Wed. Nov. 14, 2018

Chaka Khan – Clouds (Album Version)

Classics: Chaka Khan – Clouds (LP Version) (Warner Bros.)

Chaka Khan went straight to the top as a solo artist back in 1978. This with the memorable ‘I’m Every Woman’. Teamin’ up with songwriters Ashford & Simpson and producer Arif Mardin. She would therefore do the same 2 years later with ‘Clouds’. Featuring Cissy Houston and a then unknown Whitney in the backing vocals…

Here we most definitely have a song of an exceptional manufacturing. From Chaka‘s singin’style reachin’ a rare emotional level. To Mardin‘s production work reachin’ that characteristic level of sophistication one would find on Ashford & Simpson‘s music. With each detail sort of highlighting the lyrical flow of these undeniably vibrant ‘Clouds’…

I somehow come to wonder if it hasn’t been of an influence on Robb Scott‘s ‘Neptune Atmosphere’. A gem standing among the highlights of 2018 without a single doubt…

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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.

Chaka Khan went back to #1 position in the charts the year after with the title track of her ‘I Feel For You’ album. A song which Prince had written and recorded back in 1979. Her version featuring a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and an introductory rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Extra success would come with the 1989 ‘Life is a Dance: The Remix Project’ album. A double pack which features some of her greatest successes. From ‘I’m Every Woman’ to ‘Clouds’ respectively remixed by Dancing Danny D (D-Mob) and C & C Music Factory. Not to mention ‘Ain’t Nobody’ which she initially recorded with Rufus, with rework courtesy of Frankie Knuckles. And also ‘Life Is A Dance’ as reshaped by David Morales.

In 1990, Chaka teamed up once again with Quincy Jones. Sharing the vocal duties with Ray Charles on ‘I’ll Be Good To You’ which The Brothers Johnson originally sang back in 1976. And two years later, she topped the charts once more with ‘Love You All My Lifetime’ from her ‘The Woman I Am’ album.

Extra gems worth the mention from her including the 1995 ‘Watch What You Say’ which she recorded with the late Guru. And more recently, ‘Disrespectful’ along with Mary J Blige, from her 2007 ‘Funk This’ album. A cut which Matthias Heilbronn boosted in an explosive way, delivering one of his best reworks ever. Meanwhile, justice was to be paid to ‘I Know You I Live You’ with its release as a single with an edit courtesy of Danny Krivit.

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