THE RETRO // CHIC SINGLES COLLECTION BOXSET
Originally published on the short lived blog for mega emporium The Retro
Chic are the ultimate disco band, so when reissuing their singles collection back in 2013 the only rightful way to do it was the ultimate disco way – a collection of 5 x 12″ records documenting the outfit’s finest singles from 1977 – 1992, all housed in fittingly retro sleeves and perfect for throwing onto the decks at any ’70s revival party – or just secretly in the comfort of your bedroom in your surburban British home.
In the past year or so, the outfit have emerged back into prominence with Nile Rodgers remaining at the helm and struck back just last month with a single that could’ve easily slotted in with anything on this release – a move not many could have determined, but rewinding back to 1970 or so, even less could’ve determined the impact of the 10 tracks in this set; After a troubled childhood in the backstreets of The Bronx with young jazz-obsessed junkie parents – a cliché rock backstory like any other – Nile Rodgers had turned to music, discovered a raging talent for it and ended up as a session musician in the Sesame Street stage show alongside the unfathomable bass talent of Bernard Edwards. As you’d expect in retrospect of the events, the duo quickly grew together, outgrew the Cookie Monster & co. and formed their The Big Apple Band working relentlessly behind singers of the time, recruited a drummer – Tony Thompson, formed another funk band by the name of The Boys, and, 7 years later, eventually settled on the title, ‘Chic’ -bringing us nicely up to where this compilation begins with ‘Dance, Dance, Dance [Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah]’, a track that instantly lays out the manifesto for the rest of Chic’s lifespan – dancing, love, and the instantly recognisable riffs of Nile Rodgers permeating the music.
Keeping with the theme, this is backed with ‘Everybody Dance’, a track that instantly introduces the pouding bass of Bernard Edwards to the floor whilst becoming one of the outfit’s signature singalongs by way of lucious vocal hamonies featuring the likes of Norma Jean Wright and Luther Vandross – not to mention a sprinkling of infectious ‘do do do’‘s and soaring strings making the 8 and a half minute epic a carefree slice of sheer refined disco talents.
Next up, ‘Le Freak’, a song that is no doubt placed next to disco in the dictionary by way of definition, is the hit and in 2015 it still sounds like the hit, proving completely irresistable to sing along to from the count in. Driven by possibly the most earcatching riff ever dreamed up by Rodgers’ Stratocaster and the musical frustration of being rejected from Studio 54 on New Years Eve – a sacrifice seemingly worth it 36 years later, it is still clearly evident why the single is Atlantic Records biggest ever selling record, from the grooves of Edwards’ bass to the pinpoint accurately induced harmonies carrying lyrics of freedom, the track is 6 minutes that cannot be bettered by much else in the current universe when it comes to uniting anyone and everyone in a sheer sense of musical delight, and deservedly so.
Bringing the unignorable funk – and possibly marking the high point of this collection when combined with ‘Le Freak’ on the same record, ‘I Want Your Love’ comes bringing a brief bit of restbite from the topic of dancing and conjures up a dabble of romance by way of boasting arguably the best bassline of the lot. With lyrics providing some degree of relation to just about anyone on the planet at some point, the track captures a reach out further than the dance inducers of the past and provides an underlying tone of melancholy within the sighs of vocal, yet as Rodgers cutting guitar shines through, paving the way for horns and church bells, it still manages to prove foot tap worthy at the very least.
‘Chic Cheer’ follows, acting as a rollcall to the outfit taking on a thinner instrumentation and a straight to the point frame of mind – this clocks the shortest track of the set at a ‘mere’ 4:43 – with the relentless shuffle rhythms of Thompson on drums chugging along whilst Rodgers’ instantly catchy guitar motif inevitably claims immediate attention between interjections of bass breakdown and simply effective chants of “Chic Chic”.
Instantly picking up the dancefloor hit card once again comes ‘Good Times’, a track so well executed it remains to be sampled and emulated on absolutely everything it possibly can and has been for the past 30 years. With the bassline an undeniable focus, the shimmers of piano and string stabs subtly rest in the background edging the track forward whilst the lyrics – guaranteed to be sung by everyone within ears distance at any given time – dicuss and induce the namesake, only making it instantly more enjoyable listening.
Closely following in the bass rankings, ‘My Forbidden Lover’ adopts a fair dose of Edwards’ genius in the low end, leaving Rodgers free to dive over the top with instant clashes of guitar that juxtapose perfectly with the honeyed vocals and forming another combination impossible to stop from spinning around your mind for some time.
‘My Feet Keep Dancing’ gives the set a brief return to the less frantic realms telling a tale of an unstoppable dance with the combined duo vocals proving enough to build the song up until the climax of an unarguably original recorded tap routine from esteemed Broadway dancer Fayard Nicholas, a breakdown that works far better than any instrument and truly assures the track lives up to it’s name.
Penultimately comes lost early 80s gem ‘Hangin” with a distinctly new pristine sound featuring snapping drums from Thompson, a collection of infectious horns and even dubious sparkles of synth that leads perfectly into the seemingly oddball closer of 92’s ‘Chic Mystique’ – the 12″ extended mix, naturally – with an eerily synth heavy intro and sharp throwbacks to ‘Le Freak’ showing the full force of the 80s development on the outfit, yet somehow proving even when they’d almost ditched the guitar in favour of drum machines, keys and samples, the band could be undeniably ‘Chic-y’ and instantly danceable.
With this collection of tracks still proving to be almost lacking in negatives 2 years after it’s release, and a near 40 years to the intial creation and release of most of those featured, Chic’s back catalog still seems ultimately timeless, and probably will be for some time soon, and whilst the outfit’s creations are continually proved to be just as integral and important to music as they always were – bringing a sense of sheer enjoyability that can be replicated by nothing else in current knowledge – it’s hardly surprising the band are back to doing what they do best in the present day – we can only hope the next singles retrospective collection is as half as good as this one.