During his career, Quincy Jones has fulfilled every musical role possible. This has seen him working as an arranger, producer, composer, conductor and musician. Despite this, when many people talk about Quincy’s career, they automatically mention that he produced Michael Jackson’s legendary 1981 Thriller. Mind you, Thriller did sell over 110 million copies worldwide. However, in just talking about Quincy’s career in relation to one album, albeit one of biggest selling albums ever, they forget to mention the seventy-nine times Quincy has been nominated for a Grammy Award, winning twenty-seven Grammys. This also overlooks Quincy’s work with artists like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, George Benson, Rufus and Donna Summer. There’s also the matter of Quincy composing soundtracks to films like In Cold Blood, The Italian Job, Roots and The Wiz. Another often overlooked part of Quincy Jones long and illustrious career is his solo career. It started with 1956s This Is How I Feel About Jazz and has spanned seven decades, resulting in ten of Quincy’s albums reaching number one in the US Jazz Charts. One of these albums was 1973s You’ve Got It Bad Girl, which was the first of five consecutive number one US Jazz albums for Quincy. After I’ve told you the background to the album, I’ll tell you about the music on You’ve Got It Bad Girl.

For what was Quincy Jones’ nineteenth studio album, he only included two tracks that he’d written himself, plus two which he cowrote. The two tracks he wrote were Love Theme From The Getaway and the Sanford and Son Theme (The Streetbeater). Quincy cowrote Eyes of Love with Bob Russell and Chump Change with Bill Cosby. Among the other tracks, were a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Yvonne Wright’s You’ve Got It Bad. Another noticeable cover version was Summer In the City, featuring Valerie Simpson’s vocal. Her vocal features on Tribute To AF-RO, which features covers of Aretha Franklin’s Daydreaming and Ewan McColl’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face. Valerie Simpson was just one a number of stars who’d play on You’ve Got It Bad Girl, when it was recorded.

Recording took place at various studios in New York and Hollywood. In New York, A&R Studios were used, while in Hollywood, A&M Records Studios, Sun West Studios, The Record Plant and Burbank Studios. Joining Quincy and Valerie Simpson would be pianist Dave Grusin, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist George Duke, bassist Ray Brown and Toots Thielemans who’d play guitar, harmonica and whistle. Together, they helped Quincy lay down the nine tracks on You’ve Got It Bad Girl, which would be released in October 1973. Could it match the success of Quincy’s previous studio album Smackwater Jack which had reached number one in the US Jazz Charts?

On the release of You’ve Got It Bad Girl in October 1973, the album reached number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100 and number fourteen on the US R&B Charts. However, just like Smackwater Jack, You’ve Got It Bad Girl reached number one in the US Jazz Charts, becoming one of Quincy Jones most popular albums. Why was You’ve Got It Bad Girl such a popular album though? That’s what I’ll discover, as I tell you about the music on You’ve Got It Bad Girl.

Opening You’ve Got It Bad Girl is a very different version of Summer In The City. Straight away, when the track begins, you’realize where Nightmares On Wax got the “inspiration” for one their tracks. From this laid-back opening, the track takes on a looser, jazzy sound. The rhythm section and keyboards combine, before quivering, shivering strings enter. You get the feeling Quincy and his band are toying with you, teasing and tantalising you, making you wonder about the future direction of the track. By the time Valerie Simpson’s soaring emotive vocal enters, the original track has been deconstructed, then reconstructed. In doing this, Quincy has transformed the track. His exploration and deconstruction results in something not just laid-back and looser, but much more spacious and ambitious.

Quincy and Bob Russell cowrote Eyes Of Love, which meanders into being. Just gentle, subtle keyboards signal the entrance of Toots Thielemans harmonica solo. It takes centre-stage, and is played with passion. Toots is accompanied by standup bass, swathes of lush strings and keyboards as the arrangement grows in power and beauty. Key to the track’s success is the use of the strings which cascade in and out of the track, providing the perfect accompaniment to Toots’ harmonica solo.

Tribute To A.F. – RO is a medley of two tracks Daydreaming written by Aretha Franklin and then Ewan McColl’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face. Valerie Simpson delivers the vocal, against a subtle backdrop. Strings sweep and swirl, while keyboards, backing vocalists and Hubert Laws on flute accompany Valerie. On The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, a sultry saxophone drifts slowly above the arrangement before Valerie’s tender, heartfelt vocal enters. Keyboards and guitar accompany Valerie, but you’re transfixed by her vocal and its beauty. Quincy joins her, singing subtly, before the saxophone adds the finishing touch to a track that’s quite simply beauty personified. 

