Soul, Funk and R&B classics from the vaults – February 2021

Once a month we open the vaults of the WEST COAST SOUL record collection and take a look back at the classics of Soul, R&B and Funk from the 70s and 80s. Join us on a foray through a golden era of music history.

This time with reviews of albums by Rufus & Chaka Khan, The Whispers, The Brothers Johnson, Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & The Gang.


“Masterjam” by Rufus & Chaka Khan (1979)

If you compare producers to luxury sports cars, Quincy Jones would be the Ferrari of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Chaka Khan once called Jones’ methodology in the studio “this quest for perfection.” And there’s no mistaking who was the captain in the studio during the recording process of “Masterjam”. Jones made Rufus seaworthy again.He enlisted his buddy Rod Temperton, who contributes the title track and the even better “Live in Me,” The Brothers Johnson and also the legendary Seawind Horns to put the finishing touches on the album. The result is a crisp and funky R&B masterpiece that fits perfectly with Jones’ great work with Michael Jackson, The Brothers Johnson and George Benson. Success proved him right: “Masterjam” became a platinum-selling hit album.


“The Whispers” by The Whispers (1979)

The Whispers’ self-titled album, released in 1979 on SOLAR, is a perfect choice for the right saturday afternoon groove: You find affecting moments like the Donny Hathaway homage “A Song for Donny”, smooth ballads like the Philly inflected “l love you” or the energetic disco track “Out The Box”. Highlight and genre landmark is the fabulous “And the Beat Goes On” – an awesome, synth-driven disco-boogie trip, which catapulted the band in the next decade. Highly recommended!


“Light Up The Night” by The Brothers Johnson (1980)

In March 1980, The Brothers Johnson released “Light Up The Night.” Their 4th album was a creative culmination and swan song to one of the most creative collaborations in funk and R&B of the 70’s, The Brothers Johnson and Quincy Jones. The single “Stomp” was a huge hit and a prime example of the irresistible, sophisticated funk of the late 70s/early 80s. The whole album is a superior blend of smooth funk tunes and mellow ballads, partially written by songwriter Rod Temperton and embellished by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. A classic!


“Powerlight” by Earth, Wind & Fire (1983)

Maurice White wasn’t at all satisfied with “Powerlight,” released in 1983; Earth, Wind & Fire had to get the album finished quickly because they had to do a tour. But even if “Powerlight” can’t bear comparison with their 70s masterpieces the band was nonetheless still a R&B powerhouse in the early 80s. With the synthesizer-driven funk of “Fall in Love With Me” reached EWF No. 4 in the R&B charts – the song was also Grammy nominated for Best R&B vocal. You find other nice tracks on this album like the uplifting “Side by Side” and the sentimental lullaby “Miracles”, but the creative power was exhausted: One year later Maurice put EWF on hiatus.


“Emergency” by Kool & The Gang (1984)

Kool & The Gang bid farewell to De-Lite Records in 1984 with their sixteenth and best selling studio album of their career, “Emergency”. Kool & The Gang bid farewell to De-Lite Records in 1984 with their sixteenth and best-selling studio album of their career, “Emergency.” Their first single, “Misled,” reached #3 on the Billboard R&B charts. The dancefloor classic “Fresh” reached a No. 10 and was topped by her ultimate tearjerker “Cherish” at No. 9. Even though ” Emergency” is miles away from the band’s funk roots, the album is one of the great crossover pop/ R&B albums of the 80s.

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