Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers made it all seem so effortless. They scored smash after smash, while sending unknown acts like Sister Sledge onto world domination. Mega-stars came clamoring for a sprinkle of Chic's magic; when Miles Davis wanted a career reboot, he asked Rodgers to, "Write me a motherfucking 'Good Times.'" In other words: a humongous hit.
Le Freak revisits some of Chic's best imitators. It's a worthwhile exercise, not least because so much of the music included here flew under the radar. By the '80s, Chic's brand of funky disco was becoming less popular with the mainstream, which meant Chic copyists achieved little more than cult popularity. Joey Negro's a perfect candidate to compile such a project. The Z Records owner is, after all, one of the most knowledgeable disco nerds on the planet. A good example of Le Freak's M.O. is Ann Margret's "Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes." Margret was a notable Swedish-American actress whose music had been in the charts since the '60s. In 1981, coming off the back of a big disco hit, she was paired with guitarist and producer Paul Sabu, who delivered a storming Rodgers-esque guitar workout. The record only scraped the charts, but killed in the clubs. (Margret performed at The Paradise Garage and the instrumental of "Everybody..." was a favorite of Larry Levan's.)
Luther Vandross was an act directly linked to Chic. He started as backing singer in the group before striking out on his own. In 1980, he was recruited by Michael Zager Band, who were looking to adapt their high-paced disco into a more soulful, slower sound. "Don't Sneak On Me," included here, has the hallmarks of a Chic classic with the added bonus of Luther's inimitable voice. Italian producers Change were one of the few groups that really nailed the Chic sound. It helped that their rotating line-up included ex-Chic personnel (Vandross, Jocelyn Brown and Fonzi Thornton) on vocals. But it was Change's ability to recapture Chic's sense of glamour and celebration that made them more than a copycat act. "Heaven Of My Life" isn't the best Change song, but is no less an example of what made them one of the greatest post-disco acts of the '80s.
Also worth a look is "Loves Gonna Be On Your Side," a fantastic track by Italian trio Firefly. This one is funky Italian disco free from the clichéd brashness of Italo. In fact, everything on Le Freak is worth a listen if you are in any way a Chic fan. Even the modern tracks from Ultra Nate and Sunburst Band, which seem slightly unnecessary among the excellent older songs, are still enjoyable. They round off a solid, well-curated package of disco-funk.
Fri / 11 Dec 2015
01. Ann Margret - Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes (Part One)
02. Delegation - Heartache No. 9 (Special Remix Version)
03. Van Jones - Not About That (Show Me Some Respect)
04. Firefly - Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side
05. Charanga 76 - Good Times (Como Vamos A Gozar)
06. Michael Zager Band feat. Luther Vandross - Don't Sneak On Me
07. GQ - Shake
08. Change - Heaven Of My Life
09. Odyssey - Together
10. Nightlife Unlimited - Let's Do It Again
11. She - Easy Money
12. Ultra Naté - New Kind Of Medicine (Original Extended Vocal Mix)
13. Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band - The Secret Life Of Us (The Reflex Revision)