Black History: Remembering Kool & the Gang
No,No,No,No a gazillion times NO!!!!!!!! This is not fact and hence the reason for my earlier posting. Kool and the Gang were God-sayer-no-higher at this time. They were at their absolute height and you know what? Neither Love and Understanding (with that oh-so-bad-live version of Summer Madness) nor Open Sesame had even been RELEASED yet!!!!!
Selah being such a K&TG aficionado that I am, I had to go look some things up. This was 1974 and Kool and em was literally stinkin places up with their funk. They had finally normalized themselves into the band that sustains them even today. The previous year they had released Wild and Peaceful. That was probably up to that time their best work. It featured Kool as jazz and Kool as funk and Kool as R&B. You had the earth-shattering-funk-changing (yeah that's right...things HAD to change after this one) Funky Stuff! The late Claydes Smith's guitar line and George Funky Brown's (one of my favorite drummahs of all time) stutter bass drum line were to become benchmarks of funky music for years to come. Much like Pretty Purdie's hi-hat-bark thing at the end of his solo on Rock Steady.
You also had the jazz/funk/r&b of Jungle Boogie (by the way y'all dig how advertisers and whatnot took at least twenty to thirty YEARS before they could understand and subsequently 'use' Jungle Boogie in commercials and what not?....they STILL don't understand Funky Stuff and never will).For straight R&B (with a nod towards funk and maybe pop) there was Hollywood Swinging. Then there was a very valiant (and great) jazz effort with the Bossa-nova driven title cut Wild and Peaceful. There are a couple more 'b' cuts on there that escape me right now but suffice to say there really wasn't a dull moment on that album.
The album that they had to be supporting at the time was what I like to call their NOI album for it was the time that most of Kool and The Gang had converted to Islam. They all (with the exception of like three cats-Spike Mickens, Ricky West and DT Thomas) had converted to Islam. I could be wrong about that too because everybody don't necessarily wear everything on their public sleeve. Ricky West had not died yet and was still very much a part of this band.
At any rate the name of this album was Light Of Worlds and featured (among other things) the original version of Summer Madness which literally became THE definitive summer jam. (Juice I remember you and KPitt saying something about Will Smith's version....Negroes....please?). It's synth use would've been corny by anybody else (Stevie,Bernie,Herbie?) The line/solo/hook was so elementary but the points go to production, execution and presentation.
The melody and overall breeziness of this tune captured everyone's imagination and soul. People wanted to be cool. They were growing up from weed and out of the LSD and universally the influence of Superfly and cocaine became the norm. This went right along with all of that. Duji was for all intents and purposes dead. It had opiated the masses it was supposed to opiate. That drug was a byproduct and manifestation of the draft and the subsequent Viet-Nam war (which was also over at this time). It killed the Panther party and effectively took away all of our Black Power (UNGAWA!) No mo o' dat!
This album marked a certain maturation-of-Kool-and-the-Gang Pt.1 (pt 2 came w/Deodato and the disco/pop thing). If you listen to YouDon't Have to Change for Me and it's ending you can almost hear the opening to Summer Madness because it's said that that tune (Change) was initially the intro to Madness. There was also Higher Plane (one of the radio hits),Whiting H&G (more NOI-fish reference because NOI was hustling Whiting at this time), Street Corner Symphony (a sort of funk tribute to Coltrane), Fruitman (more NOI) Rhyme Tyme People (one of my all time K&TG funk classics- another conscious anti-drug message song), Light Of Worlds and Here After (both preachy-incense-and-bells-quasi-religious-consciousness-raising affairs).This was also the time that they cloned themselves and produced (Robert and Ronnie's little brother) an album by a group called (no irony here) The Kaygees. The hit was something called Keep on Bumpin. It became a disco classic. The rest of the album was just like (in message, musicianship, production and execution) Light of the Worlds.
Sprit of the Boogie (1975-more NOI stuff but less focused), Open Sesame (1976-forget NOI-now they were straight Arabic-lol!) and Love and Understanding (1976) were a kind of father, son and Holy Spirit of this genre for them. It marked the end of the K&TG that we knew and loved. The peak of this period was Open Sesame. For me it is the best K&TG record of all time. We all know how white folk dug it so much it became an anthem of sorts for Sat Night Fever (in SPITE of the whole Bee Gees thing). That last album Love And Understanding was almost a throwaway with it's live (and very funky) version of Hollywood Swinging and Come Together (itself a pt.2 to Love And Understanding...the tag line to that song was 'come together') By now their preachiness and penchant for overwriting these stupendous horn lines had gotten the best of them and this was the beginning of the end. By the time The Force came out I had to be a- the only person that liked it and b-probably the only one who bought it.
