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Funk This
Funk This
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaka Brings the Heat!!!, September 25, 2007
This review is from: Funk This (Audio CD)
Harkening back to her days with the groundbreaking r & b group Rufus, Funk This is an excellent set of originals and remakes that provide ample evidence why Chaka is considered perhaps the greatest funk vocalist ever. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have assembled a set of first-rate musicians and compositions that fit Chaka like a glove, further reminding us that Funk This is going to be something we have not heard in quite some time.

Several reviewers of Funk This have claimed this to be Chaka's first release in 10 years (since "Come 2 My House"). Those reviewers negligently overlook 2004's wonderful Classikhan, which had Chaka teamed with the London Symphony Orchestra. Though almost entirely remakes, it cannot be flatly said that this is her first release in 10 years. But while on "Classikhan" Chaka lends her formidable jazz and blues chops to re-imagine some classic songs (including scorching versions of "Diamonds Are Forever," and "Goldfinger"), she brings pure, unadulterated funk to her latest endeavor.

From Tony Maiden's guitar licks on the opener "Back In the Day," and Chaka's first line "Guess I grew up fast/in Chi-town," you know you are in for a singular performance. There are too many other highlights to mention: the hook-drenched "Will You Love Me?" (with its "wall of Chakas), the funky "Hail To The Wrong" (those handclaps!), the beautifully rendered and structured "Angel," the aching "One For All Time," Chaka's reading of Joni Mitchell's "Ladies Man" and Jimi's "Castles Made of Sand," (the latter featuring Jesse Johnson's guitar doing a darn good Hendrix interpretation), the gritty version Dee Dee Bridgewater's "Foolish Fool" (with Aaron Spears' kickdrum at the bridge), and the blistering duet with Mary J. Blige, "Disrespectful." Though on the last, we've heard the backbeat before (Amerie's "One Thing"), nothing (and noone) can match the vocal pyrotechnics on display. When Chaka belts out the last verse--" You so/Shady/Lowdown/Crazy/You think that I want to see you?/You out yo' mind??!!"--and she hurls that last word "mind" into the stratosphere, you know you are in the presence of a style that can never be duplicated.

But what gives this set a five-star: Chaka's rendition of Prince's "Sign `O The Times." Her sizzling interpretation is put atop a rhythmic stew of swirling, punctuating guitar licks, bass, keyboards, and drums. As if that were not enough, it morphs into sonic nirvana as the "whoa, whoa, whoa-aa" coda from Chaka's classic "I'm Every Woman" emerges, and Chaka adds a hopeful declaration to Prince's excellent but darker lyrics, while belting out highs and lows that are simply not on the charts.

Chaka, Jimmy, and Terry have created a set that reminds us all what great musicianship and singing is all about. With an unparalleled combination of vocal range (four octave) and power, Funk This demonstrates once again why Chaka deserves the distinction of having one of the most amazing and influential voices in modern popular music. Note to the academy: don't overlook this performance at Grammy time.

(also Posted to ITunes)

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