Today's artists are one of the most commercially successful funk groups of the '70s, the multi-racial band are today best remembered for launching the career of soul diva Chaka Khan, whose fiery lead vocals were easily the band's focal point. Powered by Khan -- who was eventually billed in addition to the group -- and an unerring sense of groove, the band scored an impressive string of hit singles on both the pop and R&B charts, which lasted through the '70s and up to Khan's official departure in 1983... ..... N'joy
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In 1968, The American Breed (Gary Loizzo, Al Ciner, Charles (Chuck) Colbert and Lee Graziano) had a top ten hit with the classic rock single, "Bend Me, Shape Me". After much success, Colbert and Graziano (without Loizzo who pursued a successful production career) created a new group, adding latter day "Breed" members Kevin Murphy on (keyboards) and Paulette McWilliams (vocals), plus James Stella (vocals) and Vern Pilder (guitar) from the bar band "Circus". They re-emerged in 1969 under the name "Smoke". In 1970, after switching their management to Bob Monaco and Bill Traut, the group's name changed again to "Ask Rufus", the name taken from the title of the advice column in Mechanics Illustrated. At this point, Ciner came back to replace Pilder and Willie Weeks was added on bass after Colbert left.
In 1971 the band signed a contract with Epic Records recording an album that wasn't released after which Epic dropped their contract in early 1972. Willie Weeks was in turn replaced by Dennis Belfield, James Stella by keyboardist/vocalist Ron Stockert and Lee Graziano by Andre Fischer (former drummer with Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler). Paulette McWilliams and Chaka Khan had met and became the best of friends through their spouses Howard Towles and Hassan Khan. Chaka would come to most of Ask Rufus gigs when they were performing in Chicago. When Paulette decided she was leaving Ask Rufus, she went to the band and told them she had the perfect singer to replace her; she had also asked Chaka if she was interested. After the band members hesitantly submitted, Paulette remained with Ask Rufus for a few more weeks to teach Chaka all of their material. Paulette also got Chaka a gig with the group formed by Chicago's Cash McCall called Lyfe. Chaka had been performing at the Pumpkin Room on the south side of Chicago, with a local Chicago group called Lock and Chain, led by drummer Scotty Harris.
Bob Monaco was part of a booking company known as Ashley Famous with Jim Golden, they booked Ask Rufus, with Paulette McWilliams and also The Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton. Monaco was also responsible for helping to get Ask Rufus their deal on ABC Dunhill. Monaco returned to Los Angeles, convinced the label to give him a demo budget and then quickly returned to Chicago where the group recorded eleven songs in two days at Marty Feldman's Paragon Studios. After taking the demo tapes back to ABC Dunhill the group was immediately asked to sign a long term recording contract.
Khan, who at eighteen was still a minor, had to have her mother sign along with her, even though as a married woman (newly wed to Hassan Khan, a bassist of one of her former bands), she could have done the deed herself. The group then drove to Los Angeles and recorded their first "Rufus" album at Quantum Recording Studios in Torrance, California, released in 1973. While the songs "Whoever's Thrilling You (Is Killing Me)" and "Feel Good" (both featuring Khan) brought the group some attention from R&B radio stations, the album itself had minimal sales, and the Stockert-led "Slip & Slide" failed to catch major attention from pop radio.
The group quickly re-entered the same studio to record their follow-up album Rags to Rufus that included the Stevie Wonder song "Tell Me Something Good", Ray Parker Jr.'s and Khan's "You Got The Love" and Dennis Belfield's "In Love We Grow", along with "Smokin' Room". Ciner and Belfield would leave the group shortly thereafter along with Stockert, who was replaced by Los Angeles-based keyboardist Nate Morgan. Additionally, Tony Maiden and bassist Bobby Watson, also from Los Angeles, were recruited by drummer Andre Fischer and asked to join the group as well. Maiden's, Watson's and Morgan's addition to Rufus added a unique sound to the group, bringing a stronger funk and jazz influence to complement Chaka's now emerging powerful lead vocals.
