Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Risque," Chic (1979)

At some point around the time of this year's appearance by Nile Rodgers at this year's Grammy Awards - I can't remember if it was during the show, or in an interview shortly afterward - it was said that Chic would be recording a new album.

On the one hand, that's welcome news.  But on the other, it isn't really possible, because there is no Chic without bassist Bernard Edwards, and Edwards died in 1996.

As great a guitarist as Nile Rodgers was in Chic (and remains today), the sound of Chic revolved around the bass lines of Bernard Edwards.  In a way, the band turned the traditional band structure on its head - Edwards on bass played the lead, with Rodgers on guitar providing the rhythm.

"Risque" was their best album, and of course "Good Times" was their masterpiece.  At the time (and even now) it may have sounded like nothing more than the best disco song of its time, but let's consider for a moment the words of Dave Marsh:

"Good Times" perfectly captures the heady, disintegrating atmosphere of New York in the late seventies, as both local and national government abandoned any hope of social equity and opened the door for the ruthless laissez-faire heyday of upper- and lower-class criminality that characterized the eighties.  "Good Times! mind...," sing Alfa Anderson and Norma Jean Thompson as if they've learned to grit their teeth by rote, while Nile Rodgers' nasty guitar zips in and out like a premonition of the nasty crack-and-Contra era to come, and Bernard Edwards throbs underneath, imperturbable as he is implacable."

Get out on the dance floor...good times, indeed.  Sound familiar?

Christgau: A-.  "Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers proved on Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" that hedonism and its discontents, the inevitable focus of disco's meaningfulness moves, is a subject worth opening up. Here, "Good Times" and "My Feet Keep Dancing" surround the sweetly romantic "Warm Summer Night" in a rueful celebration of escape that's all the more suggestive for its unquenchable good cheer. Side two's exploration of romance and its agonies also has a fatalistic tint, but in the end the asides and rhythmic shifts (as well as the lyrics themselves) give rue the edge over celebration. Subtle, intricate, kinetic, light but not mindless--in short, good to dance to."

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