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C'est Chic

Atlantic 19209
Released: November 1978
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 48
Certified Platinum: 12/27/78

Tony ThompsonBernard EdwardsNile RodgersNo sah, no sah, no sah! Chic rocketed to the top with their very first single, "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," and followed that with another hit, "Everybody Dance." But they trip badly with their second LP. Monotony has set in in every one of these arrangements.

Worse, the opening song, "Chic Cheer" ("Give me a C," etc.), is so self-serving that it's embarrassing. That's what's wrong with the whole album; it's precious, filled with material that shouts "Look at us! We've made it!" And it's rarely fun to dance to. Two exceptions are the album's best number, "Sometimes You Win," and about half of the overlong (or underimaginative) "I Want Your Love," but neither is worth getting the whole package for.

- Edward Buxbaum, Stereo Review, 2/79.

Bonus Reviews!

Although "Le Freak," already a disco, soul and Top 40 hit, is the standout cut of the eight songs offered, the band proves it is able to work in styles other than disco. "Savoir Faire" features some nimble guitar work reminiscent of George Benson, and "At Last I'm Free" is a straightforward soul ballad. The rest is disco saved from being run-of-the-mill by the vocals of Alfa Anderson, Bernard Edwards, Diva Gray, Luci Martin, David Lasley and Luther Vandross. Best cuts: "Le Freak," "Happy Man," "Chic Cheer," "Savoir Faire."

- Billboard, 1978.

The hooky cuts are more jingles than songs, the interludes more vamps than breaks, and I won't dance, so don't ask me. Well, maybe if you're really nice. B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

C'est Chic catches Chic at the height of the late 70s dance era. With both Alfa Anderson and Norma Jean Wright still on vocal duties, and Luther Vandross' sublime backing help, Chic spawned their best LP and two hugely popular songs, "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "Le Freak." * * * 1/2

-Bryan Lassner, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were two struggling New York musicians who were inspired by Roxy Music to put together a soul group who could be avante garde as well as polished. Atlantic Records half-heartedly issued some singles, but once "Dance Dance Dance" charted they soon got serious. C'est Chic was the result -- a smooth but strong, jazz-funk long-player that was as suave as any Armani or Fiorucci collection. However, under the silky bittersweet vocals lay th epower of Edwards' insistent bass, blasting horns and Rodgers' choppy guitar. The jittery hit "Le Freak" started as a jam about being turned away by Studio 54 (the "Freak out!" chorus had initially been a two-word obscenity), but it soon evolved into one of their best basslines. Once brass, strings and words -- about dancing, of course -- had been added, it became their third international hit, swiftly followed into the listings by another C'est Chic cut, "I Want Our Love." C'est Chic undoubtedly influenced Madonna, the Pet Shop Boys, George Michael's Wham and many others, and even now, it continues to live up to its mocking, self-congratulatory title.

- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.

Modern dance music is indebted to Chic. Influenced by Roxy Music and Kiss as much as R&B, Nile Rodgers (guitar), Bernard Edwards (bass), and Tony Thompson (drums) were the disco era's key band: musicians who created a fluid, hypnotic groove that resonate today.

C'est Chic was their second and biggest LP, propelled by two Top Ten U.S. singles. "I Want Your Love" is an elegant study in heartbreak, its four-note signature echoed by horns, bells, strings, and yearning female vocals, while the core trio worked their magic in support. Joel Brodsky's cover portrait may have suggested a bunch of upwardly mobile go-getters, but there was fervent emotion beneath that cool exterior.

Rodgers' clipped, chicken-scratch riffing on euphoric chart-topper "Le Freak" anticipated the post-punk guitar style that hordes continue to pilfer today, while Edwards' chunky bassline was ripe for sampling by the nascent rap scene. The remaining tracks showed an extraordinary range and confidence, encompassing twilight balladry ("At Last I Am Free"), party-hearty exhortation ("Chic Cheer"), cinematic instrumentalism ("Savoir Faire"), and sheer eccentricity ("[Funny] Bone").

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:

Single Review:
"Le Freak"

Single Review:
"Good Times"

Article: Nile Rodgers

Chic Lyrics

Chic Videos

Album Reviews:
"70's Black Music -
A Consumer Guide"

Sadly, Chic's next album, the exquisitely melancholy Risqué, was their last major success. America's cultural climate had grown hostile, fueled by the poisonous -- and implicitly racist -- "disco sucks" campaign. Ironically, the same people who staged mass burnings of Chic records would later enjoy disco hits by Queen, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, and The Clash.

- Manish Agarwal, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Chic are the disco band to which rockers, hip-hoppers, soul fans and funkateers all give props, and for good reason: Guitarist Nile Rodgers, bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson comprised one of the tightest and most influential rhythm sections of the last thirty years.

The group's second and most popular album, 1978's C'est Chic, is also its most consistently satisfying. Inspired by Rodgers and Edwards being barred entrance at celebrity disco Studio 54, "Le Freak" (original title: "Fuck Off") boasts some of the most angular instrumental interplay this side of James Brown, and it became Atlantic Records' best-selling single ever. The follow-up "I Want Your Love" swirls around a tricky horn-and-strings riff that builds and builds until the track practically levitates. (Both hits feature a young Luther Vandross belting in the background.) "Chic Cheer" provides a titanium groove eventually sampled for Faith Evans' "Love Like This." The real surprise is the seven-minute ballad "At Last I Am Free," soon covered by prog-rock iconclast Robert Wyatt: As Chic vocalist Alfa Anderson aches at a relationship's end, Edwards spins supremely melodic bass lines that flesh out sorrows the skeletal lyrics only suggest.

Chic's final pop blockbuster, 1979's "Good Times," inspired both Queen's improbably funky "Another One Bites the Dust" and the Sugarhill Gang's early hip-hop milestone "Rapper's Delight," while the core trio's production, songwriting and playing skills went on to ignite the Eighties sound of David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, the B-52's and others. Although Edwards died in 1996 and Thompson in 2003, Chic's legacy of studio sophistication and rhythmic sass grooves on. * * * * 1/2

- Barry Walters, Rolling Stone, 9/8/05.

Most musicians heard disco and sneered. The slick band called Chic found joy in its repetitions, and with this album created a blueprint for a tonier, upmarket disco style that depended upon serious musicianship.

Chic could play the same four-measure vamp for an hour and keep it riveting. That's because it was, above all, a real band. Guitarist Niles Rodgers fitted Memphis-style chicken-scratching rhythm guitar to disco rhythms. Bassist Bernard Edwards popped his way up and down the fretboard, often handling the melodies (check the opener "Chic Cheer" for a hint of how powerful he could be in this role). Drummer Tony Thompson's patterns were as effective as those from a drum machine, but infused with heart. It didn't matter what else was happening -- elaborate string parts, the cool vocals of Norma Jean Wright, layers of keyboards -- because the core locomotion was so strong. (Rappers got it right away: The Sugar Hill Gang appropriated the rhythm loop of Chic's 1979 hit "Good Times" for its signature "Rapper's Delight.")

That flamboyant locomotion is the reason to seek C'est Chic, the band's second album. It's got the massive hit "Le Freak," and severaly equally exciting tracks, including "Savoir Faire" and "I Want Your Love," which might just be the grabbiest dance floor anthem ever.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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