Review #499: Ask Rufus, Rufus & Chaka Khan

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 28, 2023

#499: Ask Rufus, Rufus & Chaka Khan

#498, Suicide by Suicide, was also released in 1977, but these records about as sonically far apart as you can get. For one thing, Suicide wrote ten-minute a song about a triple suicide-homicide, while Rufus wrote a two-minute swelling string instrumental called “Slow Screw Against The Wall.” For another, Suicide was recorded in four days; this one took sixteen months.

Chaka Khan was Rufus’ lead singer and a veritable firecracker, who was so dynamic onstage that she was sometimes called a “pint-sized Tina Turner.” She was also a multi-instrumentalist, and sometimes played perfussion and bass for Rufus. It should be noted here that Rufus was simply the name of the band — nobody in it is actually named Rufus. (I was definitely picturing an Ike Turner figurehead named Rufus. Though fun fact, Ike asked Khan to be an Ikette!)

This was Rufus’ fifth album, but their first to go platinum. Unfortunately, the reason it took so long was that Khan and the rest of her band were experiencing tensions. My guess is it was partly due to Khan’s overwhelming popularity (just look at how she dwarfs them on the album cover), but some of it was due to her recent marriage. For whatever reason, Rufus’ main drummer Andre Fischer was unhappy with the union; in fact, this was his final album with the band. And two years later, Rufus began releasing albums without Khan, though she would occasionally rejoin the band, however briefly.

Such chaos behind such a good vibes album. The main vibe, of course, is slow sex jams. The lyrics of “Everlasting Love” should give you an idea, where Khan offers her lover an everlasting, satisfying, mystifying love. And Khan’s gigantic visage on the album cover matches her powerhouse vocals, even on the quiet storm-like “Magic In Your Eyes” and when she’s being being softly rejected on “Better Days.” The highest energy song is “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up),” which ends with Khan declaiming at the top of her lungs, but most of them fall into the slow neo-soul genre of “Close The Door.”

Not every song is a love song — in fact, when they move away from the topic of boning, they can be pretty philosophical. “Earth Song” is a love song not just to the Earth, but the universe, set to the record’s hardest guitar solo. That one covers space, while “Egyptian Song” covers time: Here’s to, to a long forgotten dream … Can’t restrain these feelings of my ancient land/ Here is a melody for you. “Hollywood” is a little more mundane, but remains thoughtful as it tells the tale of a Hollywood hopeful, comparing the hollowness of his old life to the faux-fulfillment that Hollywood has to offer him.

Post-Rufus, Khan went on to attain huge success with her solo career, releasing “I’m Every Woman” and dozens of other hits. She had a bit role in The Blues Brothers, and later on, was featured on Phineas and Ferb. Her last album was released in 2019. Rufus, on the other hand, last put out a studio album in 1983. Maybe they should have kept her around.

Wildest Fact: Chaka Khan was on Celebrity Ghost Stories! She apparently saw her guardian angel. Man, wish I was that lucky.

Review #498: Suicide, Suicide

Review #500: Funeral, Arcade Fire

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