Tag Archives: Chic

Rocks In The Attic #803: Sister Sledge – ‘We Are Family’ (1979)

RITA#803I’ve been looking for a nice clean copy of Sister Sledge’s debut album, We Are Family, ever since I’ve been collecting records. I finally found a reasonably priced ($9.95 USD) copy courtesy of my favourite Discogs seller, Vinylizking.

This album might just be the single greatest achievement of the partnership between Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. The pair have produced many albums by other artists, and of course have produced themselves in Chic, but this particular album is arguably the strongest of the bunch. He’s The Greatest Dancer, Lost In Music, Thinking Of You, and the title track are four of the greatest songs from the soul and funk genre, and the fact that all four are on the same studio album is just mind-blowing. This record might as well be called Sister Sledge’s Greatest Hits. Even Nile Rodgers agrees, saying in his 2011 autobiography that ‘pound for pound, I think We Are Family is our best album hands down.’

Sister Sledge Portrait

CIRCA 1977: (Clockwise from bottom left) Kathy Sledge, Joni Sledge, Kim Sledge and Debbie Sledge of the vocal group “Sister Sledge” pose for a portrait in circa 1977. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The hefty package I received in the mail last week – nine LPs in total; a mixture of soul, funk and soundtracks – is probably going to be my last decent-sized haul from Discogs. Up to now, the country where I live has been relatively relaxed about charging GST taxes at the border. Anything under $400NZD has been exempt from charges. This has been great as a record collector, as I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but New Zealand is at the edge of the world.

Our national carrier, NZ Post, has even provided a service called YouShop where they have provided mailing addresses in the USA, the UK and China, where you can send parcels from online stores in those countries, and they will collect them and mail back to NZ at a competitive shipping rate. The service only started in 2012, but I’ve used it over a hundred times. It’s fantastic whenever overseas stores either don’t offer international shipping, or charge an arm and a leg for it (presumably to deter the hassle of dealing with overseas buyers).

From December, under pressure from New Zealand retailers, the Government has announced that all shipments from overseas will be eligible for a 15% GST charge. These are the same New Zealand retailers who will, for example, import paperback novels with a UK RRP of £7.99 GBP and charge $35 NZD for it. Despite a (current) exchange rate of $2.02 NZD to £1 GBP, this means they’re effectively charging more than double for the price of goods. Granted the UK RRP will include some element of shipping and overheads – it’s not a cost price – but even though shipping to New Zealand will be significantly more than shipping around the UK, there’s still something very wrong with the price we’re faced with.

As a result, to keep going with the book example, the small percentage of New Zealanders who do read, have been ordering them from overseas – either from Amazon or Book Depository. I purchased a book for my wife from Book Depository – it arrived with free shipping for $15 NZD. If I had purchased it from a New Zealand retailer, it would have cost $26 NZD.

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As a result of this economic quirk, nearly all of the bookshop chains in New Zealand have closed down in the last decade. Only a few remain, and for those stores, the sale of books only makes up a small percentage of their revenue. A number of well-run independent bookstores remain (Unity Books on Auckland’s High Street is a particular favourite), but they’re still charging those same ridiculous prices and so you have to wonder how they stay afloat. However, the pricing structure is down to the distributors, I think, rather than the stores themselves.

As a country, we need to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to our independent record shops. I shop at Auckland’s record stores as regularly as I can. Real Groovy, Southbound, Marbecks and Flying Out all get a decent proportion of my disposable income. But sometimes these stores don’t always stock the titles I want. Whether it’s limited releases from small boutique soundtrack labels (Waxwork, Mondo, Enjoy The Ride, Real Gone), or simply hard-to-find titles on Discogs, I’ve enjoyed the freedom to purchase these without any restrictions…until now.

NZ Post have said that they will automatically apply the GST charge on all parcels they ship into New Zealand via YouShop. So I’ll simply stop using the service. There are already loopholes around the restrictions though, which hopefully mean I’ll still be able to purchase directly from overseas vendors without incurring extra charges (the GST component will only be applied by vendors who supply $60,000 NZD in goods to New Zealand residents per annum). Many of the small, boutique record labels I purchase from will supply nowhere near that value of goods to our shores, and so I hope that they don’t get bullied by our government to comply.

On paper, I support the new charge if it were to assist the ability of New Zealand retailers to compete with the international marketplace. But I only see this legislation as justification for the ridiculous increased prices distributors pass on to our captive market.

