As the 80s dawned, people thought they knew Grace Jones: disco diva, fixture at Studio 54, voice of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart-topper ‘I Need A Man’. The very definition of New York City nightlife.
But it’s impossible to truly know Grace Jones, and in 1980 she threw a curveball – one of many in her wide-ranging career. Jumping the disco wave before it crashed, Jones decamped to the legendary Compass Point Studios in Nassau, teaming up with one of the finest studio sessioneers this side of Stax to record Warm Leatherette, the opening salvo in what would become her “Compass Point Trilogy”. Veering far away from mirrorballs and glitter, Jones tapped back into the same creative mindset that birthed her radical 1977 reworking of ‘La Vie En Rose’, this time around wresting contemporaneous recordings from their creators and unapologetically altering them beyond all recognition.
New wave, art-rock, classic soul, heartland rock: nothing was safe from Jones’ glare. Pretenders’ ‘Private Life’ was made over as a dark dubby dismissal (and subsequently lauded by Chrissie Hynde); Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is The Drug’ forcibly detached from Bryan Ferry’s world-weary ennui and super-charged with predatory cravings; Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ ‘Breakdown’ re-emerging as defiant challenge.
Such was the wide range of material, Warm Leatherette spawned seven singles worldwide, each one a new missive that nudged the album further up the charts to settle in the UK Top 50 – her first chart showing across the Atlantic. Eschewing lengthy rehearsals in order to capture a groove, the sessions also resulted in a host of material that wouldn’t fit the original LP’s running time: lengthy grooves that capture the all-star session group (rhythm section Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, plus percussionist Uziah Thompson, along with keyboardist Wally Badarou, and guitarists Mikey Chung and Barry Reynolds) working at the peak of their powers.
Issued on 17 June, in 4LP, 2CD, Blu-ray Pure Audio and high-definition digital formats, the deluxe edition box set of Warm Leatherette restores many of these extended jams, along with period B-sides, remixes and, of course, the complete album. Fully remastered, and coming in bespoke leatherette packaging, it offers the fullest picture yet of this remarkable period in Jones’ career: a moment that ushered the 80s in with extraordinary prescience.
Watch the Warm Leatherette: Deluxe Edition trailer above, and pre-order the album here: