Wed. Nov. 14, 2018

Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer (Cotillion)

Classics: Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer (Cotillion)

Chic most likely saw the light with the rise of the Disco movement in NYC. And no doubt as to how ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ might pretty much have found a natural place on the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ OST if the film had been released a bit later on. But none of us could rewrite history at the end and this will remain a supposition at the end. Meanwhile, a quick look at history, sems to tell as to how ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ resonates as a beautiful finger given to the promoters of the Disco Demolition Night at the end.

Mind you, the lyrics evoke the idea of hedonism. And also a certain one of narcissism. Menwhile mentioning the names of the designers of the clothes this Greatest Dancer is wearing. Ie. Fiorucci, Halston, Gucci. The girls being furious at the perspective of singing “My crème de la crème please take me home”. Then eventually suggesting to replace this with “My crème de la crème, please don’t go home”. Something that both Rodgers and Edwards refused to do. Which didn’t get Sister Sledge from scoring their biggest success ever at the end…

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Overview
– Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge got given vocal training by their grandma, Viola Williams. Herself a former lyric soprano opera singer and protégé of civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune.

Sister Sledge released their first single – ‘Time Will Tell’ – back in 1971 on local music label Money Back. Although they would have to wait for another 3 years to enjoy their first taste of success. This with the Patrick Grant and Gwen Guthrie penned ‘Love Don’t Go Through No Changes On Me’, with arrangements courtesy of Bert DeCoteaux. The song became a big hit in Japan. And, as a result, the girls came to the country and performed at the Tokyo Music Festival where they won the Silver Prize. Eventually sharing the bill with James Brown, The Spinners, Bill Withers, The Crusaders, Manu Dibango, and others. This at the Zaire 74 concert in Africa during The Rumble in the Jungle boxing event which opposed Muhammad Ali to George Foreman.

Another year on (1975), and their debut-album – ‘Circle Of Love’ – came to light on Atco Records. With its title track written by Patrick Adams. Meanwhile, ‘Together’, their second effort, followed back in 1977, featuring a cover version of Stevie Wonder‘s ‘As’. Their label, Atlantic Records, deciding to connect them with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the Chic fame to handle the production of their third album…

The girls would get to the upper gear from then. With their ‘We Are Family’ album bringing them to the forefront. From ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’, although they more or less argued about its lyrics for some time, to its title track. But also ‘Lost In Music’ and ‘Thinking Of You’. Its follow-up – ‘Love Somebody Today’ – which hit the streets only a few months later didn’t get the same following though. This despite the presence of the same production team and the inclusion of the solid ‘Got To Love Somebody’.

1981 marked a turn with Sister Sledge teamin’ up with producer Narada Michael Walden. This resulting in the release of their ‘All American Girls’ and the delivery of 4 extra singles. With the strongest of them – its title cut – gettin’ them to #3 on the R&B/Soul charts. Meanwhile its follow-up – The Sisters – which they self-produced saw them comin’ up with another cover version. This by the likes of Mary Wells‘ classic ‘My Guy’.

‘Bet Cha Say That To All The Girls’, their 7th album, saw them teamin’ up with producer George Duke. And eventually sharing the vocal duties with Al Jarreau on its title track. ‘When The Boys Meet The Girls’, their 8th album, bringin’ them a couple of extra hits in the UK. This via ‘Frankie’ and ‘Dancing On The Jagged Edge’ with production work courtesy of Nile Rodgers on his own at the time.

By 1989, Kathy came to start a solo career and her sisters came to release an extra album – ‘And Now…Sledge…Again’ – on Italian label New Music International. Thus collaborating with various producers. From Bluey of the Incognito fame on ‘World Rise & Shine’ to various local producers who eventually retouched their biggest classics.

Joni Sledge sadly died of natural causes, aged 60, at her home in Phoenix, AZ on Mar. 10, 2017.

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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