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Risqué
Chic

Atlantic 16003
Released: August 1979
Chart Peak: #5
Weeks Charted: 17
Certified Platinum: 12/6/79

Chic's signature sound -- in which mannequin voices issue cryptic telegrams above a contoured bass, an agitated guitar and unusually light drumming -- is one of the most evocative in all of disco, because it dispenses with such stock ingredients as heavy-breathing eroticism and synthesized gimmickry. It's airy and blank, spare and sometimes forbiddingly austere. Though the sextet's writer-arranger-producers, bassist Bernard Edwards and guitarist Niles Rodgers, claim that entertainment is Chic's sole purpose, the best tunes here reverberate with repressed cosmic anxieties.

The key verse of "Good Times," Risqué's neat-masterpiece, professes: "A rumor has it that it's getting late/Time marches on -- just can't wait/ The clock keeps turning -- why hesitate/You silly fool -- you can't change your fate." In this high-stepping disco anthem and again in the more trancelike "My Feet Keep Dancing," Edwards and Rodgers suggest that the end of the good times may be at hand. Love songs like "Can't Stand to Love You" are similarly ambivalent, since the protagonists appear perpetually addled and adrift in a disco fog. Finally, Chic seems to question the value of fashion itself: this group's music is even chillier and more emotively ambiguous than the high-gloss haute couture photography that inspired it.

- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 11-29-79.

Bonus Reviews!

This is my favorite Chic recording so far, but I still find their music less than easy to dance to. It's slow, first of all, and it tends to have unexpected rhythms that get in the way on the dance floor. Worse, the typical Chic song is weak on melody, putting romantically lush arrangements and hypnotic repetition where the song should be.

"Good Times" is the latest in the group's string of super hits, and it's the best thing Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who write and produce Chic's music, have done yet. As always, the tone is laid-back and elegant, but this time there's a touch of wit added to the cool, classy music. Lyrics such as "Don't be a drag, participate/ Clams on the half shell and roller skates" are not to be sneezed at. My other favorite is "My Feet Keep Dancing," yet another dreamy affair in the Chic mode, but brightened by an arrangement that builds almost subliminally until it takes on a dramatic edge I've never heard from them before. It's a welcome change for music that tends to be, well, too chic.

- Edward Buxbaum, Stereo Review, 12/79.

Chic's third album is a stunning showcase for the work of Rodgers and Edwards, who are fast proving themselves as consummate craftsmen in the classic pop tradition of Phil Spector and Holland/Dozier/Holland. Apart from writing, arranging and producing everything here, they provide a rock-solid musical foundation (with Rodgers' mesmerizing rhythm guitar and Edwards' fluid bass lines) upon which the drums, strings and vocals (soulfully handled by Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin) are built. The result is the crisp, economic and instantly identifiable sound that's exemplified by "Good Times," already a major hit, and "Forbidden Lover." And then there's the ultimate disco anthem, "My Feet keep Dancing," a masterpiece of constructive repetition, with layers of sound adding texture as the tune unwinds. Best cuts: "Good Times," "My Forbidden Lover," "My Feet Keep Dancing," "What About Me."

- Billboard, 1979.

Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers proved on Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" that hedonism and its discontents, the inevitable focus of disco's meaningfulness moves, is a subject worth opening up. Here, "Good Times" and "My Feet Keep Dancing" surround the sweetly romantic "Warm Summer Night" in a rueful celebration of escape that's all the more suggestive for its unquenchable good cheer. Site two's exploration of romance and its agonies also has a fatalistic tint, but in the end the asides and rhythmic shifts (as well as the lyrics themselves) give rue the edge over celebration. Subtle, intricate, kinetic, light but not mindless -- in short, good to dance to. A-

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

Recorded at Kendun Studios, California, The Power Station, and Electric Lady in New York over eight weeks in winter/spring 1979, Risqué is Exhibit A in the case against those who suggest that there was little substance to disco music. The album is the acme of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers' creative partnership. Backed by a budget of $160,000, it remains a widescreen record with widescreen ambitions.

With its jet-engine drone and its achingly gorgeous repetition, "Good Times" is Chic's lasting monument to pop, an iconic re-creation of Depression-era standard "Happy Days Are Here Again." Edwards' 20-note bass refrain came to define not only urban music, but hip hop as well, famously sampled by The Sugarhill Gang in "Rapper's Delight." Although it could be argued that the whole album struggles to live up to that track, it is a fantastically dark listen, with only "A Warm Summer Night" and "Will You Cry (When You Hear This Song)" offering respite among the relentless grooves.

It was released in August 1979, with a full design concept that looked like something from the Hipgnosis stable, its sepia sleeve sat well alongside the other major Atlantic release of the summer, Led Zeppelin's In Through The Out Door. Atlantic even went back to its silver label, a staple of its jazz and R&B roster, as a one-off for the album.

Risqué is a record that dwells on relationships: bleak, unrequited ones, ones tinged with sadism and despair; relationships with the past, and, of course, with the dancefloor. Ornate and detailed, it was soon eclipsed by the "disco sucks" movement.

- Daryl Easlea, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

On Risqué, the dynamic duo of guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards fuse sleek R&B, New Wave, and NYC club flash. "Good Times" is Chic's most prophetic groove -- the story of rap on wax begins here, with the Sugarhill Gang rhyming over it on "Rapper's Delight."

Risqué was chosen as the 414th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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