Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sister Sledge - We Are Family (1979)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 1995 Rhino reissue with 4 bonus tracks.

A blueprint for all dance music of the last 30 years.  Although I'm a big fan disco music in general and of Nile Rodgers and his Chic partner Bernard Edwards, I had never heard this album or been particularly compelled to purchase it.  However, last fall I purchased a copy of the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die where this album was mentioned on page 425. When I read praise suggesting this album as "the pinnacle of the disco era," I knew I had to give it a listen.  I was amazed that a CD copy on Amazon was only $4.99, but I'm certainly not complaining.  My biggest surprise was how familiar I was with most of these songs.  I guess the program director of whatever Houston radio station I was listening to in 1979 was a huge Sister Sledge fan and played even deep album cuts.

Sister Sledge had been around for a while with minor success, but with this album, they blew up.  The reason?  Rodgers and Edwards wrote, performed, and produced every string-laden song here.  Rodgers' chunky rhythm guitar makes an appearance on most every track while Edwards' bass playing is impeccable.  How could bass playing be both understated and funky at the same time?  Check out his work at the break about 3:55 into the title track.  Discowise, it doesn't get much better than that.  While Chic was great, it seems that Rodgers always selflessly saved his best stuff for other artists: Sister Sledge, Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross, etc.

Great liner notes from Rhino.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #3
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #1 (7 weeks)
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #3

Tracks: Don't skip any tracks.  It's fun to hear the extended versions of great tracks like the title cut and He's The Greatest Dancer.  Even though I've heard it often since '79, I never tire of the title track with all its 9th chords.  Rock critic Robert Christgau calls the song "a magnificent, soul-shouting sisterhood anthem that could set straight cheerleaders and militant lesbians dancing side by side."  The fantastic ballad Somebody Loves Me really shows off the sisters' vocal talents.  Even the weakest track, the psuedo-reggae You're A Friend To Me has a catchy hook. The album closes with a hidden gem, One More Time.

Bonus tracks: As Alex Henderson writes:
When Rhino reissued We Are Family on CD in 1995, it added four bonus tracks, all of which are remixes of either the title song or "Lost in Music." These remixes are intriguing; it's interesting to hear late '70s classics turned into high-tech 1990s dance-pop. But they are less than essential, and the original versions are by far the best -- how can you improve on perfection?
I can't add anything to that.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  Any disco music takes me right back to junior high, AM radio, polyester shirts and school dances. 

1 comment:

  1. Ah.....memories of s muggy 1979 summer. Got this wheni it came out due to the two hit singles. Did not like it enough to replace it on cd.