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Chic: Risque (Atlantic)


Most sampled ever - that is, except for J.B.'s “Funky Drummer” - but, sadly, these days mostly unlistened-to….Which is a crying shame, given that this is the finest set from the last unquestionably/consistently great live rhythm section in broadly popular black American music. To date, that is…

Most sampled (of course) is “Good Times”. Still as fresh as the day it was cut, and as supple as a serpent...its intersection of bass/guitar/drums with similarly percussive piano & vocals + alternately percussive/floating strings, remains a standard too easily forgotten - particularly since disco (unlike “soul” or “funk”) remains lethally mired in irony....which tends to gloss over the simple fact that some of the very best recordings of the mid/late seventies just happened to belong to that particular genre.

Admittedly...Chic’s earliest were nothing more than hungry trend-hopping - as I’m sure they'd be the first to admit. But, from “Fuck Off” on - classily restructured as “Le Freak” - they were simply unbeatable. And, to be sure, that album (their second) had its share of filler... But their next - this one - was pure gold...from start to finish...

Chic’s particular secret - aside from their truly unnerving & yet never inhuman perfection - was to combine the sophistication of Gamble & Huff’s orchestral Philadelphia soul w/the Godfather’s “everything is a drum” approach, that initially delivered funk from soul in the first place. Stripping the strings back to a floating/percussive quartet, they then borrowed Brown's innovative use of piano from the break of “Sex Machine” - undoubtedly the least imitated moment of his late 60s work - honed the drum-line down to something that absolutely anyone could dance to - via the genius of Tony Thompson - and reconfigured the complexity of the best funk & disco onto Edwards & Rogers’ bass/guitar interplay. The result was a form that influenced every genuinely interesting rhythm player active in the period. Without exception…

And, there’s more to this set than just the good times…. Other treasured moments include the sensual strut of “My Feet Keep Keep Dancing”, interrupted as it is by a truly sublime bass/tapdancing break that viscerally connects w/the very roots of Afro-American rhythm. Or the near - N.O. funk of “Can't Stand to Love You”. And then, there are the “ballads” - if you can call them that - sophisticatedly minimalist & hypnotic pieces that effortlessly suspend time, they are basically forgotten today...as is everything bar the samples. Look, if you only own one “disco” album, then this genuinely ought to be it. Forget the compilations and, just try - please - the very greatest album this overly-ironicized genre produced. Because it’s a goddamn masterpiece.




John Henry Calvinist