Tue. Dec. 12, 2017

10 essential Chic productions…

10 essential Chic productions10 essential Chic productions… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it visually with trends applying to social if not political categories, such as brilliantly illustrated on ‘Car Wash’. As musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound.

From Jacques Fred Petrus & Mauro Malavasi who helped putting Change and in the meantime Luther Vandross to the forefront. To Willie Lester & Rodney Brown who crafted Sharon Redd, Bobby Thurston and Gayle Adams‘s jams. But also Quincy Jones who turned the (Brothers Johnson and (even more) Michael Jackson) into hit machines. Not to mention Tommy LiPuma with whom George Benson scored his biggest successes ever. With the same applying to Chaka Khan when she came to join forces with Arif Mardin… As many names who most likely paved the way for the modern sound. With Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards aka Chic, makin’ no exception.

Ironically, nothing could predict Chic would make such an impact in the Disco scene at the time. With Rodgers and Edwards obviously more into Rock vibes when they first met. As a matter of fact, “the twosome regarded Chic as a Rock band for a multicultural Disco movement that made good on hippie peace, love and freedom”, wrote Robert Christgau on nytimes in December 2011. And God knows how they happened to Rock. And this from their very first release – ‘Everybody Dance’ – back in 1977.

Chic wasn’t only Rodgers and Edwards though. They recruited drummer Tony Thompson and keyboardist Raymond Jones. But also singers Norma Jean Wright (eventually producing her album) and Luci Martin. Not to mention Kenny Lehman who eventually co-produced ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)’. And, last but not least, recording engineer Bob Clearmountain.

From then, the following years saw them delivering an impressive string of hits. From ‘Le Freak’ to the influential ‘Good Times’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ under their own banner. And they would also happen do the same as producers for artists such as Norma Jean Wright and Sister Sledge to name a few.

Chic had a break for a few years after a dispute between Rodgers and Edwards. This bringing them to work separately for some time. With Rodgers producing Madonna and David Bowie. And Edwards eventually sharing the duties with Thompson, Robert Palmer and Duran Duran members Andy Taylor and Simon Le Bon as The Power Station.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards would reunite in the early 90’s though. Delivering their ultimate studio album – ‘Chic-ism’ back in 1992. An album featuring the quite underrated ‘Your Love’ which saw them flirting with House Music. And eventually gave me the opportunity to meet them for an interview in Paris.

Therefore, and as always, a selection is per definition limited. Nevertheless, you should find thereafter a selection pretty much illustrative of what the Chic sound has been about.
Wishing you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we did, while putting it together for you. With your feedback, and eventually a mention of your favorite song more than welcome…

