One of the most popular smooth soul groups of the early ’70s didn’t hail from Philadelphia or Memphis, the two cities known for sweet, string-laden soul. Instead, the Chi-Lites were from Chicago, a town better known for its gritty urban blues and driving RB. Led by vocalist Eugene Record, the Chi-Lites had a lush, creamy sound distinguished by their four-part harmonies and layered productions. During the early ’70s, they racked up 11 Top Ten RB singles, ranging from the romantic ballads “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl” to protest songs like “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People” and “There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table).” All the songs featured Record’s warm, pleading tenor and falsetto, and the majority of the group’s hits were written by Record, often in collaboration with other songwriters like Barbara Acklin.
a1. Yes I’m Ready (If I Don’t Get To Go) 4.14
a2. We Are Neighbors 3.41
a3. I Want To Pay You Back (For Loving Me) 4.41
a4. Have You Seen Her 5.08
a5. Give More Power To The People, (For God’s Sake) 2.58
b1. Love Uprising 2.32
b2. Trouble’s A Comin’ 3.15
b3. You Got Me Walkin’ 2.40
b4. What Do I Wish For 2.48
This is the album that made them huge stars, with the huge hit “Have You Seen Her”, which has to rank very high in my favorite songs of all time. The b-side to that single is also here, “Yes I’m Ready”, and I couldn’t think of a better song to put as the b-side to that soul classic. Overall, i’m not into it quite as much as the next few albums, but there is plenty to enjoy here. It is a unique album in that much of it revolves around social commentary of the day, like the Sly & the Family Stone-esque title track. Also, “I Want To Pay You Back” should’ve been a way bigger hit for the group.
They have been sampled by artists such as Beyonce, Groove Armada and Jay Z. UB40 and The Jam rank among the groups that have covered the Chi-Lites. This is an absolute must for anyone interested in the origins of modern day sampling and the history of Funk/Disco.
Though they boasted one of the sweetest voices in soul music with Eugene Record, the Chi-Lites broke away from that format — thankfully, only slightly — for 1971’s (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People. Influenced by the growing social consciousness of soul music during the early ’70s (especially Sly & the Family Stone and the solo debut of fellow Chicagoan Curtis Mayfield), Record wrote a pair of songs (the title track and “We Are Neighbors”) evoking not only deep frustration but also a plea for hope and unity that challenging times demanded. It certainly didn’t hurt that both were monster productions with raw, aggressive synthesizers, intense lead vocals, and some of the strongest, loudest harmonizing ever heard on a soul record. Doubly ironic and doubly fortunate too that (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People also featured a pair of the Chi-Lites’ sweetest soul ballads, “Have You Seen Her?” and “I Want to Pay You Back,” plus the excellent strollers “Love Uprising” and “You Got Me Walkin’.” The Chi-Lites weren’t exactly album artists, but (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People was a powerful example of early-’70s soul and the best record they ever released.
The record industry was a strange game back in 1969-71. The Chi-Lites had been kicking around for a few years, doing good but not necessarily great Chicago-styled soul before they signed to Brunswick (a label whose 45 labels are among my favorite memories of early adolescence). Their debut album, ?Give It Away,? was a solid effort, though not necessarily memorable. The next year, 1970, the band got funkier, and a new album was rushed out to include singles like ?I Like Your Lovin? (Do You Like Mine?).? It included seven tracks from the album before it, which I guess nobody noticed since the first one didn?t sell much, anyway. Then came 1971, and masterpieces all over the place. ?Have You Seen Her?? ?We Are Neighbors.? And the magnificent ?(For God?s Sake) Give More Power to the People.? The Chi-Lites kept going after that, but never again achieved such a magnificent combination of progressive production, expansive melodies, and exquisite vocal harmonies.