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A Musical Epiphany

Chaka Khan
Albert Sanchez

I'm Every Woman: Chaka Khan

A new retrospective album charts the recording history of Chaka Khan

By Nicky Baxter

If in the 1960s and '70s, Aretha Franklin was the reigning Queen of Soul, Chaka Khan was the funky diva, her wild sensuality barely contained within the boundaries of song. She could wail like a banshee in heat, croon like a love goddess and pull off all the tricks of the R&B trade in between.

Although she never quite scaled the heights that her gifts surely suggested, Khan did leave an irrevocable mark on black pop. The new retrospective album Epiphany: The Best of Chaka Khan (Warner Bros.) culls the cream of the vocalist's career.

"Discovered" by Stevie Wonder in the mid-'70s, when she was lead vocalist for woefully underrated funk outfit Rufus, Khan made an immediate impression with her unforgettable stage performances and memorable tunes, like the Wonder-penned "Tell Me Something Good," which won the band its first Grammy.

The group would go on to rock the charts with "You Got the Love," "Stay" and the sighing, come-hither romanticism of "Sweet Thing." Displaying as they do, Khan's impressive if sometimes histrionic vocal range, these songs are necessarily included on Epiphany.

The album also surveys the singer's post-Rufus career. Any concerns that the woman couldn't make it without her maiden band were quickly quelled when she hooked up with legendary songwriting team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson for the exhilarating pro-feminist joint "I'm Every Woman."

From there, Khan would go on to work with the ex-Prince of Minneapolis; the resulting "I Feel For You" again rocketed to the top of the pop and dance charts. These tunes are essential listening, and Epiphany would be much of one if it didn't include them.

Later still, she would try her hand at jazzier fare, with mixed results. But Chaka Khan has always done what she's wanted to. If nothing else, Chaka Khan is living proof that you can't keep a good woman down.

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A web exclusive to the February 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro

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