The year was 1977.
KOOL & THE GANG COMMENTARY: SELLOUTS??
email me your comments
"It's a universal souuuuuuud.......everbody GET DOWN"......!!!
It Still makes me cry when I think of just how badd they were back in the day & to see how they ended up....:(
Kool & the Gang to me were the ultimate "soul-jazz" band. They took the genre to new heights by actually having the nerve to have hit records that people could dance to !!
I first saw them perform live back in 1973............when they ROCKED the gymnasium at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. It was quite a show to see these broha's all decked out in what would now be called "afrocentric garb" .....with Muslim names..singing:
"Hollywooooooodd.......Hollywood Swingin..." or "....THIS is a SOUUUUUUL Vibration....." to a beat that was so FUNKY that you couldn't help but dance !!
I mean these dudes were the joint........I danced thruought the entire show that night. The bump was the dance at that time.....& I actually did the bump with a "Big Fat Woman"...that night (and yes I was in pain the next morning.......LOL)
But it was worth it to be able to experience Kool & the Gang live at what they used to call a "dance concert" !!
Kool & the Gang were the FIRST important FUNK and horn band of the seventies, predating even the JB’s . Kool & the Gang stared out in the 1960’s as a “soul review”. Most of the major soul acts of the time carried large bands that verged on being orchestras, in which the most prominent instrument was the saxophone. At gigs, while waiting for the crowd to pour in, the band would often warm up by playing whatever pop/jazz cuts were popular at the time.
Kool & the Gang with their obvious affection for Jazz , added a party atmosphere to such instrumentals that gave their songs a “deranged” flavor, the horns stutter a staccato riff, while in the background, band members whoop and holler with delight. After having some local (NYC) success with instrumentals, they soon added vocals to the mix.
Kool & the Gang are perhaps best known as a “party band” . This is something I can personally attest to, having seen them in concert several times during their heyday in the early to mid 1970’s. During that period, perhaps only
Earth Wind and Fire enjoyed a greater following among fans of the FUNK !!!
Whistle blowing......Partay....Partay......Cant Get Enough Of That Funky Stuff..I tried I tried...I say whoooooooooooo Yeah !!!! Get Down.....
How many of you remember tearing up the dance floor on this one ??? Well It sounds just as good today as it did back in 1973...
Kool and The Gang..From humble beginnings in a Jersey City housing projects.. to one of funkiest bands of jazz-funk... Kool and The gang go from mellow jazz.. "Summer Madness"..to just downright funky with "Funky Stuff"..
The Best Of Kool and The Gang...1969 - 1976
1. Funky Stuff. .released 1973
2. Who's Gonna Take The Weights?
3. Rhyme Tyme People
4. Hollywood Swinging
5. Love The Life You Live
6. Give It Up
7. Chocolate Buttermilk
8. Jungle Boogie
9. Let The Music Take Your Mind
10. Open Sesame
11. Kool It..(Here comes the fuzz)
12. Summer Madness..(live version ) parts 1&2
14. Love and Understanding
15. Spirit of the Boogie
I also have this album and have been wondering for quite a while if there were any other Kool & the Gang fans out there.
Some of my favorites were:
Rhyme Time People, Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie, Hollywood Swinging, Kool & the Gang (an instrumental that was their very first single), Love & Understanding......
As I think about the list of jams by them that I liked it seems almost endless !!......I also remember how popular they were at the time & how the song "Funky Stuff" inspired my friends and I to start wearing whistles around our necks at parties (anyone else remember that one ???) and blowing the whistles as we danced. They were a BIG TIME party band and I loved them I also dug their mellow side with cuts like "Summer Madness" (which I taped an entire 8-track of .....yeah.....I had 80 min. of "Summer Madness" on a single tape....)
Ok ok you guys you made me dig them out. DAYAM i had more Kool lp's than i thought!!Wild And Peaceful with Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie, More Funky Stuff, Hollywood Swinging, then Spirit Of The Boogie with Ride The Rhythm, Jungle Jazz, Winter Sadness then Love & Understanding with again
Hollywood Swinging, Summer Madness then Light Of Worlds with again Summer Madness, Higher Plane, Street Corner Symphony, Thyme Tyme People, then one you guys forgot which was one of my favorites Open Sesame,and where would we be without Ladies Night??? and last but not least Something Special with Get Down On It. You know of course i still have my whistle LMAO but it don't get any use now though. Like i've told you they don't know how to parrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrty like we used to back in the day boy we used to get down in our high heeled shoes LMAO i'd kill myself now if i tried to wear those things LMAO
You know how much I dig Kool & The Gang.....they were "staples" where we grew up......& they were on the money with their mixture of jazz-soul and also with their afrocentric politics (at that time).
