Billboard: Pop#30, Black#8
|By Soeren from Denmark (rated 4 stars of 5)
|Released about the same time their mega-selling album with
Diana Ross, it was totally unjust that no-one really seemed to care about
CHIC's own album. Although it couldn't muster any hits in the league of
"Upside Down", it was
over-all a more solid album than Diana's. The swinging instrumental "Open Up" is a superbly played
venture into jazz before the title
track with its sarcastic lyrics kicks off. A great track, and released
as the second single in the US to minimal attention, this featured another
rock guitar solo by Nile. Perhaps CHIC's greatest ever ballad, "I Loved You More" was delivered
with full pathos by Luci. Whereas the puns of "I
Got Protection" may be a little contrived, the chorus had hit qualities,
the up-tempo groove being quite infectuous too. It was nevertheless "Rebels Are We" that was released
as the flagship single - it did reach a Top 10-placing in the R&B charts
but it only reached #61 on Billboard Hot 100, and even failed to chart in
the UK. There's nothing particularly wrong with the song - it had a cool
laid-back groove and a great instrumental break but it simply wasn't danceable.
"Chip Off The Old Block"
had a more up-tempo beat and a stronger hook in the chorus - it was released
with the title track as a double-A-side but fared poorly. In Europe, they
opted for "26" instead
as the second single. A classic-style CHIC track with crisp rhythm guitar
and sharp strings, this laid-back groove with Bernard on lead was just as
good as anything else on the album, but unfortunately wasn't either that
little cut above to turn it into a hit. Surprisingly, CHIC backing singer
Fonzi Thornton was offered the lead vocal of the last song, "You Can't Do It Alone". A beautiful
mid-tempo track with a deeply soulful performance by Thornton, it added
sheer elegance with Nile's accoustic guitar solo at the very end. "Real
People" ranges along with "C'est Chic" as the perfect CHIC
album - if only it had featured a hit, I'd given it the last star.|
|This is a discussion on re-evaluating 'Real People', prompted by a news item, that was posted in the Forum in July 2005 (If anyone wants their post removed please mail me)
Jul 20, 05 - 12:30 AM
|What do you think, is it CHIC's first failure? Is it a masterpiece, a perfect marriage of Disco & Rock? Or just a good album without a hit?
Ya'll know what I think... it's CHIC's crowning glory...Perfection. Their distinct sound uncompromised and real, AND it's the first album where N&N is taking on society quite openly. From the masterful opening 'Open Up' to the fighting 'Real People' & 'Rebels Are We' and the most wonderful anguish in 'I Loved You More' continuing to the rhythm extravaganza's of 'Chip Off The Old Block' & 'I Got Protection' (just listen to the breaks-oh! man are they funkin'), the classic CHIC '26' to the final, and what an ending it is, Fonzi blows me away in the Funk/Jazz styled 'You Can't Do It Alone' and then the outro.. I'm at a loss for words. Everything is done to perfection, and then the album cover: WoW! do they look good or what! :-)
Jul 20th, 2005 - 2:07 AM
|Difficult question you're asking here. But let me give you my personal opinion.
As a long time fan of bass- lines, rhythm guitar works and smooth chords, I`m not a particular fan of this album. Personally, I find it too hard- edged. Then again, the harder- edged sound turned out to be a mark of black dance music after '82, so maybe they were just ahead of their time. But their move away from the disco stigma could have been accompished aswell like Change did it, so more of a shift towards R&B.
It is remarkable though that CHIC never plays any of their post- Risque- album stuff, almost as if Nile doesn't like the music he made back then.
My personal favorite is "You can't do it alone" because of its laid- back sound.
Let me know how you all feel about this album.
Jul 20th, 2005 - 3:13 AM
|Real People is my absolute Chic favourite. I can't put my finger on it but it's just a perfect album. There are'nt many perfect albums out there, Delegation's Eau de vie is one of them aswell as the two first albums with Change, The Glow of Love and Miracles. Crown Heights Affair with the album Shure shot also qualifies as a perfect album in my opinion is an album where all songs are at least 8+ on a 10 grade scale.
Anyway, i'd be the happiest man on earth if i could get to listen to the songs from Real People live, that would be heaven since i've seen how well Nile & co have done it with the older material.
Jul 20th, 2005 - 5:50 AM
|When I first heard "Rebels are We," I was a little stunned. "Wow" that's Chic!!!
I didn't appreciate the album anywhere near to the appreciation I have for it now. My all time favorite Chic song is "I loved you more." I also love the precision, and crisp sound of "Real People."
