CHAKA KHAN: Funk This (Label: Sony BMG)


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