I suppose it must be about 20 years ago that Melody Maker gave away a free book called, I think, “Unknown Pleasures” in which various MM journos wrote essays about underrated and unfairly maligned albums. I’m sure I’ve still got it somewhere, and I do remember a few of the albums covered within. One was “The Lexicon of Love” by ABC, and it seems strange to think that was once an underrated album, considering it’s now rightly recognised as one of the great albums of its era. Another was “Risque” by Chic, selected by (I think) Paul Mathur, and it was reading that essay which got me interested in Chic’s work.
Back in the late 1990s, Chic were not a lauded act. In fact they were pretty much a completely forgotten act. However, that essay sparked my interest, and as it turns out, Mathur (or whoever it was) was right, they were pretty damn good. I think the phrase he used as “the Lennon and McCartney of disco”. Though for me their second album “C’est Chic” edges out “Risque” as their best work. (For those not familiar with the oeuvre, “C’est Chic” has “Le Freak ” and “I Want Your Love” on it, while “Risque”‘s big hit was “Good Times”). Anyway, from there it’s been a bit strange to watch Chic’s reputation being restored. I think the real turning point was in 2011 when Nile Rodgers published his autobiography (titled… Le Freak, of course. What else could it have been?). Suddenly he was everywhere, doing interviews to promote it, and the knock-on effect was that his musical legacy suddenly got a whole lot more attention too. Then there was “Get Lucky”… and suddenly it was as if Chic had always been an admired and acclaimed band. Which of course they were, in certain very small circles, but now they’d gone mainstream again. Kings of disco.
Sadly Rodgers’ writing partner, Chic bassist and sometimes vocalist Bernard Edwards, didn’t live to see it. He died of pneumonia during a concert trip to Japan in 1996, shortly after recording the album I’m sharing today (and just hours after recording “Live at the Budokan”, a much better tribute to their work together). It’s not strictly a Chic album, though a later reissue attempted to pass it off as one, but rather a Nile Rodgers solo project with some old friends, Edwards among them, along for the ride. And honestly, it’s not that great. If you want an introduction to Chic, this is definitely not the place to start (go for “C’est Chic”, the compilations “Ultimate Groove Collection” or “Up All Night”, or even the first Chic/Sister Sledge collaboration “We Are Family” instead) but it’s long out of print and never seems to get shared, so somebody might find it interesting.
Link: Nile Rodgers – Chic Freak and More Treats (password: salad)
- Everybody Dance
- Dance Dance Dance
- Let’s Dance (ft Christopher Max)
- Le Freak
- Upside Down (ft Ashford & Simpson)
- Do That Dance (ft Simon Le Bon)
- He’s The Greatest Dancer (ft Taja Sevelle)
- Good Times
- I Want Your Love
- Music Is My House (ft Christopher Max)
- We Are Family
- Do That Dance (Dancehall Rap Remix) (ft Wayne Thompson)
- Just One World (ft Christopher Max)
Norma was Chic’s original lead vocalist who left to pursue a solo career, which has mainly been back-up work for other artists. Norma Jean from 1978 remains her only solo album, and it’s effectively a Chic album in all but name – its personnel is practically identical to that of Chic’s own self-titled debut of the previous year. It’s not prime Chic; it’s certainly nowhere near as consistent as the band’s own 1978 offering, C’est Chic, but it does at least feature this classic, much covered but never improved upon.
Chic productions, whether for themselves or other acts, pretty much always featured a ballad on the B-side, and never anything exclusive. This single is no exception, so you get “This Is The Love” as the flipside, lifted straight from the LP.
Norma Jean Wright – “Saturday” (1978 Bearsville 7″ and 12″ single)
Link: Norma Jean Wright – Saturday (7″ edit)
Link: Norma Jean Wright – This Is The Love
Link: Norma Jean Wright – Saturday (full length)
Dimitri From Paris did a remix of “Saturday” for the Chic box set that came out a few years ago, and much as I adore ol’ Dimmy, I think on this occasion he may actually be guilty of stretching it too far. Still, if there’s a DFP remix, of course I’m going to share it, so here it is!