I will admit with much regret, the only OLD school Chic song, I do not like is "26." I could not listen to that song then and I still can not listen to it.
On a scale of 1-10, I would give this album an "8".
Jul 20th, 2005 - 8:36 AM
|The "Real People" album capped off a wonderful summer of albums from the Chic Org-Sister Sledge's "Love Somebody Today"; Diana Ross' "Diana" & Sheila & B. Devotion's "King Of The World".
This album was a triumph at the time, & as we all now know, criminally ignored. However good this album is though, I still cringe at some of the lyrics. Let's evaluate "Rebels Are We". The line "come on let's unite, we've got to do it soon," ends the verse with the line, " cos if you don't me & my baby are going to the moon!" Terrible lyric! But a classic track to me. "26" musically is a joy too but the again the lyrics...SHEESH!
"I Got Protection" is a fantastic track though, so too "Chip Of The Old Block". My personal fave was the 'B' side to 26 in the UK-go figure! The title track is a gem, forgotten track, "Open Up" has appeared on several UK compilations recently-that's true recognition! Genius to end the album with "You Can't Do It Alone". Ended many a summer's evening listening to those lovely guitars. Like I said genius.
"Real People" ranks 3rd behind Risque & C'est Chic as my fave Chic album. Long overdue a remastered re-release.
Jul 20th, 2005 - 8:10 PM
|To make a long story short, I read on RuPaul's blog that his friend, singer Ari Gold, was obsessed with Mariah Carey's 'Charmbracelet' album and kept listening to it over and over, hoping it would somehow turn into the album he wanted her to make at that time. That statement sums up my feeling about the 'Real People' album better than I could have ever verbalized myself. I want it so badly to be this masterpiece. As hard as I've tried, and as many times as I've listened to it, I'm still not sure what to make of RP. It's one of those albums I have learned to like. The first time I bought it was on CD in the mid-90's. I was so unimpressed by what I heard, I returned it to the store and exchanged it for something else. In fact, I purchased RP and 'Take It Off' on the same day and they both were returned. I just was not feeling '80s CHIC. I was expecting some classic gems but what I got was a hot mess x 2. [This was my initial feeling.] I shouldn't have to convince myself that something is good. I've since repurchased them on both CD and vinyl. And most of the time I can appreciate them for what they are. Depending on my mood, sometimes I get it and am completely enthralled by RP. And sometimes I can't get through the entire album and say to myself, WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?!!! Don't get me wrong, RP has its moments of brilliance. But 4 albums in the span of 6 months is overkill for anyone, no matter how gifted and talented. I agree with Tony Thompson, the boys were stretching themselves too thin in the writing department. And they most definately should have kept "Spacer" as a CHIC recording.
The albums' two singles "Rebels Are We" and "Real People" are top notch recordings and didn't deserve the cold shoulder they received. But those songs were a drastic change from the songs on 'Risqué'. I know Black acts back then were trying not to get burned by the disco backlash but CHIC and Donna Summer, in particular, were trying WAY too hard to carve out a new identity. As far as I'm concerned, if it ain't broke don't fix it! "Open Up" is a masterful R&B/Rock/Jazz-fusion composition and performance but it is extremely esoteric. I love it but I pride myself on being a strange guy. "I Loved You More"...I can appreciate the production but the song doesn't move me. For me, it just does not rank up there with "At Last I Am Free", "Will You Cry", "Friend To Friend" (which had be doing the "ugly cry", as Oprah would say, when I heard the CHIC mix) or Nile's "My Love Song For You". "I Got Protection" is a rocker but the lyrics have taken on a bizarre new, and probably(?) unintended, meaning since the AIDS epidemic. [And I can't believe they tried to get Diana to put this on her album!!! Frankly, I don't understand how/why CHIC got caught up in the drama that is MS. ROSS. But that's another conversation entirely!!!] "Chip Off The Old Block" was the only song from RP I remember hearing on the radio back in 1980. It's a fun song but I was not enthralled enough to beg my mom to buy it for me. [I was 5 years old in 1980.] "26"...interesting. Bernard should have saved it for his solo album. "You Can't Do It Alone" is a real downer. That, coupled with the fact that it's sung by someone not in the group, leaves me to believe they were short on material and were just trying to scrape together 8 songs to complete an album they knew didn't have the legs to get by on 7 songs like 'CHIC' and 'Risqué'.
