Monday, January 19, 2009

Disco Delivery #58:
Nile Rodgers - Adventures In The Land Of The Good Groove (1983, Mirage/Atlantic)



Nile Rodgers - Yum-Yum
Nile Rodgers - Beet
Nile Rodgers - Rock Bottom
Nile Rodgers - My Love Song For You (with Sarah Dash)
Nile Rodgers - Yum-Yum (12'' Version)

Just a note to begin: Halfway through this, I realized that: 1. This album will (finally!) be reissued on CD on the 21st of this month, so I'm only putting up a few of the songs and 2. I had accidentally saved my mp3s in 128 kbps, and didn't back them up (due to #1, since I'd ordinarily burn them to CD), so my apologies to those who care about bit rates and all. Anyway due to all that, this'll be a somewhat limited disco delivery installment, as far as songs go..

Released between Chic albums in 1983, on former Atlantic Records President Jerry Greenberg's Mirage label, a company which released many a post-disco dance classic in the early 80's; out of all the solo albums that Nile & Bernard did, I'd have to say this one is my absolute favourite. Perhaps because out of all of them, this one's the closest to the Chic sound of the time; after all, aside from Nile of course and notable outside guests like Sarah Dash and Rachel Sweet, Chic colleagues Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson both appear on the album along with other Chic regulars like Rob Sabino, Raymond Jones and Fonzi Thornton.

That being said however, "..Land Of The Good Groove" is definitely more than just a Chic album under a different name. Aside from the fact that Nile himself took sole writing credit on all of the songs and takes on the bulk of the musical credits, there's a looseness to the groove on here, a playful eclecticism and sense of humour that not only echoes elements of the Chic sound, but drops hints at New Wave, Rock and straight-ahead pop in a way that none of the Chic albums of the time really did.

For one thing, It's probably highly unlikely that Nile himself, or any of them would have been able to get away with such odes to pussy as "Yum-Yum" and "Get Her Crazy" on a Chic album, particularly the former which contains what has to be some of Nile's most infamous lyrics: "poontang, poontang, where you want it..slept all night with my hands on it.. gimme some of that yum-yum before I sleep tonight..." I suppose it was lines like those which led The Trouser Press to remark that "Nile proves he can make a fair-to-middling one-man Chic (no mean feat), but a visionary he's not - unless you define vision as smug sexism" going on to describe "Yum-Yum" as "the album's most offensive meditation on the desirability of 'poontang'."

While on paper, it may seem to veer into the edge of Rick James territory, both tracks have an almost juvenile, cutesy, playful quality to them that makes up the difference. I suppose recording the intro in a schoolyard and getting Rachel Sweet to chime in (check the end of "Get Her Crazy") probably didn't hurt, since no matter how many times he says 'poontang,' "Yum-Yum," in all it's jingliness still ends up sounding less "Super Freak" and more nursery rhyme than anything else.

While I'm not sure if Bernard's even in the song (he was probably replaced by a synth), between a lyric like that and Nile's inimitable choppy guitar stylings as the centrepiece, the groove actually ends up sitting alongside even some of Chic's better efforts at the time.. The 12'' version is unfortunately not centered so much around Nile's guitar, being only slightly longer and a bit more synth-heavy than the album version, but still entirely worth it just for the solo after the four minute mark.

Continuing with the playful theme, "Beet," appropriately anchored by Tony Thompson's rhythmic precision, is another favourite of mine on here. Described in Rolling Stone's album review as "a sparse dance-and-roll" number, it can probably be divided in two parts; the first being a perky call-and-response ditty extolling the virtues of 'the beat' with some rather amusing lyrics "..the beat can make policemen dance (no ticket! no ticket! no..) and boy they're wicked when they dance (no ticket! no ticket! no..).." with the second half, barring the occasional filler vocal, being an instrumental which Nile and Tony largely get to themselves.

On Side Two, the second track, "Rock Bottom," would probably be my candidate for the best song on the album, or at least the one which the best guitar work. Opening with and never letting go of one of the more devastating, infectious guitar licks Nile must have had at the time (imagine the possiblities, had it been saved for a Chic record), it's probably the catchiest song to ever have a refrain with the lyrics "I've hit rock bottom." Best of all, of all the songs on the album, Bernard's buoyant basslines get an ample spotlight on this track, rising to the top of the mix by the second half of the song, right alongside Nile's rock guitar tangents.

