Rufus and Chaka Khan ‘Live’ (BBR) 4/5

rufus-and-chaka-khanThe story began back in 1970 when Rufus originally formed, but the sound as we now know it only really came into effect when Chaka Khan joined the group as lead vocalist in 1973 and from then on until 1981 the group enjoyed unparalleled success. A set of 1982 reunion dates from February of that year form the majority of this welcome re-issue, originally a double vinyl release and sounding pristine in re-mastered format. This was supplemented by four studio offerings including the anthemic ‘Ain’t nobody’ that propelled the group back into the charts and was a top ten pop chart hit in the UK, a fine way for the band and Chaka to bow out, after which they went their separate ways. Now finally out on CD, this album both revisits some of the glory days of the band and explores new avenues. Early hits such as ‘Sweet thing’ and ‘Tell me something good’ are given faithful treatments while ‘Stop on by’ allows Khan’s soaring vocal range to be given full reign. A mid-tempo number in ‘You got the love’ impresses as does the late disco dancefloor groove of ‘Do you love what you feel’ that never fails to excite. Of course by the late 1970s Chaka Khan was living a parallel career as a solo artist and there is one example of her own repertoire in the superb ‘What’cha gonna do for me’. However, listening once again to this recording as a whole, what comes across is the sheer range of styles that Chaka Khan was capable of and in the Jeffrey Osborne penned, ‘One million kisses’, one hears what a fine soul balladeer she is while the jazzier side to her talents is showcased on an orchestral plus regular band take on the standard, ‘Don’t go to strangers’. This writer would like to hear far more of this side to Chaka Khan. A Motown cover, ‘Ain’t that peculiar’, was the only other non-band composition. The album became Rufus and Chaka Khan’s biggest hit since the Quincy Jones produced ‘Masterjam’. Once again extensive inner sleeve notes that serve as a useful historical overview to the band. Once Chaka Khan departed, Rufus were never quite the same and subsequently they recorded a few additional albums, but without any real success.

Tim Stenhouse