Hello Happiness

by: Chaka Khan

Strange as it seems, Hello Happiness is the first originals-oriented Chaka Khan release since 1998's Come 2 My House. Whereas the aughts LPs ClassiKhan and Funk This were based on standards, covers, and updates, this EP is mostly new, created with a cast led by Sarah Ruba Taylor and partner Switch -- aka David Taylor, producer of M.I.A. and Major Lazer fame, not to be confused with the band who gave us Tommy and Bobby DeBarge. Its germ is in the Taylors' appearance on the soundtrack of The Get Down, for which they fused the Fatback Band's 1975 funk classic "(Are You Ready to Do) The Bus Stop" to a like-spirited number fronted by Sarah Ruba. That track gets new life here as "Like Sugar," a funky and inciting vamp that, as the lead single, sets the tone for a retro-contemporary feel-good set. Synthetically souped-up twists on the slick and euphoric dancefloor funk of the late '70s likewise shape "Hello Happiness" itself and "Like a Lady," with Masterjam cut "Any Love" the closest vintage Khan analogy. The remainder is rooted in other bygone sounds, from mid-'60s New Orleans R&B to early-'80s Compass Point reggae. Best of the lot is "Isn't That Enough," built on a loping riddim in the mold of Sly & Robbie's work on Grace Jones' cover of "Nightclubbing," though Khan is uninhibited and impassioned, as always. Even when a surplus of synthesizers, organs, and flame-throwing guitars threaten to overtake her elsewhere, she cuts straight through with full-tilt, life-affirming power. ~ Andy Kellman

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