Much less treacly than the title makes it seem, the lone ballad on the album "My Love Song For You" is another highlight on the album. Sarah Dash duets with Nile on this one, and her angelic voice (along with the airy production on the background harmonies) pretty much makes this song, in what must be one of her finest post-Labelle moments. While Chic's approach in the studio, their stressing of spontenaity may have left some of their ballads sounding like lagging afterthoughts at times, they definitely did get better with time, in my opinion. This one, capturing a sweetness and sincerity that ranks up there with the finest of Chic's balladry (see "You Can't Do It Alone"), makes this song in particular, feel like the best ballad Chic never recorded.

Music aside, the pig-latinized map of Manhattan on the album cover by illustrator Robert Van Nutt (whose evidently become a fairly prolific illustrator of children's books) is one of my favourite things about the album. One of those things best admired in it's full 12'' glory; some of the placements on the map, namely New Jersey (Nova Joysea) and Brooklyn (Terra Incognita) are good for a little chuckle..

Although overshadowed by Chic and David Bowie's "Let's Dance" which Nile had produced, evidently Bowie himself thought quite highly of the album. In his book, "Everybody Dance: Chic & The Politics of Disco", Daryl Easlea relates a quote from Nile on how this album basically led to Nile's Bowie collaboration.
...what cinched the deal for Bowie was Rodgers' own recorded work, especially his first newly-finished solo album; "I think that must have come from him meeting me that first night. Him feeling my spirit and energy - and then I played my solo record for him, which is what sealed the deal. I played him 'Adventures In The Land Of The Good Groove.' I'll never forget it, he was in my apartment and he said to me after it had finished playing 'if you do for me a record half as good as that, I will be very happy."
In reading the comments from Rob Sabino and Tony Thompson in Daryl Easlea's book, the clash between Nile's thirst for the cutting edge (ie. the use drum machines) and Bernard Edwards' more traditionalist approach was apparently one of the main irritants within Chic at the time. It's probably why on this album, free of some of the tensions within the fold, that the marriage between the well-honed Chic rhythm section and the additional synthesized elements sounds and feels much more comfortable on here (the title track on here being a prime example) than it did on even Chic's "Believer" (1983, Atlantic) LP, which followed in the same year. Out of all the records he was involved with at the time, this album is perhaps the one record which manages to occupy the perfect middle-ground between Nile Rodgers of Chic and Nile Rodgers the 1980's super-producer, capturing the best of both - the essential simplicity of the Chic sound, at the same time highlighting his own individual style in a way that was eclectic without being excessive.

Although even the high points of Chic's 1980's output continue to be relatively underrated, this album is perhaps one of the most. Evidently not one of the more well-known (or at least well-acknowledged) Chic-associated efforts, in fact it's the only one out of the Chic solo albums that hasn't (at least until now) seen a CD release, "Adventures.." still remains one of the hidden jewels in Chic's associated output.

A note about the reissue: The small reissue label Funky Town Grooves is set to reissue this album on CD January 21st, with the 12'' versions of "The Land Of The Good Groove" (which I didn't even know existed) and "Yum-Yum" to be added as bonus tracks. Aside from some of the other Mirage Records releases that Funky Town Grooves has reissued on CD lately, in other Chic-related news, Funky Town Grooves is also set to release (also on January 21st) a Mirage Records compilation, entitled the "Mirage Records Soul & Funk Collection, Vol. 1" which is set to include the highly sought-after 12" version of Carly Simon's Chic-produced single "Why." According to a posting on the discomusic.com forums by one of their representatives, noted remixer John Morales will be mastering both the Nile Rodgers reissue and the Mirage compilation.

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
FIREST WE SHAKE, THEN WE BREAK.. (SATURDAY NOVEMBER 15, 2008)
CHIC & JOHNNY MATHIS COLLABORATIONS TO FINALLY BE RELEASED? (TUESDAY NOVEMBER 11, 2008)
UPCOMING SISTER SLEDGE REISSUES (FRIDAY AUGUST 10, 2007)
BBC RADIO 2 - THE RECORD PRODUCERS: NILE RODGERS (SATURDAY JANUARY 6, 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)
DISCO DELIVERY #2: NORMA JEAN WRIGHT - NORMA JEAN (1978, BEARSVILLE) (SATURDAY JANUARY 14, 2006)

PURCHASE:
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE (CD)
FUNKY TOWN GROOVES

LINKS:
THE GUARDIAN - MUSIC: THE GREATEST ALBUMS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD (FRIDAY NOVEMBER 3, 2006)
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE LP (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE LP (REVIEW) @ ROBERT CHRISTGAU
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE LP @ DISCOGS
NILE RODGERS - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE LP @ CHIC TRIBUTE
TROUSER PRESS - NILE RODGERS
STRANGE MAPS: 344 - ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF THE GOOD GROOVE (DECEMBER 11, 2008)

CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, REISSUES & RELEASES, DISCO NEWS

15 comments:

luke BAKING barker said...

