Few soul bands define an era in the way that Chic do/did. Their bass-led, rhythmically soulful grooves – helmed by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards – became the template for the glitter ball era and though often copied their music was never bettered. What’s strange though – for such an influential and important band – is that there have never been that many reissues of their key albums or, indeed, decent, retrospective compilations…. until now. Last month Rhino’s Original Album series digitalized and boxed up the band’s five most important albums (check out the review in our archive) and now the same label – in conjunction with Music Club – offer a double CD, 37 tracker retrospective.
The pack, rightly dubbed ‘Magnifique’, underlines the point made in the opening line of this review. Here, there’s everything you need to know about Chic. The big tunes (‘Le Freak’, ‘Good Times’, ‘Everybody Dance’ et al) are all here along with lesser known items like ‘Believer’, ‘Something You Can Feel’, ‘Soup For One’ and ‘Sometimes You Win’. You also get the odd oddity – like the instrumental version of ‘Why’ (the B –side to the Carly Simon hit) along with some lovely slowies like ‘Warm Summer Night’ which proved that Nile and Bernie could do mellow with the best. Equally important is the way the notes point out which Chic bits have been sampled by who… and the list is quite remarkable – amongst the plunderers are Luther Vandross (an original Chic sessioneer, of course), Faith Evans, Deborah Cox and Mary J Blige.
It is, of course, all fabulous and must-have… but if I’m allowed one little criticism it would be in the inconsistency of the selected edits. ‘Good Times’, for instance comes “full length”, while ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ come in the shortened edits. Equally I guess purists could do without the Chic megamix; but it was a big hit and in a way that illustrates the enigma that was Chic. Hugely popular in the mainstream and beloved by the “dance round the hand bag” brigade, the band did deliver soul consistently… and though when you pop this album into your iTunes it will be classified “dance and house”; a quick listen will prove otherwise.