We Are Family

Sister Sledge

Cotillion, 1979


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Surrendering total control over to the able hands of Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, Sister Sledge became the embodiment of the adage “third time’s the charm” when their third album We Are Family became a huge hit in 1979. Yes, it’s got the all-too memorable title track that went all the way to #2 on the charts (which I never did like all that much -- maybe because of the fact that it is overplayed even to this day), but that is just one of the reasons this is an essential purchase when it comes to the disco era.

Long before Will Smith sampled the Sledges’ “He’s The Greatest Dancer” for the stupid “Gittin’ Jiggy Wit It” (yes, that is the correct spelling -- at least in the minds of the countless Will Smith fans), the song had been the memorable first single to be released at the tail end of 1978. All the Chic elements are in place in that song: the jittery guitar work, the dramatic stings, the elegant piano playing. What is to follow is seven more carbon-copy, prototypical tracks that were all the rage while disco was still in vogue.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In many ways, Rodgers and Edwards topped themselves with We Are Family, which is a surprisingly natural melding of two Atlantic recording acts. Where C’est Chic was groundbreaking in its own right, We Are Family proved it wasn’t just a fluke, and yielded three hit singles to demonstrate this fact. Sledge Sisters Kathy, Joni, Debbie and Kim should thank their agents and their lucky stars that they were paired up with Chic for what is their best known and most successful album. It’s got a great cover photo, too.

The third single “Lost In Music” has long been a favorite of mine -- I’ve been lost in music for the last thirty years and have no intention of being found any time soon! The ballads, while harmless, are a little too plodding to make much impact. They slow the proceedings to a crawl, especially “Somebody Loves Me.” The mid-tempo cuts “Thinking Of You” and “One More Time” fare much better, though they sound nearly identical to those found on C’est Chic. Perhaps the producers recognized this and vowed not to play copy-cat on future releases. The disco genre did have its inherent limitations, however, so maybe it was a blessing its era turned out to be a finite one.

So, yes, by the time 1979 rolled around, cries of “disco sucks” were starting to be heard and the unfair exclusivity of the nightclub Studio 54 was starting to disgruntle many a New Yorker. It would be a lethal combination that proved to be a death knell for the likes of Sister Sledge, Chic, and (most of all) the Bee Gees. Only Donna Summer would carry on to have a fruitful music career in the ‘80s. The specter of AIDS would put a serious kink in the risky sexual behavior and the no-holds-barred hedonism that the ‘70s seemed to represent. We would soon discover that even American freedom had its price.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Cotillion, and is used for informational purposes only.