Overall, RP just doesn't gel as a cohesive set of songs. Same can be said of 'Love Somebody Today'. I'm not totally convinced Nile and Bernard weren't playing a mean practical joke on the Sledges. After hearing the CHIC Mix of 'Diana', some of the production elements on RP make more since. I can now hear how Nile and 'Nard were progressively evolving musically. But RP, overall, is terribly anti-climactic. ESPECIALLY, after hearing the CHIC Mix of 'Diana'!!! It would have been one thing if they didn't have the magic touch anymore. But to put their collective foot all up and through the 'Diana' album (that's a compliment!!) and then come out with 'Real People' a month or 2 later...I don't get it. Diana's vocals sound unpolished in places on the CHIC Mix but the band and production sound leaps and bounds, above and beyond anything that followed it. CHIC sound like they were having fun on 'Diana'. On 'Real People' they sound like they were forcing themselves to complete an unpleasant chore. 'Real People', fundamentally, just is not a joyous experience for me. Actually, I listened to 'Real People' last weekend and I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. But I must confess, I played the record album and I slightly increased the tempo. Personally, I think the songs are a tiny bit too slow to dance to. And I was in a dancing mood that day.
I wouldn't call the 'Real People' album a failure. It made the Top 30 in the US. And "Rebels Are We" climbed its way into the Top 10 on Billboard's R&B singles chart. Commercially, it could have done a lot worse. But I don't think they gained any new fans with it. Saleswise, it was all downhill from then on. And when was the last time you heard any of the songs from 'Real People' on the radio? It's been 25 years for me. Did they get much club/airplay in 1980? I know videos weren't the norm back then but does anyone recall seeing CHIC on tour in 1980 or them promoting the record on any radio or television shows? The songs from RP are not considered classics. Nile won't even play them.
Jul 25th, 2005 - 3:38 AM
|Funkersize, yes it is a pity that they don't play any post Risqué tracks...(except for the Ross hits i.e.)This summer they broke that rule a little when they played about a minute and a half of 'Soup For One' but anyone who was there could hear it wasn't rehearsed properly. And doing some of the post 1979 songs live also makes it possible for Nile to change them somewhat...he could for instance let us hear anything from "Believer" without the synth's. Maybe make som 'Real People' tracks a little less hard-edged?
I think the hard-edge is what I liked about this album, both musically and lyrically...obviously Nile has some strong political views and I wouldn't mind if he had married those views a bit more with dance oriented music. I've always felt that the disco/dance movement was strongly political, but it almost never showed it in its lyrics (there are some really good exceptions), well CHIC with 'Real People' was for the first time openly critical (they had been it in disguise before), even though there are some notable hesitation which Glen Russell pointed out ("me and my baby are going to the moon" and so on). Lyrically they are torn (on this album) between being the happy? CHIC they had on their previous releases, and what had happened to them as one of Disco's top acts in the wake of the anti-disco movement. It's easy to see why some reviewers were confused. I think that what makes this so interesting is that you really can feel their true feelings come through. They are pissed confused and sad about how things were at that point.
Musically the rock guitars makes this feel harder...but if you remember there were experimentations in the dance community at that time with combining rock and disco (which actually was one of the major components in proto-disco back when it all started) I'm just going to mention Donna Summer's 'Hot Stuff'. And then you had the emergence in Britain of 'The New Romantics' who did just that...just listen to the early Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran (both being inspired by CHIC and Punk). A lot of punk bands were taking inspiration from Disco...Blondie and the Clash being the most notable. And Nile, always being interested in the new, have surely heard all of this stuff. So the cross-pollination that was going on surely affected CHIC too.
SPACER, as always, I love what you write, even if I don't always agree with you. I do however completely agree that the super track "Spacer" should have been a CHIC track...the groove on that is deadly! And maybe if that had been on 'Real People' (where it would have fitted excellently sound-wise) CHIC would have gotten a gold with this album? Sheila's album is very near to RP in the sound, the only pity is that some of the lyrics on her album is even more cringe worthy than RP's... but we have an explanation to that at least. I don't agree with you, obviously, regarding "I Loved You More" which is as top notch as you can get...without detracting from the other CHIC ballads you mentioned I think this one is the cream of the crop...and I would have loved to have heard it live...back then.
'I Got Protection' may have taken on a new meaning, but it is not about what everyone seems to think it is (including ms. Ross)...it's simply what Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' is about... it's actually empowering. Well it isn't strange that they wanted this on the Ross album...after all they wanted to give her an avant-garde album...they gave her the equally (at the time) controversial 'I'm Coming Out', even if Ross and her people missed the meaning of that one.
