Chaka Khan, “Hello Happiness” (Diary/Island Records)
With just seven songs in 28 minutes, Chaka Khan’s “Hello Happiness” is a little bundle of joy, emphasis on the little. But you shouldn’t feel shortchanged.
Consider it instead as a corrective to all those overlong, overblown collections of incessant sonic doodles and listen up as the iconic singer makes her feelings and intentions clear from the start: “Music makes me say/Goodbye sadness/Hello happiness.”
Khan’s clarity of purpose comes on the back of a dramatic awakening after the 2016 death of Prince, a close collaborator, which helped her confront her own addiction to prescription drugs.
The title track is a good sampler for the rest of the record — deep grooves, dancefloor beats and Khan’s excellent voice, which, even decades since her days with Chicago funksters Rufus and a dozen years after her last solo release, has not lost the ability to create its own flow while forming a tight connection to each song.
The production from Switch and Sarah Ruba Taylor applies just the right amount of now sounds to classic disco and funk structures, with some space judiciously reserved for rapturous reggae on “Isn’t That Enough” and a gliding acoustic guitar and tap-tap-tapping percussion on cozy closer “Ladylike.”
Elsewhere, the scalding, exuberant “Too Hot” isn’t shy to describe the kind of man who’ll earn a swipe right, and “Like Sugar,” a contortionist’s dream, features Khan on timbales and is based on the Fatback Band’s “(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop.”
Chaka Khan has found some contentment and “Hello Happiness” is gratifying proof.
Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press