by: Chaka Khan

Although the misleading title doesn't indicate it, Classikhan can be seen as a follow-up to the Echoes of an Era album Chaka Khan made with her all-star cast of jazz musicians in 1982. The disc is neither a best-of nor a bunch of re-recordings. Instead, it's a set of jazz standards and traditional pop that she recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, with a little additional help on a handful of cuts from pianist Joe Sample and percussionist Sheila E. Followers of Khan who know the singer's work well beyond the chart hits know that something like this is hardly out of character for her. While it's true that many of these songs -- such as "The Best Is Yet to Come," "To Sir With Love," "Crazy," "Round Midnight" -- have been worn out by so many other renditions of varying quality, Khan injects plenty of her tirelessly singular personality. Most thrilling of all is a pair of nods to Shirley Bassey, John Barry, and James Bond. Weighty versions of "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Goldfinger" come near the tail end and steal the show, indicating that Khan would be a natural Bond-theme successor to the likes of Bassey, Carly Simon, Gladys Knight, and Tina Turner. The only obvious problem with the disc is its title. Longtime Khan fans are likely to glance at the cover of the disc and see it as a another career retrospective -- or, at most, re-recordings of the singer's old material -- that they don't need to hear. That's clearly not the case here. ~ Andy Kellman

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