Rags to Rufus was released in 1974 and two of its singles — the Stevie Wonder-penned "Tell Me Something Good" and the Parker-Khan composition, "You Got the Love" — became smash hits leading to Rags to Rufus going platinum and also landed them opening spots for the tours of several top stars including Stevie Wonder, Cheech and Chong and the Hues Corporation. "Tell Me Something Good" also brought Rufus their first Grammy Award. In addition, it sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on August 9, 1974. Due to Khan's increasing popularity Rufus and ABC started calling the group Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan. With this new billing, the band recorded and quickly released their next album, Rufusized in 1974. Another platinum success, the group entered the top ten again with the funk singles, "Once You Get Started", (penned by Gavin Christopher), "Stop on By", "I'm a Woman", and "Pack'd My Bags" (later sampled for Jody Watley's "Lovin' You So") and "Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend)", penned by their friend Brenda Russell.
Heading into 1975, the group headlined their first major tour, with Khan attracting attention in concert reviews for her powerhouse vocals and sexy attire — so much so that when it came to do photo sets, Khan was often the only artist chosen to be featured on covers, mainly on magazines such as Jet, which Khan would be heavily featured on throughout her long career. Also due to her off-stage antics that added to her on-stage persona, the media billed Khan as "the wild child". Due to Khan's vocal power and sex appeal, she was often compared to Tina Turner, with some rock and soul press labeling her a "pint-sized Tina", and also to Aretha Franklin (her friends called her "little Aretha"). Attention to Khan began to make things difficult for some of the group's members as they felt Khan's presence had overshadowed the entire band's output. The group's fourth release, and the third major release where Khan was dominant lead singer, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, was released in 1975. The major hit off the album was a compositon by Khan and Tony Maiden titled "Sweet Thing" which reached the top five of the charts and became their fourth record to reach gold.
Despite the album's success as well as a second successful major tour that followed, it still didn't stop growing tensions within the group, particularly between Khan and longtime Rufus drummer Andre Fischer. During recording sessions of Ask Rufus, Khan had married Richard Holland (she had divorced her first husband Hassan Khan in 1974 prior to the birth of their child Milini), and the presence of Holland only made things worse between Khan and Fischer. During one session of Ask Rufus, Fischer engaged in a fight with Holland, who received help from a counter-attacking Khan. Ask Rufus would be released in 1977 and include the hits "At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)", "Hollywood" and "Everlasting Love". Following a tour to promote Ask Rufus, Fischer finally left the group. He was followed out of the group by Nate Morgan. They were replaced by Richard "Moon" Calhoun and David "Hawk" Wolinski, respectively. The new lineup recorded the album, Street Player, which featured the Khan-composed ballad, "Stay". After first putting it off as a rumor, Khan confirmed to media reports that she was going solo, signing a deal with Warner Bros. Records. The decision strained relations between Khan and the other Rufus members. Khan released her self-titled debut later in 1978. The album sold more than Street Player, going platinum, thanks to the international Ashford & Simpson-composed single, "I'm Every Woman". Khan continued to promote the album into 1979. In early 1979, Calhoun would be replaced by John "J.R." Robinson as the group's drummer in 1979.
Following the Calhoun replacement, another change came when ABC Records got absorbed by MCA, bringing the group to MCA as a result. While Khan promoted Chaka, Rufus put out a less favorably received Khan-less album, Numbers, which tanked. Khan returned to record with the band for the Quincy Jones-produced Masterjam. By now, Rufus and Khan were split in two, both acts being treated separately. Khan's superstardom helped Masterjam go gold thanks to the funk-laden disco recording, "Do You Love What You Feel".
Though Khan would later say that she was ready to leave Rufus upon the time she released Chaka in 1978, she discovered that she had two more albums left in her ABC/MCA contract with the band and agreed to fulfill her obligations. Following Masterjam, one of the contractual albums, and another Khan-less album, Party 'Til You're Broke, which bombed, the factions of Rufus and Khan reunited for their last MCA album, Camouflage in 1981. The feelings of long overdrawn bad tensions were felt during album sessions. This resulted in situations where Khan would either record her vocals alone to a click track prior to the band's instrumentation being added later, or vice versa.
