Record of the Day: Chaka Khan, "Chaka"

Record of the Day: Chaka Khan, “Chaka”

Chaka Khan
Chaka (Cd Warner Bros:18P2-2671)

The figure of Yvette Stevens, better known to the public as Chaka Khan, towers over all black music performers, qualifying herself as one of the greatest singers of the genre after Aretha Franklin and probably the only voice capable of sustaining comparison with the latter .

Equipped with an astonishing range (five octaves), inexhaustible determination and a lion-like personality that immediately puts its mark even on the seemingly simplest musical material, Chaka has had an inconsistent career due to terrible personal habits based on drugs and alcohol which caused her many problems with the world of music business. Her discography consequently varies a lot from a qualitative point of view, but with this first album of hers it is a sure shot.

Recorded in 1978 at the peak of his vocal form with the help of the sensitive ears of producer Arif Mardin and
best instrumentalists on the New York scene, the album is one of the cornerstones of soul music, as fresh and vibrant as the day of its release; the very powerful single “I'm Every Woman”, composed for her by Ashford & Simpson, is still today an earthquake of funk groove and continues to claim victims in discos and on the radio.

Chaka's voice soars high on the instrumental bases provided by names such as Richard Tee, Steve Ferrone, Phil Upchurch, Hamish
Stuart, the Brecker Brothers, Airto Moreira and many others, who in a continuous variation of instrumental colors supported by a rhythm
Knockout hits the accelerator on “Life Is a Dance” and “We Got the Love,” which features vocals from George Benson.

The bewitching charm of Chaka's uvula lends itself naturally to the sensual world of ballads, and in pages like “A Woman
in a Man's World” and “Love Has Fallen on Me” the result is exciting; Mardin however opts for an album with a fast-paced rhythm and gets back on track with the genuine funk of “Some Love” and the excellent version of “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder.

The album represents one of the peaks of the black season of the Seventies, combining impeccable professionalism and technical perfection with a visceral emotional charge that brings Chaka's voice to levels never surpassed after her (just make the comparison with the very sad version of “I 'm Every Woman” created by Whitney Houston).

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.