Sat. Nov. 17, 2018

Nile Rodgers & Chic – New Jack Sober

Tennerz: Nile Rodgers & Chic – New Jack Sober (Teddy Riley Version) (Virgin)

We already had ‘Sober’. We now have ‘New Jack Sober’, which shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise at the end. With this referring to the Swingin’ mood of the first take of this song…

‘Sober’ made quite some noise when it recently came out. Meanwhile announcing the release of an album – ‘It’s About Time’ – which put an end to a 26 years hiatus. With a bunch of fans pretty much reacting in a negative way, complaining about the fact this wasn’t the Chic sound anymore. And how could we blame them at the end? As Nile Rodgers & Chic are just not Chic!
Besides, should they ever want it, they simply couldn’t do it anymore. Because both Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson have passed. But also because the female choir (Luci Martin, Alfa Anderson) are not around neither. Thus leavin’ Chic only with the Nile Rodgers‘ rhythmic guitar signature at the end.

‘Sober’ (and by extension ‘New Jack Sober’) could pretty much have been a song by the likes of Daft Punk (remember ‘Get Ready’). Or by the likes of Mark Ronson along with Bruno Mars (cf. ‘Uptown Funk’). In other words with a Poppy Disco-influenced edge. And there nothing to complain about this. Even though this is just Nile Rodgers trying to recapture the Chic atmosphere and get it to the next wagon. But I’m afraid to say that if the next wagon is some New Jack Swing kinda vibe, it’s already dating from 30 years ago, like it or not.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying I don’t like the exercise. But I can’t help thinkin’ as to how it’s kinda far from what I was expecting as a fan of the very first hour. ‘New Jack Sober’ bringin’ us back to the souvenir of the Swingbeat period and the works of its mogul, Teddy Riley. This with groups such as Guy, BLACKStreet and/or Today to name a few. With the man adding to ‘New Jack Sober’ something of Zapp in the meantime…

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Overview
Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards first met as fellow musicians in NYC in 1970. Back then, they eventually formed a Rock band by the likes of The Boys which later on became The Big Apple Band. Despite playing on countless gigs and interest in their demos, they didn’t get any offer for a recording contract though. They soon after collaborated with New York City who delivered the memorable ‘I’m Doin’ Fine Now’ back in 1973. A cut which British band The Pasadenas covered 19 years after, scoring one of their biggest hits with it.

With the idea of creating a band slowly maturing in their minds, Nile and Bernard came to recruit Tony Thompson. A drummer remembered for his work along with LaBelle and Ecstasy, Passion & Pain. The latter suggesting them to recruit keyboardist Raymond Jones. Needing a singer then, they hooked up with Norma Jean Wright, then soon after with the then up and coming sound engineer Bob Clearmountain. Eventually releasing their debut-single – ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah!, Yowsah!, Yowsah!)’ – on Buddah Records with backup vocals courtesy of Luther Vandross. And Chic was born. Eventually releasing their eponymous debut-album soon after on Atlantic and droppin’ in the meantime another infectious gem by the likes of ‘Everybody Dance’.

Nile and cohorts soon after recorded Norman Jean Wright‘s album, filling it with extra boiling cuts such as ‘Saturday’, ‘Having A Party’ and ‘Sorcerer’. Then soon after recruited another female singer by the likes of Luci Martin. Meanwhile Alfa Anderson came to replace Wright for contractual reasons.

‘C’est Chic’, the band’s second album saw the light by the end of 1978. It featured ‘Chic Cheer’ which Faith Evans sampled back in 1998 on ‘Love Like This’. But also ‘I Want Your Love’ and ‘Happy Man’. Not to mention the multi-million selling ‘Le Freak’…

1979 was a quintessential year in the history of contemporary music as for the one of Chic. This with the release of their ‘Risqué’ album as highlighted by the seminal ‘Good Times’. A cut which influenced countless artists. From Sugarhill Gang on ‘Rapper’s Delight’ to Grandmaster Flash. But also Vaughan Mason & Crew (‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’). Not to mention Queen (‘Another One Bites The Dust’), Captain Sensible (‘Wot’). Or Blondie (‘Rapture’). Nile & Nard producing Sister Sledge‘s ‘We Are Family’ album the same year. An offering that spanned the classics ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’, ‘Lost In Music’, ‘Thinking Of You’ and its title track. This in addition to ‘Got To Love Somebody’, from their ‘Love Somebody Today’ follow-up album.

This period most likely marked Chic‘s absolute peak, with productions of them all over. From Sheila B Devotion‘s ‘Spacer’ to Diana Ross‘Upside Down’ to name a few. Not to mention Carly Simon‘s ‘Why’. As many tracks you might find in our 10 essential Chic productions. Be they together as on their respective owns. Sadly, the infamous Disco Demolition Night engendered bad consequences for Chic. The guys most likely missing to catch up with the electronic trend that appeared soon after in the production, as Nile said it in an interview we had back in March 1992.

With the group soon after disbanding, Nile and Bernard met various successes on their respective sides. But a part of the magic had gone. They nevertheless made a come back, 9 years after the release of their 1983 ‘Believer’ album. This with a single ‘Chic Mystique’ with remixes courtesy of Masters At Work, Roger S and Brothers In Rhythm. But also an album – ‘Chicism’ – which would be the very last together. An album which featured the infectious ‘Your Love’ with remix by the likes of Nellee Hooper (Soul II Soul).

Although sick while touring in Japan back in 1996, Bernard did his thing against all ods on stage. Eventually blackin’ out for a while, with his partner assuming the absence of bass being like an improvisation. Edwards retired to his hotel room after the concert where he was later found dead by Nile. The cause of death was ruled to be pneumonia. He was 43…

It was announced that Nile Rodgers had signed a new record deal with Warner Bros. by the beginning of 2015 with a release of a new Chic album for the first time in more than 2 decades. The album will be titled ‘It’s About Time’. The lead single from the record – ‘I’ll Be There’ – hitted the streets back on March 20, 2015. Former band singer Alfa Anderson brilliantly responding to it with ‘Perfectly Chic’ in 2017. Eventually getting some remix treatment courtesy of Boomtang and 83 West the year after…

More than three years have gone since. And the ‘It’s About Time’ album has finally landed on Sept. 28, 2018 although it doesn’t include ‘I’ll Be There’. Featuring a cohort of guests. From Lady Gaga on ‘I Want Your Love’ to Philippe Saisse on ‘State Of Mine (It’s About Time)’. But also Emeli Sandé and Elton John on ‘Queen’ in addition to Craig David and Stefflon Don on ‘Sober’ among others. A cut eventually retitled ‘New Jack Sober’ after New Jack Swing mogul Teddy Riley remixed it…

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The return of Disco: Could this ever happen?
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