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Picks and Pans Review: Ck

updated 01/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chaka Khan

This album puts Chaka head-to-head with some singing shriveled fruit. As do the California Raisins, Khan has a cover of Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours on her new album. In the battle of the bands the Raisins come out a little ahead on this one song. Match up the albums though, and Chaka just plain shrivels them up. CK is clearly the singer's best effort in years. Despite a sassy, powerful voice—at her best, she is one of the few soul singers who can hold a candle to Aretha—Khan has had a pretty spotty recording career. This time she left nothing to chance, surrounding herself with backstage talent. Her producers, working in various tandems, are Russ Titelman, David Frank, Prince and Chris Jasper (of Isley, Jasper, Isley). The musicians include Wonder, Miles Davis, Prince, Marcus Miller and guitarists Paul Pesco, Eddie Martinez and George Benson. Khan is interpreting compositions by Cecil and Linda Womack, Holly Knight, Brenda Russell and Prince. His Purple Molehills Majesty goes one for two with his contributions. With its lock-step rhythm, Eternity is an entrancing return to Prince's martial R&B. Sticky Wicked, on the other hand, is a very unabsorbing pass at the extra-chunky funk style sometimes known as Chicago house music. Khan sounds great throughout, particularly on The End of a Love Affair, one of the album's two traditional, Dave Grusin-arranged ballads, on which the singer alternates the current between sultry and electrifying. The highlight is a gripping reading of Russell's Soul Talkin', which features a fabulous scat solo from Bobby McFerrin. CK isn't an astounding album by any means, but after years of leaving her best work on other peoples' records (a prime example is Steve Winwood's Higher Love), Khan has saved enough of the good stuff to grab herself a winner. (Warner Bros.)

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