Great post Tommy!

I am going to buy this next week. I have the 12 inch of Yum yum but had only heard 2 other tracks.

Interestingly I have the second album with its 3D cover on CD. It is a curiousity as it is sample filled and more like a instrumental album generally.

but did you know there was a 12 inch relased from the second album with 2 tracks, at least one of which has a Larry Levan remix!! I have never heard this - have seen it on vinyl on eBay though.

"Buoyant bassline" is the most apt description ever of Nard style bass :) love it!

Tommy said...

Thanks Luke! I'm most likely not the first person to use that description (I'm sure I've read it somewhere before), but it certainly seemed appropriate..

I'm really regretting not getting a copy of "B-Movie Matinee" on CD when it was still available. I remember 5-8 years ago, before I had a credit card, seeing it on Amazon and eBay fairly frequently and for much cheaper than the going price these days.

As far as the Levan mix goes, I've heard of it, but have never actually heard the track itself either. I didn't even remember which song/s it was until I had checked Discogs just now.. Definitely something else to look out for! :)

Steven said...

Outstanding write up Tommy. This album has been a big influence of mine.

M.E. Grant said...

I'll never forget Nile Rodgers writing back to me and confirming the quizzical comment I left on his Myspace page about "Yum Yum's" lyrics. I simply couldn't believe that the man had worked poontang into a song. Even Prince never cut to the chase like that. The nursery rhyme analogy explains my shock. "Rock Bottom" continues the blissful contradictions too, as he sounds anything but dejected.

Lady Blacktronika said...

Is this the Canadian or US release? I love it. Never even knew this existed. You really go all out to find out this info. You're great.

Nasty G said...

Hey there! In case you missed it and don't already have it, check out Nile's one album group Outloud's album on my blog. And keep up the fab work!

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Hey Steven - it definitely shows and in the best possible way!

Hey M.E. Grant - haha what did you say, exactly - if you mind me asking!? I must have been all of 14 or 15 when I bought this album and until I heard this song, I don't think I'd ever heard anyone call it a 'poontang' before. I suppose I have Nile to thank for educating me haha

Hey Lady B - This is actually the Canadian pressing. It's a little washed out by the light, you can usually tell by the little maple leaf on the back cover. I've found most Canadian pressings of WEA LPs from this time had one somewhere on the back cover. Thanks a lot for the kind comment! :)

Hey Nasty G - Thanks for heads-up! As a matter of fact, that's actually one that I never did get.. A tad more experimental than this and "B-Movie Matinee," but I'm actually enjoying some of it!

QH said...

As a massive Chic fan, this was a great read. "Take It Off" remains my favorite Chic LP of the 1980's.

Niles is a cool dude. I'm also a massive Carly Simon fan, I have the standard issue of "Why" on her two disc anthology, I would love to hear the 12" version. Excellent piece.-QH

Tommy said...

Hey QH.. I'd definitely have to rate "Take it Off" as my favourite Chic album of the 80's as well. Anyway, glad you liked the post and thanks for the comment! :)

Anonymous said...

Ferociousness Incorporated. Sarah DASH IS AMAZING!

Been trying to find her work everywhere!

Apollo Zero Jukebox said...

FYI
That's not a child singing at the end of Get Her Crazy.. it's Rachel Sweet!
She was recording across the hall when he was recording this album and he asked her to do some vocals. :)

Tommy said...

Hey Anonymous - Sarah Dash is indeed amazing! I love her voice and I think her first three albums on the Kirshner label have some real worthy gems on them..

Apollo Zero - Thanks for the correction! :) One review mentioned her as a notable guest on the album, but I have to admit I cut a bit of a corner and didn't really look into her much. I'll be sure update the post later tonight..

PeppyfromPrinceton said...

grazie

Lexi said...

Thanks I'd love to get the rest of the album... I have the 2nd N.R. solo album never took a closer ear to this one... now... I Like it!
Thanks Again...Lexi

Tommy said...

PeppyfromPrinceton - no problem! :)

Lexi - Glad I could help you take a second look at this album! I love "B-Movie Matinee" too, but I think I like this one just a little bit more..

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