Essential Atlantic: Chic, Risqué

Thursday, January 14, 2021
The vinyl album cover for CHIC, Risqué

There are few Atlantic releases more essential to the tail end of the 1970s than Chic's Risque. Packed front to back to monster grooves and sublime melodies, that album is often overlooked and underappreciated in the wake of the decade-ending "Disco Sucks" campaign that rose over the music world like a noxious stink bomb from the Midwest. Steve Dahl's ludicrous Disco Demolition was detonated at Chicago's Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979. Chic released Risque just eight days later on July 30, 1979.

While radio programmers and label execs alike used the moment as an excuse to jump off of the disco bandwagon, Chic was still able to storm across America on the back of the massive feel-great hit, "Good Times," which danced all the way to the #1 position on the Hot 100 for the week of August 18, 1979. It was knocked from the top spot just one week later by the band that was ordained as the killers of the disco sound, the Knack.

Risque is so much more than just a vehicle for "Good Times." The LP arrived with at least two more instant dance classics: second single, "My Forbidden Lover" and "My Feet Keep Dancing." The record's not so secret weapons, however, come in the form of a pair of slow songs. "A Warm Summer Night" captures the mood of the title with glittering pianos and a rumbling bass line under layers of vocal melodies. They turn up the drama--and the strings--on that formula for emotive Side 2 deep cut, "Will You Cry (When You Hear This Song)."

"We didn't think of ourselves as a disco band," Rodgers once explained. We made music that was played in discos, but if you listen to a Chic album, we were a more jazzy, R&B band. It was funk, but it wasn't Parliament. It was based on European modal melodies. It was sophisto-funk," he elaborated.

"We would tour the happy hour bars where we could get hors d'oeuvres and watch the people there in their smart suits and dresses who'd just got off work. And we though, what if these people had a band? There was no-one that represented their culture. I knew that most black groups looked stupid. Stupid clown suits and the rest. But I'd seen Roxy Music in England, and I knew I wanted a band with style."

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