable, possessed of a masterful soul voice and concerned with family affairs. The soaring soul tour de force 'Williams' Blood' explores the black sheep status she experienced during her upbringing. With winning cheek, it dissolves into a disembodied rendition of 'Amazing Grace'. Likewise, the sleepy gospel pop of 'I'm Crying (Mother's Tears)' pays tribute to Jones' mother with a fragility few associate with her name.

If the rest of the album retreats to familiar, less mould-breaking territory, namely that of Jones' dub-influenced classic Living My Life, then that itself is welcome after so long a silence. 'If I could have my way/ there would never be an end/ to this beginning,' Jones' murmurs on the shimmering 'Love You to Life' and one can only hope this will prove a new beginning for a woman who remains such a powerful, genre and gender-bending iconoclast.

Best tracks: 'Williams' Blood', 'I'm Crying (Mother's Tears), 'Love You to Life'

Richard Morris

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