I would definitely say that Fonzi was/is part of the band....he may not have been on the covers, but CHIC was an extended family with outward representatives i.e. the five on the covers. Besides he sings on almost all CHIC post 'C'est CHIC' songs (and on CHIC-ism), and he toured with them. Would anyone say that Rob Sabino or Raymond Jones or the CHIC Strings were not in the band? I would never, because they were! So him singing on 'You Can't Do It Alone' is completely natural, I wish he had done all of the male leads on the following albums. Because let's face it neither Nile or Nard are great singers.
I agree with you Spacer, that the songs would benefit from a slightly increased tempo...as with most of CHIC's songs post 'Risqué'...just check out 'Believer' with an increased pitch...it's wonderful. So if I would level one criticism against RP (and this is hard!!! ;-) ) it would be that the up-tempo songs could have been more up-tempo.
As regarding CHIC touring in 1980...they most definitely did tour with 'RP' that year, I even have a tour guide...which I will post on the site (when I get the time)...I know I read somewhere that they performed at the 'Grammy's' or some such show that year, I don't know if they did anything from RP however. I hope they did some promo videos. After all they had done promo's to 'Le Freak' and 'I Want Your Love' (don't know about 'Good Times' though?), so I hope they continued to do them with RP.
They are not considered classics because they never got a fair chance back in 1980...Nile has commented the commercial failure like this: "Once people said our music sucked before they'd even heard it- we didn't have a chance." I think he was right...RP simply got sucked into the black hole that was the anti-disco backlash. But the album certainly has classics.
I also want to talk about the cover...when I first got this album in my hands...I could not get enough of the cover ...I just thought they looked stunning . Stylish and elegant music coupled with a stylish and elegant cover...
Now I think it was a deliciously ironic cover, it was as if the title 'Real People' had an invisible question mark after it...the cover is perfectly coupled with the bitter and sardonic lyrical contents and the avant-garde grooves...perhaps CHIC didn't succeed in giving Ross the experimental album they wanted, but they certainly did it with their own masterful release.
Jul 26th, 2005 - 6:57 PM
|Dammit, Pocat, you done made me put RP on again!!!!!!! I swear this record is gonna make me lose what's left of my **** mind!
As for "You Can't Do It Alone", to my ears, it sounds terribly out of place on RP. And it ends the album on a down, depressing note. I don't go to CHIC to feel down. Were Nile and 'Nard trying to set up Fonzi's solo career? Did he get a featured solo spot in CHIC's live shows? Nothing against Fonzi. He was and still is a very audible part of the CHIC camp. And "I Work For A Living" from the 'Soup For One' soundtrack is da bomb (that's a good thing )! But he was CHIC's backing vocalist. And I just think there were plenty of adequate lead vocalists already in the core CHIC quintet that were not being utilized to the best of their abilities in the 1980's.
Since I'm on the subject of not utilizing vocalists, there's a track on Sister Sledge's 'When The Boys Meet The Girls' album called "You're Fine" that's sung by some man. The girls sing the chorus but both verses are done by a male vocalist. That's cool and all but I buy Sister Sledge records to hear SISTER SLEGDE! Nile is the only person credited with vocals on this track but it doesn't sound like Nile singing. Someone please explain this one to me.
To me, RP is the 4th part of CHIC's brave new journey into post-Disco 1980. [The 80's: the decade that seemingly came about to put a stop to all the fun the Blacks, and Latinos and gays were having.] 'Love Somebody Today' deserves a whole other thread so I won't even go there now. I fully get the Sheila album. It was so far out of left field that I have nothing but the utmost respect the band. It took some monster balls to take it there. And take it there and not lose the fun/dance element of their music. And the song "Spacer" has that laid back, unrelenting, hypnotic groove that sucks you in and transports you to another place. I think I may have cried the first time I heard "Spacer". It is so overwhelming brilliant...yet simple and understated. It's that "deadly" groove (as you so accurately put it, Pocat) that was/is CHIC's strong suit. It's that essential razor sharp element that I'm missing from RP. My only complaint with the Diana album is that the first four songs are so awe inspiring, the last four songs pale by comparison. And the last four are no slouches. Sometimes I play side 2 first.
Like I said, RP isn't the album I wish CHIC had made at that time. If Nile and Bernard were confused and sad during the making of RP, it comes across loud and clear. 'Cause that's how I feel most of the time when I listen to it. One day I'll be able to accept RP for what it is, on its own terms. But that day hasn't come yet.