Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chic & Johnny Mathis collaborations to finally be released?

Updated 02/03/09

Those familiar with Chic and Nile and Bernard's more obscure productions are likely familiar with the unreleased album they had produced for Johnny Mathis in 1981, entitled "I Love My Lady." Even moreso than the reported Aretha Franklin sessions, which it seems were aborted even before they had began, this album, apparently an actual finished project, has become the undisputed holy grail of Chic Organization productions. Given that people in the Chic camp like Rob Sabino, the late Tony Thompson and Nile Rodgers himself have undyingly vouched for it's excellence, no one seems to have an official explanation as to why it continues to remain unreleased. It's been suspected that Chic's production was a much too radical change in direction for Mathis. In Daryl Easlea's excellent book, "Everybody Dance: Chic & The Politics of Disco," there are a few pages dedicated to the unreleased Mathis album. At the time, Mathis had just come off a very successful collaboration with Deniece Williams, with Rodgers and Edwards apparently drawing inspiration from the aftermath of his comeback. In Easlea's book Nile Rodgers explained the inspiration and his theory as to why the album was pulled:

"He had been this big superstar, then his light dimmed a little, and then he came back after that massive record with Deniece Williams. His popularity rekindled, he went on this reckless tear - partying and hanging out; it really frightened the people closest to him. When we did this record, it was so exciting and youth oriented. All his people went 'oh my god.'... The Johnny Mathis record to me sounded like Al Jarreau meets Chic. It didn't sound like Johnny Mathis to me - it was even more edgy than I'd ever heard him.. That's why it was pulled. His audience at the time was like middle-aged women who would go out to Vegas, and this was pushing his envelope." (pgs. 191-2)

Apparently the shelving of the album project didn't stop Mathis from breaking out somewhat. The apparent 'reckless tear,' that Rodgers talks about possibly gives some context to him coming out as a gay man the following year..

However, as elusive as the album is, apparently there are some out there with copies of the recordings, one of them being Ralph Tee of Jazz FM in the UK, who recently played the title track on his radio show this past Sunday (November 9th). I recently came across a post on the discomusic.com forums by a mystery poster from the UK who had put up a link to a rip of the radio stream. Listen for yourselves..

Johnny Mathis - I Love My Lady (unreleased) (link updated)

At the end of the clip, Ralph Tee says that this and two more tracks from Chic's Johnny Mathis album will be given an official release on a Chic box set, supposedly planned for next year. I haven't been able to find any further details so far, so hopefully those will be forthcoming...

As it is though, this track sounds like one of the finest things Chic did in the 80's, like a slightly Brazilian flavoured, sparer version of the classic Chic sound.. Despite the breezy, laid-back arrangement, the Chic groove and elegance is unmistakable. While the 80's had seen Chic moving with the times, ditching the ever present Chic strings (which appear here in their understated spendour) in favour of synths, horns and a generally more funk-centred sound; this track instead echoes both the classic Chic disco sound of the 70's and some of their more adventurous acoustic efforts in the 80s ("You Can't Do It Alone," "Tavern On The Green" and some of the other tracks off the Soup For One Soundtrack to name some examples). Although I can't help but wonder how this could have sounded with a full "I Want Your Love" or "Upside Down" type of treatment, this song occupies a wonderful middle ground between the two acts. With Johnny Mathis adopting a bit of Chic's urbane edge, and at the same time giving the Chic Organization an opportunity to further expand, experiment and redefine their sound in the post-disco landscape, this is ultimately a welcome revelation. Hopefully we'll be hearing more soon..

UPDATE 02/03/09: And apparently we are hearing more.. Courtesy of the Chic Tribute site, another track, entitled "Sing" has just leaked. Unfortunately it's only a one minute snippet this time, but a pretty promising one nonetheless.. Go to the Chic Tribute News page to hear the sample.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
BBC RADIO 2 - THE RECORD PRODUCERS: NILE RODGERS (SATURDAY JANUARY 6, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #2: NORMA JEAN WRIGHT - NORMA JEAN (1978, BEARSVILLE) (SATURDAY JANUARY 14, 2006)
UPCOMING SISTER SLEDGE REISSUES (FRIDAY AUGUST 10, 2007)
UPCOMING REISSUES & RELEASES (CHIC AND MORE!): (DECEMBER 1, 2006 - JANUARY 22, 2007) (SATURDAY NOVEMBER 25, 2006)
UPCOMING REISSUES & RELEASES (APRIL 25 - MAY 30) (FRIDAY APRIL 21, 2006)

LINKS:
JOHNNY MATHIS - I LOVE MY LADY @ CHIC TRIBUTE
CHIC TRIBUTE NEWS: NEW MATHIS TRACK (FEBRUARY 2, 2009)
DARYL EASLEA INTERVIEW @ CHIC TRIBUTE
TONY THOMPSON - THE MAN WHO PUT THE BACKBONE IN CHIC (ECHOES MAGAZINE INTERVIEW) @ CHIC TRIBUTE
EVERYBODY DANCE: CHIC & THE POLITICS OF DISCO (BY DARYL EASLEA) @ AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM
CHIC @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
CHIC @ DISCO-DISCO
CHIC @ DISCOGS

CATEGORIES: DISCO NEWS, MINI DELIVERIES

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey tommy did you get my email about this?

luke

ps check chictribute.com forum and also c-chic.com french forum.

