Review: Nile Rodgers returns with Chic to make us boogie

This cover image released by Virgin EMI Records shows "It's About Time," a release by Nile Rodgers & Chic. (Virgin EMI Records via AP)

Nile Rodgers & Chic, “It’s About Time” (Virgin EMI)

The cover of the new Chic album might be familiar. Does anyone else vaguely recognize the image of two models gazing seductively into the camera fiddling about with whistles? For those old enough to know, it’s the promise of boogie.

A similar magazine cover-inspired photo graced the debut album of Chic in 1977 and co-creator Nile Rodgers signals his intent to go back to his roots and yet update his sound by reinterpreting that old cover for “It’s About Time,” the cheekily titled first Chic album since 1992.

If you doubted Rodgers wants to get down in 2018, just look at some of the song titles — “Do You Wanna Party,” ”Dance With Me,” ”I Dance My Dance” and “Boogie All Night.”

Rodgers has invited a bunch of well-known singers — including Lady Gaga, Elton John, Hailee Steinfeld and Craig David — and added elements of hip-hop to craft a bubbly, infectious album that seems old and new at the same time.

The first song — “Till the World Falls,” co-written by Anderson .Paak — is a welcome hit of pure Rodgers, employing his trademark funky, choppy guitar work that fueled such disco hits as “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” The new song clocks in at over five minutes but it should be three times that length for the sheer happiness it delivers. “The world has gone mad,” the lyrics go, “we might be safer on the dance floor.”

In these days when EDM is all over the pop charts, Rodgers’ blast of disco-funk fits perfectly. But it’s about time a younger generation drank directly from the original spring: Rodgers — along with Chic’s late bass player Bernard Edwards — were pioneers of boogie. When disco peaked, Rodgers helped make hits for Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran and, lately, Daft Punk.

Other standouts on the new album include “Sober” featuring David and Stefflon Don, which has a New Jack Swing vibe; “Dance With Me” featuring a perfectly cast Steinfeld; and “Do You Wanna Party” with LunchMoney Lewis adding fun, tipsy raps.

But there are stumbles, including the mostly instrumental, vocoder mess “State of Mine (It’s About Time),” featuring jazz multi-instrumentalist Philippe Saisse. It’s just overcooked Muzak and sounds like being trapped in an elevator in an airport Marriott in 1981.

And — this hurts even more — two of Rodgers’ highest-profile collaborations fall flat, like three-day old Champagne. “Queen,” inspired by Diana Ross and featuring John and Emeli Sande, is a plodding, pointless slow jam. And Gaga’s cover of the old Chic hit, “I Want Your Love,” is too reverential to the original.

But these are quibbles. Rodgers has once more offered pure, escapist fun and you can now find us on the dance floor. Bring your whistles.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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