I don’t know what this has all got to do with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, but I think they’d be similarly angry that my government is making it harder for me to buy their records.

Hit: We Are Family

Hidden Gem: You’re A Friend To Me

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Rocks In The Attic #716: Matt Berry – ‘Television Themes’ (2018)

RITA#716.jpgForget next month’s reissue of the Beatles’ White Album. Forget the new Chic record and the new Muse record. Forget that new box-set of unreleased Tom Petty recordings. Forget that super limited edition live box set of the Super Furry Animals that’s currently on its way to me. Forget it all. This is my most anticipated release of 2018.

Matt Berry is just a genius. Plain and simple. And I’ve never seen him in anything bad.

From the moment I first saw him, as Dr. Lucien Sanchez in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, through The IT Crowd (“JEN!”) and Toast Of London, he’s always been a joy to voice, and more importantly, a joy to hear.

This LP – signed by the man himself – is a reasonably faithful burst through British television themes of the ‘70s and ‘80s performed by Berry and his band, the Maypoles.

I just hope there’ll be a follow-up, as it’s such a rich source of material. This LP definitely brought back a few memories.

“Yes, I can hear you, Clem Fandango…”

Hit: Doctor Who

Hidden Gem: Sorry

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Rocks In The Attic #637: Boney M. – ‘Nightflight To Venus’ (1978)

RITA#637When I think about all the great disco groups of the 1970s, I’m not usually thinking about Boney M. To me, great disco was solely an American proposition – K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Chic, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Trammps. Even the Manx-born / Australian-bred Bee Gees sounded American during their genre-defining Saturday Night Fever period.

So a foreign-born – and most importantly, a foreign-sounding – disco band like Boney M. never really fit in anywhere. The band hail from the West Germany of the 1970s, with members originally from Jamaica, Aruba and Montserrat. If they had travelled north from the Caribbean, and landed in the USA they might have indeed been a vital part of the American disco scene.

Instead, their music is blighted by an economical, soulless Europop production by Frank Farian – the German producer behind the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal of the 1980s. They’re more Eurovision than Saturday Night Fever; more James Last than Nile Rodgers.

While the more artistically and commercially successful Abba have remained timelessly relevant on the strength of both their songwriting and the production of their material, Boney M. just feel synthetic, a product of the capitalist West Germany. They’re hugely successful however – having sold over 150 million records worldwide, so somebody must have liked them.

Once you look past the big singles – Rasputin, Rivers Of Babylon and Brown Girl In The Ring – this record isn’t too bad. The production-heavy opening track, Nightflight To Venus, gives drummer Keith Forsey a moment to shine on an otherwise dull record in terms of percussion (the rest of the album is very much driven by a straight 4/4 beat, with very little variation).

But it is the record’s final track, a cover of Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold, that is the most surprising thing of all – surprising because it’s actually quite interesting in its vocal harmony arrangement. But of course, hearing one of Shakey’s better-known songs covered by a West German / Caribbean disco band has to be heard to be believed.

Hit: Rivers Of Babylon

Hidden Gem: Heart Of Gold

Rocks In The Attic #181: Chic – ‘C’est Chic’ (1976)

RITA#181I’m not exactly sure what I love more: Nile Rodgers’ funky right hand, Bernard Edwards’ percussive bass playing, or Tony Thompson consistently opening up the hi-hat on the drums. It’s probably a mixture of all three that make this album, Chic in general, and a lot of other projects – Sister Sledge, LaBelle, etc – by those three principles timeless and a step ahead of the dated disco from around the same time.

This is Chic’s second album, and I have the UK pressing which rather shamelessly appends two singles from their debut album – album versions of Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) and Everybody Dance – to the eight tracks that are presented on the original version of the album.

There’s an area of Botany near where I live where all the streets are named after famous golfers. There’s Bob Charles Drive, Faldo Drive and a few others. On the other side of the golf course to these streets, there’s a Bernie Edwards Drive. Presumably he’s a famous golfer too but I like to think that the housing developer got bored with golfers and decided to start over with funky bass players. I’ve never been down Bernie Edwards Drive to see what streets it leads onto, but I hope Bootsy Collins Crescent and Duck Dunn Drive are down there.

Hit: Le Freak

Hidden Gem: Savoir Faire