Tommy said...

Hey Luke.. No, I didn't unfortunately.. Maybe you sent it to my old email (I haven't checked that one in a while). Maybe it's there..

M.E. Grant said...

I'm heartbroken that the link isn't working. I've been wanting to hear evidence of this collaboration for so long. The obscenity of an artist's path being diverted for record company politics is almost too much to bear.

Tommy said...

M.E. Grant - Thanks for letting me know about the broken link. It should be working again now.

professor Eddy said...

When I heard the original Chic mixes of 'Diana', I was a little disappointed, because the released version of the album was much better (which Nile Rodgers admitted later on). Hopefully the withdrawn Johnny Mathis album was as good as the rumours tell us. To be honest, I'm not convinced when I hear 'I love my lady'. The silk voice of Johnny Mathis doesn't seem to fit in the Chic arrangements very well.

Vincent said...

I know Eddy is a professor, but I really love this. I think that JM's voice on this is great...a footnote: a lot of the Chic songs were written as songs and perhaps not specifically tailored...Bring on the album,

Vince

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments Eddy and Vincent!

Eddy - As far as the Diana mixes go, I can't really say which ones I liked better, to be honest. The novelty factor had me listening to the original Chic mixes a lot, and in some instances I preferred the rawer Chic mixes to the more straightforward remixes (on "I'm Coming Out" to name one), in others I didn't ("Upside Down," "Now That You're Gone"). Either way, it was great to finally hear them, if only to hear the different approaches.. As far as "I Love My Lady" is concerned, I have to admit, I'm not very familiar with Johnny Mathis' records, so I can't really compare. As much as I enjoy it though, it doesn't sound like the sort of thing that comes to mind when I think of a lead-off track or single for a Chic project, even in the 80's. I have a feeling that the album explored a side of the Chic sound which they had only partly realized on their other productions, so I can imagine that perhaps not all fans will be convinced. Nile himself singled out a track called "Go With The Flow," so perhaps that's more representative. Even if the album turns out to be a disappointment among some fans, I think it would be nice to hear it, if only to hear how Bernard & Nile decided to approach this particular project/singer.

Vincent - I say bring on the album, too..

M.E. Grant said...

Thanks, Tommy. I distinctly hear 2 other Chic productions. The verses remind me of "Real People" while the chorus evokes "Don't Go" by Sheila and B. Devotion.

Okebulani Woman said...

I had never heard of this. Thanks. It sounds good. What's funny is it sounds like its modern day Bralilectra or Bassa N' Bass type stuff. Sounds like it could have been made anywhere from 99 to present.

Vincent said...

On I Love My Lady, I hear it as a male reply to He's The Greatest Dancer...the verses are certainly a sidewinding version of that to my ears..

Tommy said...

Interesting observations! I can definitely see it as a kind of companion to "..Greatest Dancer." I've seen some people comment on other message boards about how this sounded like it was ahead of it's time. Not familiar with Jarreau's records, but someone said that it did sound like Al Jarreau, just Al Jarreau two years after this was recorded. So make of that what you will..

luke BAKING barker said...

ahead of its time for sure, really wanna hear the strings in high quality! the catchy backing chorus of whoa -oh is so mega!

Al jarreau L is for Lover was produced by Nile iirc. Don't forget the last track side A of the first Chic album - Sao paolo :) ( for the overall sound a bit)

Tommy said...

Yeah, that backing chorus is awesome! Didn't know Nile had produced for Al Jarreau too. I'm gonna have to pick that one up. Thanks for the tip on that one! :)

Nicolas Drosos said...

Hey Tommy,
This is the best post of the year. I had already mentioned this essential detail on my Blog last February. Keep up the good work.

Tommy said...

Hello Nicolas,
Thanks! I appreciate it. :)

adam said...

Hi Tommy, I play Chic at nearly all of my discos and Johnny Mathis on occasions. Would it be possable to like to my disco website: www.surreydj.co.uk Thank you in advance Adam

Eureka Street Belfast said...

cool

Anonymous said...

I've been told that the reissue producer who found the Johnny Mathis tapes a few years ago is going to give a talk about the album at the Experience Music Project Pop Conference in Seattle this April.

Anonymous said...

Entire album is now on You Tube. Playlist here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=2643415078B6E53F

Catfish Jane said...

Have you heard the new Johnny Mathis interview on the BBC Radio 4 "Frontline" programme?

He is asked about his Chic recordings and says that "he plays it a lot…it's very enjoyable…I loved doing it…it was a new departure for me…it's not mind boggling or anything."

Asked why it was never released, he says that "…the record company is all mighty when you are making recordings to sell…they didn't think that it would sell..."

It is possible to download a podcast of the interview.

Anonymous said...

there is a 12" of I Love My Lady re-worked by Ashley Beddle available. Its limited.. but I have it. Its on a specialty re-edit label called Modern Artifacts.

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