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Rufus: Five-star flashback

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Rufus’ "Rufusized"

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The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This edition of the series we (ahem) examine Rufus’ Rufusized.

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For those not up on their music history, Rufus is a funk band from the US officially formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1972. The group (disbanded in 1983) is perhaps best known as the launching pad for (former) lead singer Chaka Khan as well as such hit songs as "Tell Me Something Good", "Sweet Thing", and "Ain't Nobody".

By 1974 the band was already a platinum-selling rock group mainly due to one gold platter and a couple hit singles. Lead vocalist Chaka Khan was particularly popular which became a band sore spot and founding members Al Ciner, Dennis Belfied and former lead singer Ron Stockert quit the band before the end of their breakthrough album Rags to Rufus released earlier that year.

Afraid that their ship would sail if they were too slow in putting out another LP, they went back to the L.A. recording studio mere months after the above-mentioned record was released. Khan became more involved in co-writing their material. The band roster at the time included: Khan, Tony Maiden (lead guitar and background vocals), Kevin Murphy (organ, clavinette, acoustic piano, Arp synthesizer and background vocals), Bobby Watson (bass and background vocals) and André Fischer (drums and percussion). (Fischer, Khan and Murphy were the only remaining original members at this point.)

The ten-track finished work opens on “Once You Get Started”. This is a horn-driven funk piece by singer and musician Gavin "One Step Closer to You" Christopher. Maiden took the lead vocals for one verse in this song.

The second selection is the funky “Somebody’s Watching You”. This was the first example of the collaborative efforts of Maiden, Khan and Watson. (It would be sampled and used in Jurassic 5’s “Monkey Bars" for their 2000 disc Quality Control.

The next number is “Pack’d My Bags”. This is the result of a tuneful team-up between Maiden and Khan. It’s followed by their adaptation of famous R&B singer-songwriter Lalomie Washburn’s “Your Smile”.

The side closes on the titular track “Rufusized”. This is an instrumental that proves the entire band’s ability to write together. The flip side opens on “I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone)” which is a cover of another tune by Washburn.

The seventh song is “Right Is Right”. This was written by maiden, Murphy and Khan. The eighth audio offering off this album is a cover of musician (now New York politician) John Hall’s “Half Moon”. (Mind you, some of the songs not written by the band were specifically written with them in mind.)

The next number is “Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend)”. This was another track not written by the band. It was written by singer-songwriter/keyboardist Brenda Gordon and Brian Russell. (This would also go on to be sampled by another artist this time it would be included on "You Gets No Love" by Faith Evans from the disc Faithfully

The album’s end-note “Stop on By” which was co-composed by singer-songwriter/guitarist Bobby “It’s All Over Now” Womack and German composer Pete Thomas. Before 1974 drew to a close, Rufus released Rufusized their third studio album with a running time of over 37 minutes. (It was also their second ABC label release of the year.)

The platter peaked at number 7 on the US pop chart and sold over a million copies. The singles “Once You Get Started” and "Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend)" were also met with success. The latter making it to number 48 on the US charts and the latter climbing to number 10 and (eventually) helping the album up to platinum status. While not released as singles, the songs "Somebody's Watching You", "Pack'd My Bags" and "I'm a Woman" still garnered enough airplay and attention to become fan favorites.

Rufus’ Rufusized/ABC D-837 was the musical embodiment of what would become a new genre—essentially a cross between soul and rock. The material here demonstrates that Khan was thinking about Janis Joplin when recording this LP. Mind you, her sensibility was generally as different from Joplin’s as from Gladys Knight’s or Aretha Franklin’s. Her moody, spacey air doesn’t truly fit into any genre which might be one reason why Rufus was Chaka Khan and without her the group was lost.

My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.

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