Unfortunately, the album failed to garner attention, mainly due to Khan's solo obligations, which now included two more gold-certified studio albums, Naughty and What Cha' Gonna Do for Me. With the release of Camouflage, Khan was free to leave the group, and following her exit in early 1982, the remaining members of Rufus released what became their final studio album, Seal in Red in 1983 which, like their previous albums, went unnoticed.
Rufus band members sensed that their tenure was over and agreed to split on the terms they release one last live album to commemorate the occasion. The band asked Khan to contribute to their final concert performance which would be filmed by Warner Bros., and she obliged, reuniting with the group for what was to be later released as a documentary film titled Stompin' At the Savoy. For some reason, Warner Bros. refused to release the film at that time and released only the live album instead. However the concert has since been released to home-video with remastered picture and remixed 5.1 Dolby Surround sound.
The album included four Khan-led studio songs, including a Dave Wolinski composition titled "Ain't Nobody", which got attention when a producer for the film, Breakin' heard it while screening songs for the movie's soundtrack. Warner eventually released the song (with the billing Rufus and Chaka Khan) and the song became a top 30 Billboard Hot 100 hit, reaching number-one on the R&B chart and hitting number eight on the UK singles chart. The success of the track led to the band receiving its second Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Following this success, Rufus went their separate ways for good with Khan continuing her solo career, becoming one of the most revered R&B artists of her generation with the release of the single "I Feel for You" cementing her reputation.
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Rufus and Chaka Khan went through three name changes as a group: Rufus, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and Rufus and Chaka Khan. It doesn't really matter what name is used because the result is the same: solid grooves, arresting melodies and the overwhelming vocals of Chaka Khan. This album spawned a Top Five Billboard R&B hit with "Stay," a song with a moderate tempo and a very humble beginning that bows to an explosive plea from Khan. It reached number three on the charts after 18 weeks. "Blue Love" has that seesaw rhythm that swings from midtempo to uptempo but is controlled by Khan's delivery. It slipped into the Top 40 at number 34 in a short nine weeks. This project could have easily supported additional releases with songs like the engaging "Stranger to Love," the jazzy "Destiny" and "Best of Your Heart." That's just for starters. Tony Maiden steps in vocally on "Change Your Ways." Khan's vocals are so dynamic and have so much range that it's hard to find challenging material. This album comes close to that challenge.
Rufus & Chaka Khan - Street Player (flac 231mb)
01 Street Player 4:54
02 Stay 5:41
03 Turn 4:43
04 Best Of Your Heart 3:45
05 Finale 2:10
06 Blue Love 3:18
07 Stranger To Love 3:33
08 Take Time (Instrumental) 4:16
09 Destiny 4:25
10 Change Your Ways 3:27
Rufus & Chaka Khan - Street Player (ogg 97mb)
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The story of Chicago-based R&B and funk outfit Rufus’s success can be clearly tied to one name: Chaka Khan. While at first, relegated to role of “clean-up” vocalist, the band’s fortunes started to rise once they realized the gift they had in her voice. This is not to say that the band was just there while Chaka sang — over the years, Rufus had developed into a tight, accomplished instrumental and songwriting outfit in its own right, as personnel changed. This was certainly the case by 1979, when Rufus was left without its signature voice following the release of their album Street Player (named for the song member “Hawk” Wolinski and Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine had written first for the latter’s band) and Chaka’s first, eponymous solo album.
The burning question was clear: could Rufus hack it without Chaka’s mighty voice? In this listener’s estimation, the answer is a confident “Yes”. Avoiding many of the trendy traps of the late 1970s, but yet, carrying a distinct “1979” sound of merged AM Rock, R&B, and Funk, Numbers ended up being a valiant effort from the band, looking for an identity in the wake of Chaka’s departure. Though, this is not to say Chaka’s departure was not felt. Helen Lowe’s voice sounds eerily similar on the opening track “Ain’t Nobody Like You”, providing a well-woven duet with guitarist Tony Maiden, whose voice up until this point was largely unheard, but is much appreciated. Maxayn (Lewis), well traveled session and lead vocalist in her own right, fills a similar role on the sublime “Are We?”, paired with David “Hawk” Wolinski (whose voice sounds rather close to Maiden’s). The similiarity often begs the question, “Why isn’t Chaka singing any of this?”
