CHAKA KHAN: Funk This (Label: Sony BMG)

Thursday, 18 October 2007 15:48 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


It's been nine long years since this large-lunged, stentorian-voiced Windy City singer - who's now 54 - released a new album. Her last effort was 1998's 'Come To My House,' a partially enjoyable but somewhat patchy affair issued on Prince's NPG imprint. But there's nothing patchy about 'Funk This,' a sterling, cohesive collection of funky retro-grooves and heart-rending ballads. Here, Chaka sounds totally focused and re-energised. Evidently, the lengthy lay-off from recording has helped ferment her creative juices. Chaka even revisits a couple of antique Rufus numbers - an impassioned old school medley where 'You Got The Love' is segued with 'Packed My Bags,' - but the killer cut is undoubtedly 'One For All Time.' It's a great cut that recalls Chaka at her super-charged best during the early part of her tenure with Warner Bros in the late '70s. But that's not all. The ballad, 'Angel' is stupendous and there's a magnificent version of the Ed Townsend-penned 'Foolish Fool,' as recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and Marva Whitney in the 1960s. The infectious and mildly funky 'Will You Love Me' is also a winner, showcasing Chaka's trademark wails. The singer's penchant for high-decibel rock is exposed on her soulful version of Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic classic 'Castles Made Of Sand.' She also covers songs by Joni Mitchell and Prince ('Sign Of The Times'). Michael McDonald contributes his gruff tone to the duet 'You Belong To Me' while the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J Blige, turns up on the high-octane 'Disrespectful.' Despite these star turns, it's Chaka Khan who really shines. It's the best album she's delivered in a long, long time. 'Funk This'? Not 'alf!
(CW) 4/5


ANGIE STONE: The Art Of Love And War (Label: Stax)

Thursday, 18 October 2007 15:45 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

ANGIE STONE: The Art Of Love And War

Given her elevated status in contemporary soul, it's hard to believe that this is only Angie Stone's fourth attempt at a solo album - and yet, as the most erudite of soul fans will probably tell you, the 45-year-old South Carolina singer first came into the public eye way back in 1980 as a member of the Sugar Hill-signed hip-hop trio, The Sequence. After the demise of that short-lived group, Stone - who's a gifted tunesmith as well as a deeply soulful singer - fronted another trio, Vertical Hold, who signed to A&M in the early '90s and scored a Top 20 US R&B smash with 'Seems You're Much Too Busy.' The group folded and Stone eventually signed to Arista in 1999, where she issued her debut platter 'Black Diamond.' Since then, Stone has never looked back, though sadly health problems - diabetes and a more recent diagnosis of congenital heart failure - have cast a shadow over her success. Despite this, the chanteuse-turned-actress sounds in fine fettle on this 14-track debut set for the revitalised Stax label. 'Take Everything In' is a stunning mid-tempo opener with an addictive chorus that showcases Stone's sensual lower register. Miami soul veteran Betty Wright has a telling cameo on the infectious 'Baby,' which utilises a dusty Curtis Mayfield sample. Ballad-wise, there's a clutch of strong cuts, headed by the haunting 'Make It Last.' Even better, perhaps, is the summer-vibed 'Sit Down,' and Jill Scott-style 'Pop Pop.' On the uptempo front, the most salient tune is 'My People,' an anthemic black pride disco groove featuring a cameo from James Ingram. The album closes on a euphoric high with the gently uplifting 'Happy Being Me,' featuring lush background harmonies counterpointed by plangent harmonica fills. A superior soul album.
(CW) 4/5


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