1. Ain’t Nobody Like You
2. You’re To Blame
3. Keep It Together (Declaration Of Love)
4. Dancin’ Mood
5. Red Hot Poker
6. Don’t You Sit Alone
7. Bet My Dreams
8. Pleasure Dome
9. Are We?
10. Life In The City
Source: Vinyl LP
Format: VBR V0 MP3 (FLAC lossless format available upon request)
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The story of Chicago-based R&B and funk outfit Rufus’s success can be clearly tied to one name: Chaka Khan. While at first, relegated to role of “clean-up” vocalist, the band’s fortunes started to rise once they realized the gift they had in her voice. This is not to say that the band was just there while Chaka sang — over the years, Rufus had developed into a tight, accomplished instrumental and songwriting outfit in its own right, as personnel changed. This was certainly the case by 1979, when Rufus was left without its signature voice following the release of their album Street Player (named for the song member “Hawk” Wolinski and Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine had written first for the latter’s band) and Chaka’s first, eponymous solo album.
The burning question was clear: could Rufus hack it without Chaka’s mighty voice? In this listener’s estimation, the answer is a confident “Yes”. Avoiding many of the trendy traps of the late 1970s, but yet, carrying a distinct “1979” sound of merged AM Rock, R&B, and Funk, Numbers ended up being a valiant effort from the band, looking for an identity in the wake of Chaka’s departure. Though, this is not to say Chaka’s departure was not felt. Helen Lowe’s voice sounds eerily similar on the opening track “Ain’t Nobody Like You”, providing a well-woven duet with guitarist Tony Maiden, whose voice up until this point was largely unheard, but is much appreciated. Maxayn (Lewis), well traveled session and lead vocalist in her own right, fills a similar role on the sublime “Are We?”, paired with David “Hawk” Wolinski (whose voice sounds rather close to Maiden’s). The similiarity often begs the question, “Why isn’t Chaka singing any of this?”
Songwriting was very much more in line with 1977’s excellent Ask Rufus, though not quite as eclectic and certainly without the home runs that the album provided. In particular, Bobby Watson’s instrumental “Red Hot Poker” is among one of the best songs that the band ever recorded. Famed jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard provides color to the nighttime cruiser, “Bet My Dreams”, an example of the band’s attention to detail. The closer, “Life In The City” is equally hard-edged — overall, this album brings to mind the nightly playlist of one Venus Flytrap on WKRP In Cincinnati — which is ultimately a good thing.
This is the only Rufus album to not see a CD release, strangely enough — it certainly deserves it. Rufus cut three albums without Chaka Khan, this one, 1981’s Party ‘Til You’re Broke, and their studio swan song, 1983’s Seal In Red, all respectable albums. While the latter two were straight on contemporary R&B (also undeserving of some of the negative reviews that they have received), this one is a more eclectic and resilient affair, meant to really showcase the band — it really felt like Rufus had something to prove with this album. Certainly, they accomplished it; the only problem is, that the listening public literally did not buy it without Chaka in the line up. Compared to the Quincy Jones produced follow-up, Masterjam, which reunited Chaka Khan with the band, this album sounds much more definitive; it was just missing the key ingredient to produce the hits.