Monday, December 2, 2013

Nona Hendryx - Nona

Before moving off to a solo career, Nona Hendryx was one third of the R&B girl-group Labelle. In the mid-1970’s she went solo and released a number of records. One of them, 1983’s Nona celebrated its thirtieth anniversary back in March of this year. Her second solo studio album, it climbed to number 83 on the US Billboard Album chart and number 25 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one begins with “B-Boys” which, as the third single, went to number 25 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The song, which calls out the B-Boy (breakdancer) lifestyle, has a solid beat from Trevor Gale and an appealing synthesized bass groove laid down by Kashif.

“Living on the Border” keeps up the party vibe with a song that, to me, alludes to places like Berlin where life was drastically different depending upon which side of town you lived.

“Keep It Confidential”, the first single, went to number 91 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 25 on the US Billboard Dance chart and number 22 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Chic’s Nile Rogers provides some of the guitar on this one. I like how this one starts out slower and simple, with just Hendryx and a piano accompaniment before picking up to a mid-tempo dance groove. In the lyrics, she reveals that in the past she took a position of power in the relationship but this time she is ready to reveal a more vulnerable self.

“Design for Living”, the B-side to the second single, features a number of guest musicians including Gina Schock (of the Go-Go’s) on drums, Tina Weymouth (of Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club) on guitar, Valerie Simpson on piano, Nancy Wilson (of Heart) on guitar, and Laurie Anderson on violin. Hendryx’s former co-singer Patti LaBelle provides backing vocals too, which is fitting since the song was originally written for a Labelle album but was never recorded. Once it gets past the opening, which sounds like a band tuning up before a performance, this one has a bit of gospel sound to it. Hendryx is preaching a message of universal truth.

Side two opens with “Transformation”. As the second single, it peaked at number 40 on the US Billboard R&B chart. With a strong synth presence, this one reaches out to a more cosmic fringe of funk.

I could easily see “Run for Cover” on a soundtrack album somewhere, perhaps for a police action-comedy film. It just seems to fit that model well. I like the rhythms here and the inclusion of the screaming rock guitar from Ronnie Drayton throughout.

“Steady Action” was the B-side to the third single. It opens with an exotic, tribal sound before rolling into a reggae rhythm. The lyrics are a plea for consistent, constant loving.

The closing track “Dummy Up” was also the B-side to the first single.

I have to give a big shout out to my dedicated blog supporter Herc for mentioning this album a few months back in his comments. Otherwise, Nona would have completely missed my first pass at the music of 1983; there have been so many huge albums this year that a lot of other ones could fall by the way side. Luckily I have the month of December to grab a few more that I should have from earlier in the year, like this one.

This was my first time listening to this album by Nona Hendryx, and I have to say that I really liked it a lot. It features the type of funk-based, R&B dance grooves that I was totally into during my college days of the 80’s.


HERC said...

Glad you could squeeze Ms Hendryx into your schedule. As you found it, she's worth it.

This one is in listening que for today.

Martin Maenza said...

Luckily when I work ahead of the curve, "squeezing in" is a lot easier to do. ;) She is definitely worth the listens.