Over the years, Millie Jackson has often been compared to Etta James and Denise LaSalle -- and both are valid comparisons. Another frequent comparison is Gladys Knight, who was a major influence on Jackson. But while Knight and Jackson have a similar vocal texture, you would never hear Knight delivering the type of sexually explicit monologues that Jackson became known for in the 1970s. Knight would never be as in your face as Jackson, whose wild sense of humor serves her well on I Had to Say It. This 1980 LP gets off to a hilarious and irreverent start with the title song, a rap number that finds Jackson attacking everyone from welfare queens to black men who refuse to date black women. Influenced by early rappers like the Sugarhill Gang and the Sequence, "I Had to Say It" sounds quite dated today but was bold for 1980 -- back then, most R&B singers were afraid to tackle hip-hop. However, the title song isn't representative of the album on the whole; soul singing is Jackson's primary focus, and the vocalist is in good form on gritty soul offerings like "Somebody's Love Died Here Last Night," "Fancy This," and a remake of the Dobie Gray hit "Lovin' Arms." Jackson gets into more of a disco/pop groove on "Ladies First," but this is a soul album first and foremost. Although I Had to Say It isn't among Jackson's essential releases, it's a solid, respectable outing that her hardcore fans will appreciate.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson