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Back Tracks: CHIC

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It’s a crime that when you talk about CHIC, many of the players who made up arguably the greatest band of the disco era aren’t alive to hear your words of praise. Bernard Edwards, CHIC’s bassist and co-producer, died in 1997; drummer Tony Thompson passed away in 2003. Nile Rodgers, guitarist, co-producer and keeper of the CHIC flame, could easily have met the same early fate had he not been lucky enough to discover the cancer that he’s been since late last year. (Rodgers, one of the best users of the Internet to connect with fans, has kept readers entertained and informed with his Walking on Planet C blog since the start of the year, and will release his memoir, Le Freak, in the fall.)

The other day at Second Disc HQ, we were reminded by our good friend Eric Luecking of Record Racks that another member of the CHIC Organization had passed away: Raymond Jones, who played piano and keyboards on “Le Freak,” “Good Times” and “We Are Family,” succumbed to pneumonia earlier this month at the too-young age of 52. (Jones also worked with the Tom Tom Club and Jeffrey Osbourne, writing “Stay with Me Tonight” for the latter.)

In honor of Jones and all the other members of the CHIC Organization who are not here to enjoy our expressions of love and respect for their music, today’s Back Tracks takes a look at the music of CHIC and the many reissues and compilations that have been released all over the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

July 20, 2011 at 17:43

Everybody Dance! Japan Gets New CHIC Compilation

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As a celebration of being cancer-free, CHIC guitarist and producer extraordinaire Nile Rodgers announced today that Warner Japan was releasing a new compilation of material that spans both his work with the legendary disco band and in the producer’s chair.

Everybody Dance!, billed as “a tribute to my longtime partner Bernard Edwards” on the front cover (it’s approaching the 15th anniversary of the bassist’s death), is a two-disc set full of hits, one new track – and one absolute oddity. Disc 1, the “CHIC side,” collects the biggest hits and favorite tracks from every CHIC record, including “Good Times,” “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” “My Feet Keep Dancing” and more. (One would expect the quality to be relatively pristine, with much of this material remastered for Rhino France’s excellent CHIC box from last year.) Disc 2 is the “producer side,” featuring major hits from the usual suspects (Madonna, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Duran Duran) and a few obscure Rodgers-produced singles for Thompson Twins, Al Jarreau and the Coming to America soundtrack. One new track, “I Wanna Dance,” is present, featuring Rodgers with Kool & The Gang.

It looks to be an excellent set – but there’s one very weird occurrence in the track list. The penultimate track on Disc 2 is David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of “Dancing in the Street” from 1985, a track that was not primarily produced by Rodgers, but British hitmakers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Rodgers is listed on the original single under “additional production,” but this author doesn’t consider it a full Rodgers work – and seeing as how it was licensed from another label, it only costs Warner more money.

Regardless, Everybody Dance! should be a hit when it’s released in Japan on April 6. Hit the jump to check out the track list. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 1, 2011 at 16:51

Reissue Theory: Aretha Franklin, “Sweet Passion: The Lost Atlantic Years”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on great albums and the reissues they could someday see. Aretha Franklin began her groundbreaking stint at Atlantic Records in 1967 and it wasn’t long before a legendary star was in the ascendant. Yet the final chapter of Aretha’s Atlantic story has been all but forgotten.  Today’s Reissue Theory takes us back to 1974 as we revisit the “lost albums” of Aretha Franklin.

There are plenty of adjectives that can be used to describe Aretha Franklin. Columbia Records used a great many of them for early album titles: tender, moving, swinging, electrifying. Heck, let’s add the title of her Dinah Washington tribute: Unforgettable. Atlantic described her on a 1968 album as Lady Soul, while a 1971 LP was entitled Young, Gifted and Black. The young, gifted, unforgettable Queen of Soul has no doubt been well-represented in the compact disc era. After innumerable compilations, Legacy last week released the remarkable box set Take a Look collecting Franklin’s entire Columbia output (a review is forthcoming). Rhino reissued Franklin’s Atlantic tenure from 1967-1974 as individual discs and also anthologized the artist’s best with a box set, 1992’s Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings. But even that four-disc treasure trove all but ignores the final five studio albums recorded by Aretha Franklin for Atlantic between November 1974 and September 1979.

Franklin’s last five Atlantic releases have never appeared on CD, which remains quite staggering considering the magnitude of the artist and the importance of her groundbreaking Atlantic catalogue. With Everything I Feel in Me (1974), You (1975), Sweet Passion (1977), Almighty Fire (1978) and La Diva (1979) each have something unique to offer even if they don’t stack up to the peak Atlantic LPs. But then again, what albums could live up to the lofty heights of I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You or Lady Soul? With that in mind, today’s Reissue Theory presents the hypothetical Sweet Passion: The Lost Atlantic Years. Our three-CD box set collecting these five albums features a “Who’s Who” of songwriter and producers, among them Lamont Dozier, Jerry Wexler, Curtis Mayfield, Barry Mann, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Van McCoy, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. True, none of these LPs were pop smashes, but all were successful on the R&B charts (the first three going Top Ten) and most importantly, all have something to offer not only for fans of Aretha but all pop and soul enthusiasts.

If you’re not familiar with these albums, you’re in for a treat. And if you don’t know the story of the tantalizing almost-collaboration (or was it?) between Aretha Franklin and CHIC, look no further. Hit the jump to begin our exploration of Aretha Franklin’s Sweet Passion: The Lost Atlantic Years! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 30, 2011 at 15:10

The Year in Reissues, Part III: The Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Well, another New Year is in sight, the CD still isn’t dead (told you so!) and celebration is in the air at The Second Disc. Back on December 23, Mike shared The Year in Reissues both here and over with our pals at Popdose. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks until you read these indispensable columns!

Are you back with me? Good. Now, I’d like to take this opportunity to take a fun look back at a few of my favorite things via Joe’s Gold Bonus Disc Awards! I’m awarding these to the reissues that have raised the bar over the past 12 months. You’ll notice a number of titles that have already been praised by Mike, as well as new entries, but overall, I’ve simply tried to recognize as many diverse, worthy releases as possible. It’s my sincere hope, though, that you’ll take a chance on a title previously unknown to you; all of the artists, producers, and labels mentioned here have kept great music alive in 2010.

Friends, as always, please share your thoughts and comments below. Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2010’s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

New U.K. Sister Sledge Comp is Another Way to Get Your CHIC On

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If you love Rhino France’s new CHIC box set as much as we do here at The Second Disc HQ (expect a review up in a few days or so), here’s another title you’ll probably enjoy: the Music Club Deluxe label in the U.K. is releasing a new two-disc compilation for Sister Sledge.

Sister Sledge, indeed comprised of Philadelphia-based sisters named Sledge (Kim, Debbi, Joni and Kathy), were a moderately successful R&B/dance group in the Atlantic label group (first signing to Atco, then Cotillion) that spent the mid-1970s releasing a handful of singles and records that earned them moderate chart success in the U.K. but little else. Just when their fortunes seemed bleak, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of CHIC picked them from the entire Atlantic family to produce a new record. Riding high off the sonic perfection of C’est CHIC (1978) and about to have another hit with Risque (1979) and “Good Times,” CHIC backed up Sister Sledge on the whole album and provided choice cuts like “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” “Lost in Music,” and the anthemic title track “We Are Family,” all of which topped the U.S. Dance charts.

Sledge and CHIC cut one more album, 1980’s Love Somebody Today, before working with up-and-comer Narada Michael Walden on All-American Girls (1981). Though the hits would not come as quickly in the post-disco age (save for “Frankie,” a U.K. No. 1 hit produced by Nile Rodgers), a fair amount of remixes and samples (most notably Will Smith’s chart-topping “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” in 1998) have kept the band’s sound alive to the present day.

This double-disc set will feature all the biggest hits and album tracks (many in their original 7″ single edits) as well as a few remixes, notably Rodgers and Edwards’ 1984 remix of “Lost in Music” and the hit “Sure is Pure” remix of “We Are Family.” The set will be available on December 13 in British shops; order it here and check the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2010 at 11:22

Release Round-Up: Week of October 19

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It’s hard to believe The Second Disc has never done an ongoing round-up of all the reissues, remasters, compilations and box sets. (Perhaps it felt redundant? Everyone does it.) But sometimes there’s just so much stuff to consider – especially with the holiday season fast approaching – so it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and give you, the treasured reader, a comprehensive list of what’s coming out in the catalogue world this week.

The Beatles, The Beatles 1962-1966/ The Beatles 1967-1970 (Apple/EMI)

The Fab Four have their most famous compilations – the Red and Blue albums, originally released in 1973 – remastered and reissued to fit alongside your batch of Beatles remasters from last year. These two-disc sets will include expanded liner notes adding a new set of essays by author Bill Flanagan and rare photos. (Amazon links: Red and Blue)

Bob Dylan, The Original Mono Recordings / The Best of the Original Mono Recordings / The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 (Columbia/Legacy)

A trove of Dylan music is coming your way this week. Legacy’s releasing a box set of Dylan’s first eight studio LPs (from 1962’s self-titled debut to 1967’s John Wesley Harding) as well as a compilation of highlights from the box (with the mono mix of non-LP track “Positively 4th Street,” which is being offered as a download with the box set). And there’s a new entry in The Bootleg Series – a collection of early demos, featuring several previously unreleased songs. Anyone who pre-ordered the box or the demo set on Amazon got a free extra disc of a live show recorded at Brandeis University in 1963; they’re now available as exclusive editions on Amazon now. (Amazon links: The Original Mono Recordings, The Best of the Original Mono Recordings, The Witmark Demos)

CHIC, Nile Rodgers Presents The CHIC Organization, Volume 1: Savoir Faire (Rhino France)

Right now, the best reason to want to live in France (besides the art and architecture) is the easier acquisition of this box set, a four-disc set personally assembled and curated by CHIC guitarist/co-founder Rodgers. It features the best of CHIC’s singles and disco mixes, plus tracks Rodgers and Bernard Edwards produced for Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Carly Simon and Johnny Mathis and additional rarities and unreleased material (including some swell new remixes produced by Dimitri from Paris). Hopefully Volume 2 (or a domestic release of Volume 1) can’t be far behind. (Amazon link)

There’s more after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

October 19, 2010 at 12:12

…And These ARE the Contents of the CHIC Box Set

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Hot off the presses, folks. Thanks to super-reader RoyalScam for the tip back in this post. Hit the jump for some good times!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 17, 2010 at 09:16

This May Be the Contents of the CHIC Box: Or, Can Anyone Speak Japanese?

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Thanks to funk ambassador Donald Cleveland for this tip: a Japanese Web site called Disk Union has published what looks like a preliminary track list for Warner France’s upcoming CHIC box set.

Though it’s not final – and the other text, being loosely translated from Japanese to English, isn’t quite coherent or more descriptive than anything else we’ve read, it looks like some genuine rarities are going to be in this set, including excerpts from one particularly tantalizing unreleased CHIC-produced album (not the one with Johnny Mathis, sadly…).

Hit the jump to get the goods.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 14, 2010 at 15:34

Posted in Box Sets, CHIC, News, Reissues

C’est CHIC, Indeed: More Nile Rodgers Box Set Details Released

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If you’ve followed the legendary producer/CHIC co-founder Nile Rodgers on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve no doubt realized that he’s been combing through his archives for some projects, including his autobiography and a forthcoming box set chronicling The CHIC Organization and its productions. Finally, news of the latter has broke from someone other than Rodgers himself: Rhino France, through their Facebook page, has issued the first details about Nile Rodgers Presents The CHIC Organization Vol. 1: Savoir Faire.

Due for release on October 18, the label promises to include music from CHIC, Norma Jean, Sister Sledge, Sheila & B Devotion, Diana Ross, Fonzi Thornton “and many more surprises to come.” In addition to a wealth of unreleased material spread over four discs, the set will include some new remixes by producer Dmitri from Paris; Rhino France has released a two-minute teaser of his new mix of Norma Jean’s “Saturday.” (Dmitri from Paris is a notable remixer because he usually eschews new instruments or overdubs for creative reuse of the existing material, so anyone fearing an overly revisionist remix has nothing to worry about, really.)

Not surprisingly, there’s no word yet on an American equivalent or release, but The Second Disc will surely bring you more info as it comes. Ahhhhh, freak out!

Written by Mike Duquette

September 7, 2010 at 11:38

Posted in Box Sets, CHIC, News, Reissues

Reissue Theory: Various Artists – “Soup for One: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

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There may not be enough positive words to write about Nile Rodgers. The sole surviving member of The CHIC Organization (which included bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson), Rodgers helped shape the sound of late ’70s and early ’80s pop and R&B, either as a performer with CHIC, a producer – often alongside Edwards – for Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna and others or even as a sampled artist (see The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” two of the best rap records ever).

It’s probably that CHIC stuff that gets the least recognition, it seems, at least on compact disc. A few of the band’s original LPs have only recently been reissued on CD by Wounded Bird Records. Some have still inexplicably never been remastered – notably C’est CHIC and Risque, their two biggest and best albums – but one of the most interesting of their offerings has never been released on CD.

The 1982 film Soup for One was a sex comedy that is, by many accounts, total crap. Far less crappy was the soundtrack, to which CHIC and associated artists extensively contributed. There were ten CHIC performances or productions in the film and eight of them were included on the original soundtrack. None of the songs were “Le Freak”-sized hits in the U.S. – despite some intriguing collaborations with Teddy Pendergrass and CHIC vocalist Fonzi Thornton (the two Thornton songs featured in the film were taken from his never-released solo record Frostbite) – but “Why,” a killer groove track sung by Carly Simon, was a Top 10 hit overseas and is now considered one of her best-loved songs.

Perhaps Wounded Bird will serve up Soup for One someday; until then, though, here’s a look at how it would go down Reissue Theory-style. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 22, 2010 at 00:58

Posted in CHIC, Features, Reissues, Soundtracks

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