10 essential Chic productions / David Bowie – Let’s Dance (EMI)
Always exploring new territories, David Bowie collaborated with Nile Rodgers to produce his album of the likes back in 1983. This happened at the time when the latter and Edwards had parted ways after a dispute. While in a recording session of the title track, the bassist couldn’t do the job. Nile said to Bowie: “Let me show you what Chic can do!”. He then called Bernard whose studio was in the same building. The latter came and did his thing in one take, although he didn’t get officially credited for that. Rodgers also co-produced the memorable ‘China Girl’ from the same package.
10 essential Chic productions / Madonna – Material Girl (Sire)
On the heels of the ‘Let’s Dance’ album which he co-produced with David Bowie, Nile Rodgers went on to team up with Madonna the year after. Along with Tony Thompson on drums and Bernard Edwards (on bass), he among others crafted the memorable ‘Like A Virgin’, the title cut of her second album. But also ‘Material Girl’, quite illustrative of Edwards‘s play as a member of The Power Station
10 essential Chic productions / Chic – Good Times (Atlantic)
1979 happened to be a key year in the history of both Disco and Chic. The latter releasing the quintessential ‘Good Times’ from their ‘Risqué’ album. A track which influenced so many artists. Beginning with Sugarhill Gang who added their raps while partly using its instrumental part. But also Vaughan Mason And Crew who sort of gave it an extrapolation on ‘Bounce, Skate, Roll’. Not to mention UK former Punk guitarist Raymond Ian Burns aka Captain Sensible on ‘Wot!’ 3 years after…
10 essential Chic productions / Sister Sledge – Lost In Music (Cotillion)
It probably won’t be an offense stating that Sister Sledge got their hour of glory when teaming up with Chic. And most likely on the first of the 2 albums which the latter produced for them. In other words, ‘We Are Family’. A strong collection which spanned its title cut, but also ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Thinking Of You’. And last but not least, ‘Lost In Music’. A track which, to me, stands among the most balanced grooves Chic ever produced along with their own ‘Happy Man’…
10 essential Chic productions / Diana Ross – Upside Down (Motown)
On the heels of ‘The Boss’ album which Ashford & Simpson produced for her in 1979, Diana Ross teamed up with Chic the year after. This resulting in the release of her ‘Diana’ album. The singer affirming her position in the Disco/Club scene with the memorable ‘Upside Down’. But also ‘I’m Coming Out’ and ‘My Old Piano’ to a lesser extend…
10 essential Chic productions / Sheila B. Devotion – Spacer (Carrère)
By 1979, a French Pop starlette who’d already explored Disco although in a much cheesy way decided to work with Chic. Her name: Sheila. The result gave birth to one of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards‘s most famous productions. Its title: ‘Spacer’. Rodgers renewing the experience while jamming with his guitar along with French singer Claude Nougaro in 1987 on ‘Nougayork’.
10 essential Chic productions / Carly Simon – Why (Mirage)
Seeing Soft Rock/Folk singer Carly Simon along with Chic happened to be quite of a surprise to many. It marked such a change referring to the usual guitar-based hits of the lady’s past such as ‘You’re So Vain’ for instance. That meeting happened back in 1982 with the lazy and bittersweet ‘Why’ from the ‘Soup For One’ OST. And even though the film flopped, it most likely brought Simon back in the charts in Europe. Hip-Hop group A Tribe Called Quest sampling its instrumental part for a remix of their classic ‘Bonita Applebum’ in 1993.
10 essential Chic productions / Norma Jean Wright – Saturday (Bearsville)
Elyria, OH native Norma Jean Wright toured for a short period with The Spinners before joining Chic back in 1977. She contributed to their first album as a singer that same year before launching her solo career in 1978. Despite an obvious talent, she only released one album (titled ‘Norma Jean’). But what a collection, featuring gems such as ‘Sorcerer’, ‘Havin’ A Party’ and the aforementioned. The latter eventually receiving the remixing treatment courtesy of Dimitri from Paris 32 years after! Strangely enough, Wright got taken from recording back as a member of Chic for contractual reasons…
10 essential Chic productions / Mick Jagger – Half A Loaf (Columbia)
The presence of Mick Jagger here is nothing of a surprise. The Rolling Stones‘ lead singer has explored so many directions as well at the end. Did he partner with Nile Rodgers on a will to respond to David Bowie‘s ‘Let’s Dance’? This wouldn’t be surprising neither, as a matter of fact. And although he didn’t get the same following, the blowing ‘Half A Loaf’ pretty much deserved a mention in this selection. Don’t you think?
10 essential Chic productions / Fonzi Thornton – Beverley (RCA)
Closing this selection with the exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, neither Nile Rodgers nor Bernard Edwards produced it. But long time Chic backing singer Fonzi Thornton, who eventually hired them as musicians. No need saying how ‘Beverley’ has something of a Chic family sound affair. Quite strange as well to see that, despite such an obvious talent, Thornton only released two albums at the end. Delivering underrated gems such as ‘The Leader’, ‘(Uh-Oh) There Goes My Heart’ and ‘A Natural (Yesiree)’…

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Good Times: C’est Chic!

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