Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rufus & Chaka Khan – Secret Friend

Lost but not least! Rufus & Chaka Khan – Secret Friend (MCA)

The rise of the music industry is paved with countless mistakes along the way that are most likely no stranger to its ongoing fall. One of the main reasons why being the responsibility left to a whole bunch of (white) collars first and foremost dressed for marketing! As many people who, for a big majority of them, have never had any sense of artistry…

Here we go with another demonstration to this with Rufus & Chaka Khan‘s 1981 ‘Camouflage’ album. MCA passing on the outstanding ‘Secret Friend’ meanwhile giving a single release to ‘Sharing The Love’ and ‘Better Together’. 2 cuts which generated poor reactions in the charts at the end!

What a mistake at the end judging by the quality of its arrangements. A production whose sophistication brings us back to the souvenir of Ashford & Simpson‘s compositions. In the vein of The Brothers Johnson‘s ‘Caught Up’ which A&M Records also managed to pass on. Blending lush horns and strings under the direction of Jerry Hey over a jazzy funk bassline courtesy of Bobby Watson. Featuring Greg Phillinganes on keyboards. But also and Lalomie Washburn and René & Angela who co-wrote it on backing vocals…

‘Secret Friend’ fully justifies the investment on this album.

Overview
A Chicago, IL native, Chaka Khan was born to a family of artists. With one of her sisters, Yvonne, who made herself a name as Taka Boom. And her brother (Mark Stevens) who co-founded Aurra with Steve Washington. Speakin’ of her, her dad said she was a beatnik. Meanwhile, according to her mom, she was able to do anything. Her CV – she has won 10 Grammys and sold an estimated more than 70 million albums worldwide – speakin’ for itself…

Chaka most likely credits her grandmother for havin’ introduced her to Jazz as a child. A Rhythm And Blues fan, she eventually formed a girl group – the Crystalettes – along with her sister, Taka, at the age of 11. Performing in local nightclubs during her teenage years in the 60’s, she replaced Paulette McWilliams who was the lead singer of American Breed, back in 1971. Later that year, the group would turn their name to Rufus.

Their eponymous debut-album, which saw the light in 1973, failed to generate a consistant following. Success would come the year after though with the Stevie Wonder produced ‘Tell Me Something Good’.

In 1975, Chaka met Quincy Jones on a plane. This leading her to collaborate with him on ‘Stuff Like That’. The Dude also producing the memorable ‘Do You Love What You Feel’ for the then called Rufus & Chaka Khan in 1979.

Although periodically continuing with the band, Chaka Khan launched her solo career in 1978. Ashford & Simpson writing and producing the memorable ‘I’m Every Woman’ for her. ‘Naughty’, her second album followed 2 years after, strengthening her working relationship with producer Arif Mardin. It spanned 3 singles. From ‘Clouds’ (also written by Ashford & Simpson) to ‘Get Ready, Get Set’. Not to mention the Greg Diamond penned ‘Papillon (a.k.a. Hot Butterfly)’.

Chaka went back with Rufus on the 1981 ‘Camouflage’ album before releasing her third opus, ‘What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me’. The singer increasing her popularity among the Jazz audiences. With thanks for the inclusion of the Dizzy Gillespie‘s composition ‘Night In Tunisia’ with a guest appearance by the latter himself.

1983 would see the release of Rufus‘s final album, ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live’. And in the meantime ‘Ain’t Nobody’ as fronted by Chaka, standing as their final hit. The group disbanding soon after its release.

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