Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards formed Jazz/Funk band Chic at a point where Disco was at it’s peak and release their self titled debut album in 1977 which was the foundation for the success and legacy that was about to come.
I have previously reviewed the bands subsequent two albums C’est Chic (1978) and Risque (1979) and believe them both to be definitive albums from the period and the perfect argument for Disco and Funk to be taken just as seriously as any genre of music.
Whilst this debut set isn’t as innovative as the next two albums (more of a testament to those albums and not a slant against this one) this debut set is the foundation to which Chic would build their success upon and both Rodgers & Edwards would create a sound that they would transfer through to the likes of Sister Sledge and Diana Ross.
The opening track “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” is a familiar one. It’s stomping bassline is a trait of Edwards and the unison singing is again a style that Chic based their sound around.
I love this song and not just because it does what it intends to do which is to make you dance but because the song is just so damn good. The production is rich and textured although it does slightly irk me that the string section that comes in sounds louder than the rest of the music as if it has been cut and paste into that moment. What saves it is how good that string section is and the song goes from being bass driven to something else.
What I love about many of Chic songs is how the songs develop musically as the track continues. It doesn’t stay the same and whilst all these great sounds are going on Rodgers keeps playing the guitar like only he knows how and Edwards keeps playing the bass like he does.
“Sao Paulo” is an instrumental and like other Chic instrumentals we will get to hear on the following albums it is always brilliantly put together. The use of the flute is more akin to the soul and funk music that came before this. A gritter funk style is used despite this being a light and breezy piece of music. Perhaps this song doesn’t move things forward like what we will hear from Chic after this debut but this is still a groovy and fun song.
“You Can Get By” again is super fun with the backing vocals of Luther Vandross very apparent. This song is a great tune despite for me not sounding like a quintessential Chic song and more formulaic of the time.
Lyrically this song is quite simple with the message being aimed at a female who can get by with life if she thinks positively.
The fifth track is one of the most famous Chic songs “Everybody Dance”. The track is a lot faster than anything else on the album and is one of the most memorable Disco and pop songs of all time. The vocal from Norma Jean Wright is absoultely crucial to this song and she nails the delivery.
Edwards puts in his best performance on the album with a bassline that is just out of this world. This song is so brilliantly produced and one of the first glimpses of how Rodgers and Edwards would take on the world.
My favourite part of the song is just before the 4 minute mark when it really starts to take on a funkier dimension. The instrumentation is as good as any rock song and it baffles me that Chic and a lot of disco music was dismissed so easily when technically it is as competent as any rock song.
“Est-Ce Que C’est Chic” is a solid tune. I’m not overly gone on the melody and the lyrics don’t exactly mean much but the groove is still there as it is on just about every Chic song you’ll ever hear. I think the issue with this song is that there isn’t enough diversity between this and some of the others on the album. The lyrics of the verses don’t really connect and whilst I far from class this is a song I dislike I think when I compare it to other Chic songs I don’t have it so high on the list.
What I noticed on the next two albums was the beauty in the slow songs that I had not originally appreciated. What Rodgers and Edwards show on this song is that they are not one trick ponies. There is a R&B sense running through their musical sensibility and their ability to bring out a voice is never so more apparent on this gorgeous track “Falling In Love With You”
The album ends with “Strike Up The Band”. If you’re familiar with Luther Vandross and his time with the group ‘Change’ you’ll get a sense of his influence on a song like this as I find it obvious.
This is another superb track and again whilst it doesn’t have the slickness and polished feel of the songs you’ll hear on “C’est Chic” and “Risque” taken on it’s own it is just a great groovy track with some fabulous instrumentation.
What Chic did with the following two albums is to display proof that bands doing Disco could also bring out well rounded albums and not just have a few singles here and there.
On this album I don’t think Chic have mastered this sound just yet but we do hear elements that they take on after this. What this album does is give them a musical foundation to build upon. The canvass is being drawn up and this is the beginning of what will be a wonderful career for Bernard Edwards and especially Nile Rodgers.