As Love Theme From “The Getaway” begins the arrangement is subtle, understated and played with emotion. Just an acoustic guitar, percussion and Toots Thielemans on harmonica combine. His playing is key to the track’s success and beauty, as is the tender, thoughtful way the rest of the musicians play with.

Yvonne Wright wrote You’ve Got It Bad Girl for Stevie Wonder for his Talking Book album. As the song opens, the arrangement has an understated sound, allowing the beauty of the song and its lyrics to shine through. It’s just keyboards, bursts of rasping horns and flourishes of strings that accompany the tender, heartfelt vocal. Gradually, the arrangement fills out, with the rhythm section, keyboards, strings and backing vocalists all playing their part. Later, the arrangement grows in power and drama, as the best track on You’ve Got It Bad Girl reaches its finale after nearly six minutes.

The Stevie Wonder connection continues as Quincy covers Superstition, another track from Stevie’s Talking Book album. There’s an almost moody, dark sound to the track, as percussion, harmonica, rhythm section and keyboards combine. When the vocals enter, things change, with the Three Beautiful Brothers taking charge of the track. Their voices are powerful, joyous and confident, feeding off each other. Blazing horns, rhythm section and keyboards accompany them while Toots adds bursts of harmonica. It’s as if the band have kicked loose, and starting to enjoy themselves. There’s a real improvement in the track, with this being not just a fitting homage to Stevie Wonder, but a track that’s uplifting and joyous.

Manteca was written by Dizzy Gillespie and Walter Fuller and sees the track head more in a traditional jazz style. Bob James plays electric piano, Dennis Budimir guitar and Cat Anderson trumpet. Bursts of rasping, blazing horns punctuate the track, from the opening bars, while the piano, percussion and rhythm section are content to play supporting roles. Swathes of slow lush strings drift in, but before long, they’re swallowed up by the power of the horns that dominate the track. Flourishes of guitars and keyboards drift in and out, while Latin percussion is almost ever-present and horns are key to the energy, emotion and drama of the track.

Sanford & Son Theme (The Streetbeater) sees Tom Morgan’s harmonica playing at the heart of this fusion of jazz and funk. He sprays flourishes of harmonica, while saxophonists Ernie Watts and Phil Woods punctuate the arrangement with rasping bursts of horns. Adding to the funky sound of the track are stabs of keyboards. Sometimes, you think that the band will really kick loose, transforming the track into a glorious slice of funk. Sadly this doesn’t happen, they’re never let off the reins by Quincy. This means that although his band to shine, it’s more a crescent moon that full moon. 

Closing You’ve Got It Bad Girl is Chump Change, which Bill Cosby and Quincy cowrote. Again the track sees Quincy and his band combine elements of jazz and funk. Blazing horns, rhythm section, percussion and keyboards combine, creating a sound that’s dramatic and bold. The tempo rises and falls, with instruments drifting in and out of the track. Horns are replaced by a harmonica, while the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat, resulting in a compelling track to close the album that sadly, doesn’t quite fulfil its early potential.

You’ve Got It Bad Girl is a quality album from Quincy Jones, where he’s accompanied by some of the best jazz musicians of the early seventies. Bob James, Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts, George Duke and Ray Brown all join Quincy’s all-star cast of musicians. So does Valerie Simpson. Her vocals grace two tracks, Summer In the City and Tribute To A.F. – RO. These are quite simply two of the album’s highlights. Among the other highlights are two tracks most people associate with Stevie Wonder. Both tracks are from Stevie’s Talking Book album, Superstition and the Yvonne Wright penned You’ve Got It Bad Girl. Of the other five tracks, Love Theme From “The Getaway has a tenderness and beauty, while Manteca is a dramatic exploration and examination of a track Dizzy Gillespie cowrote. On the two tracks that close You’ve Got It Bad Girl, I’m left thinking what if? Both are good tracks, but just that. They could however, have been outstanding. During Sanford & Son Theme (The Streetbeater) you feel there’s a glorious slice of funk waiting to escape. Sadly, Quincy never quite lets the band of the leash, content to take the track in the direction of jazz-funk. This is really frustrating. Similarly, while Chump Change is dramatic and bold, again, you feel that although it’s a good track, it has the potential to be a great track. Instead, the track is like a meal at a well known burger company, where you’re left wanting more. Overall however, You’ve Got It Bad Girl is a good example of Quincy Jones music from the seventies and is a source of some great samples for crate diggers. Standout Tracks: Summer In the City, Tribute To A.F.- RO, You’ve Got It Bad Girl and Superstition.


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