Sister Sledge - We Are Family - Review
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critics' view

Recorded simultaneously with Chic's own C'est Chic album, We Are Family was written and produced by Rodgers and Edwards, who had recently scored big with Everybody Dance and Dance, Dance, Dance. They were offered the cream of Atlantic’s roster to work with. Icons such as The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin were rejected in favour of Philadelphia quartet Sister Sledge. By taking this relatively blank canvas, who’d already released a duo of underperforming albums, expectations were low.

Disco myth suggests that Sister Sledge’s records prior to this were simply not very good, but both had some great moments. If you listen to Funky Family from 1977’s Together, you hear the template for We Are Family. However, it sounds like a cola commercial as opposed to the gargantuan groove produced by Rodgers and Edwards.

Rodgers observed the four Sledge girls huddling together in the studio. Inspired, he penned the album’s title-track, one of their greatest hits, a song of sisterly love that brought a sense of family and joy to the late 70s ‘me’ generation. He’s the Greatest Dancer catalogued the suburban dreams of local Travoltas everywhere, and Rodgers’ eloquence (“he looks like a still, that man is dressed to kill”) is married with the wide-eyed wonderment of lead vocalist Kathy Sledge.

Lost In Music – the code phrase that Rodgers and Edwards used when they didn’t want to be disturbed – evokes the rapture of being caught up in a song (and has the distinction of having a marvellous cover version of it by The Fall). And then, there’s Thinking of You, one of the best songs to capture the glory of love. Sweet and subtle, it never outstays its welcome.

With these four classics and a four similarly strong others, We Are Family still sounds alive, zesty and vibrant. It was especially taken to heart in the UK, and awarded Sister Sledge the disco diva status that they so rightly deserved. It remains the album on which their reputation rests.

Daryl Easlea
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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