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Mutatis Mutandis

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Album Review

While Nona Hendryx hasn't released an album in 20 years, she hasn't exactly been idle. Along with being an adjunct professor at the Tisch School, she reunited with Labelle in 2007 for both a record and a tour, scored Charles R. Wright's play BLUE, contributed to the soundtrack for the film Precious, and guested on drummer Terri Lynne Carrington's fine Mosaic Project album. As has been her wont since she began writing for Labelle, Hendryx is a keen observer of the American political scene and is a social activist. On Mutatis Mutandis (translation: "Changing those things which need to be changed"), her debut for Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label, those penchants inhabit the lyrics in these ten self- and co-written cuts, and are fueled by funk, soul, and rock grooves (sometimes simultaneously). Hendryx is completely pissed off here and it makes for a riveting listen. Opener "Tea Party" is a funked-up screed. With its James Brown-esque "on the one" guitar (courtesy of Ronnie Drayton) and bassline, punched-up horns, backing vocals, and snapping snares, she can make the dancefloor quake and doesn't couch her anger in politically correct speech. "Temple of Heaven" is a vocal stunner that would not have been out of place on a Labelle record. Guitarist Ronnie Drayton and bassist Warren McRae seamlessly wrap Hendryx in funk, blues, and rock on the transcendent eros of "Let's Give Love a Try." "Oil on the Water" (about the BP oil spill) is a souled-out groover à la the Staple Singers. "When Love Goes to War" is a Prince-inspired soul rave-up with Hendryx showcasing all of her vocal gifts. "Black On Black" is a slow-burning funk with Hendryx performing on all instruments and echoing Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" in its message. Her version of Lewis Allen's classic "Strange Fruit" is all but unrecognizable, but no less poignant for it. Introduced by samples of Dr. Martin Luther King speaking, she employs distorted guitars, dissonant saxophones, and brass with a vocal performance reminiscent of Leon Thomas. It's an entirely new arrangement that places the tune at the forefront of global racial, sexual, and cultural politics. This version will go down as one of the most notable in the canon, and is the most inspired performance here. While it's true that the topical nature of the songs here may date the album somewhat, this is a risk for any songwriter who takes on injustice. That said, Mutatis Mutandis' passion, vocal excellence, musical excellence, fine production, and its groove quotient all serve to make it a standout in Hendryx's catalog.

Customer Reviews

Welcome Back Giurl

You did it...again! I've followed your career since I was a teen-ager savoring a wink from you at the Apollo; when i was a young man I saw all the LaBelle shows in New York; at the Ansonia and Queens College too, even Rochdale in Queens. Excellent. I see you still have something to say. Missed you; though, caught you on Material. But it took a search. I am a long time fan. Love your solo work since Transformations. This is going to the top of the list. Was a little disappoint with the recent LaBelle reunion. You are a true Diva. Thank you for sharing.


NONA , i'm so glad to ear from you after so long,and i hope is going to be more after the voice, love the songs and maybe you come to perform in miami. THANK-YOU, FRANCOIS.


Nona is another rare 80’s artist, who still has skills today


Born: October 9, 1944 in Trenton, NJ

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One-third of the pop/soul act Labelle (their big hit was "Lady Marmalade"), Nona Hendryx, by far and away, made the hippest solo records of any member of that group (the others being Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash). After Labelle called it quits in 1976, Hendryx released her self-titled debut record, which was an amazingly strong amalgam of soul and hard rock. It also went almost completely ignored by critics, soul fans, and even Labelle fans, and Hendryx took her strong, clear, booming voice and did...
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Mutatis Mutandis, Nona Hendryx
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