Music from the Worst Album Covers — Millie Jackson, Back to the S__t!

My first exposure of any kind to the music of Millie Jackson was her song “All the Way Lover” from the compilation album Blaxploitation, Volume 3: The Big Payback. It’s a surreal cut that’s alternately soulful and hilarious. Jackson sings and speaks as she exhorts her man to, well, go all the way. Oh and then she admonishes other women to stop watching soap operas or gossiping, and get down to pleasing their men lest they stray.

But hey, why not hear it for yourself? It’s an experience you should enjoy at least once.

So now that you’ve heard that, the following album cover should come as no surprise.

Millie Jackson, Back to the Shit!

Wait, does that say Back to the Seat!? Back to the Suit!? No, that doesn’t make sense. Must be Back to the Shit!

Released in 1989 on Jive Records, well after Jackson’s period of mainstream success, Back to the Shit! peaked at #79 on the Billboard R&B album chart. Now I already know that Jackson built her reputation in the ’70s on a combination of soulful vocals and bawdy interludes, so that much doesn’t bother me. Hell, I think “All the Way Lover” is a damn fun song.

But how far is too far?

Well first I should note that one roadblock I’m coming up against in compiling this series is that the albums issued with these awful covers are hard to come by. This one isn’t on iTunes, Spotify, or Rhapsody. That should have been my warning sign.

Basically, there is no disconnect between the album cover on Back to the Shit! and the material. What you see is essentially what you hear. Things start off benignly enough on the opening cut of this live album, “Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love.” Jackson declares just how wild and unrestricted her love is while a fairly generic late ’80s soul/R&B arrangement plays on in the background. (The .mp3 and others I have here are cut off toward the end, but you get the idea.)

A few of the tracks here are nothing more than reworkings of newer songs that appeared on some of her mid-’80s albums, like the fairly good ballad “An Imitation of Love” and “Love Is a Dangerous Game.” Then there are the profane comedy bits, which are set to a pretty smooth soundtrack admittedly. Like, say, “Love Stinks,” wherein Jackson opines on the drudgery of predictable sex, the dread of pissing on a toilet seat with the lid up, and men not being to wipe their ass.

But the laffs don’t end there, not by a long shot. Behold the glory of “Muffle That Fart,” which dispenses with any pretense of musicality at all and is straight stand-up comedy. I don’t think I need to get into detail on this one, do I? The .mp3 I included here is paired with “I’m Waiting Baby,” which is legitimately funny.

In one of the more bizarre transitions I’ve ever heard on record, Jackson zooms right from her special brand of raunchy stand-up comedy into a sultry rendition of Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (originally made famous by the Shirelles). It’s an oasis of Quiet Storm bliss in a desert of profanity and banality, and is a much better showcase for Jackson’s vocals.

OK, you figure things are taking a turn for the better, right? Um, not so much. The music goes full stop and we have “Investigative Reporting,” one-half anti-Robin Givens tirade and one-half recount of an Oprah Winfrey Show episode about a woman whose vagina was sewn shut. Read that again, and ponder it carefully. Remember when Eddie Murphy thought he was a singer and America cringed? Well when Millie Jackson, a fine singer in her own right, thinks she’s a comedian, I cringe.

Oy. Two more tracks to get through. What will they be like? Let’s find out.

Hey, another reworking. “Love Is a Dangerous Game,” Jackson’s last R&B hit, is here to salvage the album a little bit. But ah, there’s Millie in fine form again on the album’s closing number, “Sho Nuff Danjus,” basically another stab at comedy that’s an extended coda for “Love Is a Dangerous Game.” Millie riffs on the dangers of AIDS in a way only she can, and advises men to use Goodyear tires as rubbers to be safe. She even busts out a Dr. Ruth impression, making the whole thing feel complete somehow.

So, Back to the Shit! — Pretty interesting stuff, no? Does this album get short shrift because of the cover? Let’s just say that if you had taken a picture of me listening to it, I’d be making the same facial expression.

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