Chaka Khan is often tagged the Queen Of Funk, but it’s a nickname that doesn’t do full justice to her talent.
The singer, born Yvette Stevens, made her name as a member of Chicago funk ensemble Rufus, but she’s equally at home singing jazz, rock and gospel. She has worked with Ray Charles and Rick Wakeman.
And, as a soul singer, stands proudly in a line stretching from Aretha Franklin — she performed the gospel staple Going Up Yonder at Franklin’s funeral — to Alicia Keys and Beyonce.
Her first solo album in 12 years revels in such versatility. It’s short — just seven tracks — but still incorporates a dazzling array of styles.
At its best, it revisits the swagger of hits such as I’m Every Woman and I Feel For You, but it’s also modern enough to avoid becoming a parody of past glories.
Like fellow Americans Nile Rodgers and Mary J. Blige, Khan, 65, has sought British help: Hello Happiness is given its contemporary edge by electronic producer Dave ‘Switch’ Taylor, once of dance act Major Lazer, and his writing partner Sarah Ruba.
The pair contacted Chaka in the hope that she would contribute to another project, but their meeting went so well that an entire album ensued.
The mood is upbeat. In 2016, Khan entered rehab to conquer an addiction to prescription drugs, and the life-affirming title track is an energetic testament to her recovery.
Its loping jazz-funk sets the tone for the swirling disco of Like A Lady that follows.
The quality of the material occasionally dips. The electronic Don’t Cha Know is a seductive groove, rather than a fully finessed song.
The propulsive Like Sugar, underpinned by a classic Fatback Band sample, is a better floor-filler.
Khan also dips commandingly into Latin rhythms (Ladylike), reggae (Isn’t That Enough) and, on album highlight Too Hot, summons up a tough, bluesy power that is a timely reminder of her Chicago roots.