Songwriting was very much more in line with 1977’s excellent Ask Rufus, though not quite as eclectic and certainly without the home runs that the album provided. In particular, Bobby Watson’s instrumental “Red Hot Poker” is among one of the best songs that the band ever recorded. Famed jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard provides color to the nighttime cruiser, “Bet My Dreams”, an example of the band’s attention to detail. The closer, “Life In The City” is equally hard-edged — overall, this album brings to mind the nightly playlist of one Venus Flytrap on WKRP In Cincinnati — which is ultimately a good thing.
Rufus - Numbers (flac 268mb)
01 Ain't Nobody Like You 4:28
02 You're To Blame 3:51
03 Keep It Together (Declaration Of Love) 4:16
04 Dancin' Mood 3:52
05 Red Hot Poker 4:30
06 Don't You Sit Alone 4:41
07 Bet My Dreams 5:04
08 Pleasure Dome 4:11
09 Are We? 3:32
10 Life In The City 4:54
Rufus - Numbers (ogg 105mb)
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As Khan released her first solo album, I'm Every Woman, the band released 1978's Numbers, sans Khan, and it went absolutely nowhere. Masterjam finds them back together, renamed Rufus and Chaka, with Quincy Jones producing the effort. Khan had worked with Jones on his 1978 album, Sounds...And Stuff Like That. The most striking thing about Masterjam is that is doesn't sound like a trademark Rufus effort. Jones' production style is so strong that the band's individual sound is all but lost. It's nothing to cry about, since Jones was at his R&B/pop peak and Rufus couldn't do it any better on their own. The album's first track is "Do What You Love What You Feel," with its subtle horn riffs arranged by Jerry Hey and vocals from guitarist Tony Maiden and Khan. On a track somewhat close to a ballad, the brilliantly arranged "Heaven Bound," Jones gets a good raw vocal from Khan. A frequent Jones collaborator, Rod Temperton, offers the title track and the even better "Live in Me." The album's only low point was a cover of Jones' own "Body Heat." On this version the pace is quickened, inexplicably turned into disco which revealed the lyrics to be paper-thin. Although Masterjam was just more of a Quincy Jones album than a Rufus effort, this ended up being one of the groups' last successful full-studio endeavors.
Rufus & Chaka - Masterjam (flac 277mb)
01 Do You Love What You Feel 4:28
02 Any Love 4:50
03 Heaven Bound 3:45
04 Walk The Rockway 4:04
05 Live In Me 3:54
06 Body Heat 5:45
07 I'm Dancing For Your Love 4:32
08 What Am I Missing? 4:03
09 Masterjam 3:34
Rufus & Chaka - Masterjam (ogg 94mb)
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Although the record company pulled the distribution shortly after the release, they wiped it out as if it never existed. This was clearly a band at the end of its road. The songs are pedestrian at best and though the band generates some heat on a few cuts, "Music Man", "Better Together" and "Highlight" are as close as this set gets to the old Rufus we knew and loved. Chaka is her usual powerhouse self, especially on "Losers in Love". You can hear the desperation in her vocals, clearly she is singing from experience on this one.The band is good but sound a little too polished, not unlike Earth, Wind and Fire and Kool and the Gang began to sound around the same time. Infectious grooves, thumpin' bass, catchy melodic hooks and Khan's unique and soulful vocals are what saves this project from complete oblivion. The title Camouflage almost plays up to it's prophetic name for it truly was hidden due to lack of proper promotion, airplay and sales back in 1981.The 80's and early 90's were not kind to funk bands who seemed to be afflicted with "solo-itis". Everybody wanted their cake, and lots of them fell apart during those years.
Rufus & Chaka Khan - Camouflage (flac 253mb)
01 Better Together 3:37
03 Secret Friend 3:57
04 Music Man (The D.J. Song) 3:50
05 True Love 3:15
06 Sharing The Love 3:37
07 Quandary 4:50
08 Lilah 4:14
09 Losers In Love 3:04
10 Highlight 3:14
Rufus & Chaka Khan - Camouflage (ogg 90mb)
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