A masterclass of a debut solo LP from the king of the disco groovers.
Nile Rodgers once famously said he hated his debut LP. But David Bowie loved it so much he asked Nile to help him write a new set of hit records. The pair collaborated on 'Let's Dance', and the rest is history.
Rodgers was reeling from the rejection of disco by mainstream culture; the 'Disco Sucks' movement had demolished trust in the groove, and Rodgers and his band, Chic, were left at a crossroads. Like many disco groups who before were soulsters and funk devotees, Chic were a disco band, a r'n'b band pumped up on the night life and beautiful harmonies and delicate displays of instrumentation. Their first three albums are holy grails for any disco lover, a triumphant balance of how to explore disco but display your many talents to the world. Sadly, many just remembered the hits, and many had grown bored of 'Good times' and 'everybody dance', because it was the tunes that embodied disco's most celebrated band. The Albums that followed, 'Real People', 'Take it off', 'Tongue In Chic' and 'Believer', reeled from the cream of early 80s sounds to the not so welcomed sounds that would grace the decade. this period showed the band almost at a loss for forward momentum, but they all had the talent to lend their hand to other projects and sounds.
Rodgers became a producer, as mentioned for the likes the Bowie, Mick Jagger, Duran Duran (and countless others), but he tried his hand at what would become his first solo effort. At first listen, it displays all the good qualities of the aforementioned early 1980s Chic efforts, but it displays something else; a movement away, a different vibe, a distinctive groove. This writer would argue that this record displays Rodgers at his electronic, funky best, a collection of tunes that sound fresh and innovative for their time and context. It represents much of what made Rodgers such a revered producer and song writer, whilst displaying a new side that shows he can strip it all back to build it up and make a cracking series of tunes that groove endlessly into the night.
The title track pounds with a delightful bass synth, with drums reversing around Rodgers calming saying 'I wanna go to......the land of the good good groove'. the tune almost perfectly represents the lyrics, in a way that Chic did in many of their tunes. Ebbing and flowing, this song is all about the bare bones rhythm, that makes it all the more remarkable in its composition and sound. Stark drums, delicate Rodgers trademark guitar riffs, delicate pads make for a brilliant and energetic opener, and a fantastic way to introduce the world to the first solo effort of Mr Nile. 'Yum Yum' follows up next, and starts off with a almost house vibe, the chorus line floating over a jackin beat, that slowly grows before a pulsating bass line and delicate synth line grooves around, then the guitar kicks in with a driving riff. The song continues to move in and around, and displays Rodger's talents as a composer, but here, everything feels stripped back, allowing the instruments to breath and for the listener to feel every instrument at its most powerful. Next up, comes 'Beet', that pretty much says what it says on the tin. A groover of the highest note, the lyrics speak of a daddy dancing around (haha), with 'the beat' reverberating around. It has a almost Funkadelic vibe about it, a series of chants and spoken word lines over a slightly cheesy beat and series of guitar riffs. Lots of reverb too for good measure. To finish off side A, 'Get her Crazy' comes in, and displays all the sounds of the previous tracks. It feels much more full, with a consistent guitar riff acting as the main body of the tune, whereas before it played a much more supporting role. The lyrics again remain as chants and simple one lines, with the music doing much of the talking, with well timed breaks, and a beautiful driving funk groove that cuts right to the core towards the end of the track. A side full of energy, which will transition quite nicely for the second half of the album.
Side B starts off with the hopeful and emotive 'All in your hands'. Whilst side A was all about dancing, this tune is more structured vocally, with a series of verses sandwiched between the longing and loving chorus of 'I put it all in your hands'. It feels like a pumped up old school soul song, due to its vocal content. How can it all go right tonight? ill put it all in your hands. 'Rock Bottom' follows, and is contender for the song of the album. Driving synths, a gorgeous guitar riff, brooding lyrics and an pure Chic essence, it has all the ingredients. Then, like out of some sort of dream, comes the solo the album was craving all along. Classic Rodgers, so mesmerising, so technical, so beautiful, it could go on forever and ever. A chuggy almost rock effect solo, it dives down deep and soars higher and higher, seemingly touching every note on the board. Towards the end now, comes 'My Love song for you', a Ballard speed burner to end the night of energy and vibes. A lovingly crafted and balanced tune, it pulls right at the heart strings til the very end, with beautiful harmonies and chords come in and around. It has Neo-soul written all over it, and if you own a copy of the record, pitch it down to -4, it is a solid groover. To finish off, 'Most Down' brings itself into the mix, and does the job at ending an album that introduced the solo element of Rodgers to the world. Stripped back, electronic, full of synths, slapping kicks and beautiful guitar licks, it is a early 80s dance masterpiece.
Rodgers said he hated it, Bowie said he loved it. Who do you listen to? just give it a try, and take a journey to the land of the good groove. Helmed by Captain Rodgers, its well worth the trip.