Chic – 1978 – C’est Chic
A bright, shining example of what mass-produced, intelligent dance music should be.
This is one of the top 5 disco albums and a pinnacle from the best band since the big band era. It exploded with confidence and talent to spare onto an unsuspecting audience who had benignly liked the group’s first lp. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards seemed ready to discard conventions in pop music and had the skill to achieve this goal. Even the album cover was unique, listing the song titles on the front and depicting the band in the cool, detached, stylish way that became their trademark for a while.
The music didn’t depend on the personality of the vocalists; rather, the group was conceived to be an organic whole. Instrumental and semi-instrumental tracks were heard alongside songs with chanted verses; song construction and arrangement had the string section not just creating a backdrop but often carrying the melody. The guitar assumed rhythm duties; at times the bass played melody. The interplay of guitar and bass was well served with a bedrock of solid drumming and piano playing (witness “I Want Your Love“, “Chic Cheer“). The arrangements were unconventional but subtle.
Much has been said about “Le Freak” a huge hit in 1978. A hard sell to the label suits, it ended up an anthem of the times, serving multiple duty as disco hit, dance step hallmark, and banner for the socially disenfranchised who were being edged off the very club floors they created by increasing numbers of suburban dancers. More remarkable is “I Want Your Love” a perfection of a song that works in the clubs, on the radio, in the living room, and especially in the bedroom. Seductive and plaintive, it is one of the most gorgeous, well crafted recordings ever.
A1 Chic Cheer 4:42
A2 Le Freak 5:23
A3 Savoir Faire 5:01
A4 Happy Man 4:17
B1 I Want Your Love 6:45
B2 At Last I Am Free 7:08
B3 Sometimes You Win 4:26
B4 (Funny) Bone 3:41
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Released in 1978, just as disco began to peak, C’est Chic and its pair of dancefloor anthems, “Le Freak” and “I Want Your Love“, put Chic at the top of that dizzying peak. The right album at the right time, C’est Chic is essentially a rehash of Chic, the group’s so-so self-titled debut from a year earlier. That first album also boasted a pair of floor-filling anthems, “Dance Dance Dance” and “Everybody Dance“, and, like C’est Chic, it filled itself out with a mix of disco and ballads.
So, essentially, C’est Chic does everything its predecessor did, except it does so masterfully: each side similarly gets its timeless floor-filler (“Le Freak“, “I Want Your Love“), quiet storm come-down (“Savoir Faire“, “At Last I Am Free“), feel-good album track (“Happy Man“, “Sometimes You Win“), and moody album capper (“Chic Cheer“, “[Funny] Bone“).
Producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers were quite a savvy pair and knew that disco was as much a formula as anything. As evidenced here, they definitely had their fingers on the pulse of the moment, and used their perceptive touch to craft one of the few truly great disco albums. In fact, you could even argue that C’est Chic very well may be the definitive disco album. After all, countless artists scored dancefloor hits, but few could deliver an album this solid, and nearly as few could deliver one this epochal as well. C’est Chic embodies everything wonderful and excessive about disco at its pixilated peak. It’s anything but subtle with its at-the-disco dancefloor mania and after-the-disco bedroom balladry, and Edwards and Rodgers are anything but whimsical with their disco-ballad-disco album sequencing and pseudo-jet-set Euro poshness. Chic would follow C’est Chic with “Good Times“, the group’s crowning achievement, but never again would Edwards and Rodgers assemble an album as perfectly calculated as C’est Chic.
BBC Review by Daryl Easlea
Chic were a cut above, dressed in suits, and run like a business (the Chic Organization Ltd). They married the voices of Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin with the chorus vocals of Luther Vandross and David Lasley with their watertight grooves. And C’est Chic is one of the best albums of the 70s. That it was labelled disco is something of a red herring: this was just the fortune/misfortune of timing. The genre made Chic more popular than their wildest dreams, yet cast them into the wilderness abruptly when it fell from fashion.
This disco didn’t suck. Cool to the point of glacial, rhythmic to the point of metronomic, C’est Chic was one of the last great dance records before the machines took over. Leaders Bernard Edwards (bass) and Nile Rodgers (guitar) had been leading double lives for the previous few years, acting as disco session sidemen while playing in blues-rocking new-wave combos at night with their drummer Tony Thompson. They knew how to play and to put on a show – which is what C’est Chic is. It starts with its overture – Chic Cheer – and takes us all the way through to its jiving, comic closer, (Funny) Bone.
For many, the album will always be about Le Freak. It remains the biggest-selling single in Atlantic‘s history. Next time you’re throwing a shape to it a family do, just listen to its craft. But the shimmering gem is the propulsive, muted funk of I Want Your Love. In its full 6:45 mix, it is arguably the Chic Organization Ltd’s greatest work; when it breaks to the guitar, chased by the horns and then the strings, the group create something truly mesmeric. Add in Rodgers’ recollection of a Black Panther rally turned into a love ballad by Edwards, At Last I Am Free, and the joyous Happy Man and you’re quite content to hum along to the relative filler of Savoir Faire.
C’est Chic isn’t even Chic’s best album (that was their next one, Risqué) but it is a bright, shining example of what mass-produced, intelligent dance music should be.
Forty years old at the time of writing, it remains irresistible.