I guess they must have only been popular in New York ???
Please dont put on those shoes !!! Yes I have many fond memories of these parties ..and this particular song as well !! Im sure there is a whistle or two around here somewhere....lol....
As Much as I liked Kool and The Gang..it seems they also feel victum to the "disco beat" in the late 70's. Their music seemed to lose much of its power....what happened to the powerful jazz influenced tunes. .the funky beat ???
Do you feel they "sold out"..when J.T Taylor came on board and their style changed ?
Oh, the sold out topic again :)
I don't remember the parties; I wuz a widdle kid then, but they were soooo funky. "Wild and Peaceful" was always playin' back then.
I do think that K&TG sold out around the time that "Joanna" and "Celebrate" came out (if I hear that song one more time). I remember saying that when the Sinbad concert came out two years ago on HBO because they haven't produced the same grooves that they did twenty years ago. Perhaps they call it "changing with the times according to popular demand I can't wait to see the replies to this one.
I have a small music collection of music that is approximately 20 years old. I couldn't agree more that a lot of people haven't produced music of that quality for a long time. You get no fight from me.
I totally agree. Unfortunately to make money people have to" adjust" their music in order to satisfy the record buying public. I'm old enough to remember some of the funky times and have held on to those records. There's several artist who have changed their sound to become "crossover" hits to sell more records/CDs. I am a HUGE Luther V. fan and I think that's what happened to him. He was more soulful when his music was restricted to "Black" oriented radio stations.
Its also happening to music such as the Blues and Jazz. I feel this type of music is becoming "watered down" due to artist trying to appeal to a mass audience.
I really liked early K&TG music (Hollywood Swinging, etc.) but when "Celebration" and "Joanna" came out I didn't walk, run....heck I never got up out my chair to go buy it....LOL
As much as I love Kool and The Gang..I have to agree with you .they lost their original sound. .and I do feel they sold out ..much to my distress !!!! I never liked Joanna..or Celebrate that much...Give me the original ..its the best !!
Sounds like you got a good collection going...as all us "funkateers" know ..you can never really imitate an original .some people will continue to try however...lol .As for me.. The originals will always be the best !!!!
That crossover is bunk !!!!! You are right..when an artist feels he's gotta change his style to become a "crossover artist..well something really does get lost. I wonder is it the lure of making more money ?? Does the music really mean anything to these artists who choose to go this way ??
Just out of curiosity ..Would you give up your funk for what’s behind the door ???
I think one of the best instrumentals of all time was Kool and the Gang's "Summer Madness."
I play it often and turn the the radio up when I hear it.
Yeah you my girl !!!!!
This is one bad jam...I was driving to work listening to it the other day..looked down and the speedometer said 80 !! I was off in my own little "Summer Madness"....lol To me this song represents the "real" Kool and the Gang....
"Summer Madness" was the joint........I am also a big fan of that song.....I had it on an entire 8-track back in the day.
That 8-track was put to some very good use as well....:)
I agree with your assessment that it's one of the greatest instrumentals of all time !!!
Kool & the Gang as great as their music was truly deserve the label as sellouts.
They went from a band which had afrocentric album covers (Spirit of the Boogie) and hard core Nation Of Islam philosophies in their music (Light Of The World).
During the mid 70's Kool & the Gang was a band which to me was the embodiment of the inner city & they were very successful and had a large following.
They were in fact right near the top & I was certainly a big fan of theirs. I have seen them perform live in concert 3 times back in the day and they used to perform wearing afrocentric garb and actually discuss politics, religion/spirituality from the stage.
Then they broke my heart......they didn't just "go disco" they went completely over the edge by pandering to a totally new audience, while leaving the old one behind.
To that old audience Kool & the Gang is something that approaches a joke & you know what ??? I don't feel sorry for Kool & the gang in the least !!!
"you reap what you sew"......lol
Being from NY I am ashamed of them, for what they did...they should know that ya gotta keep it "real".
I also think that the beggining of the end for Kool & the Gang was when they brought JT Taylor in to the group. His mediocre singing talents made them perfect for their "new audience"
Kool & The Gang sold out all right and in selling out they broke the hearts of many funkateers (myself included).
What made it worse was that they did a complete "180 degree flip flop" and completely left behind their core audience. If they hadn't already been so sucessful maybe I could have understood.
They are still good, but I am an Old School kinda gurl......love their old stuff the best.
AHHHHH the days of the 8 Track.....now that takes me back.
Yeah..........I had "Summer Madness" recorded on an 8-track for the entire legnth of the tape. Just imagine 80 consecutive minuites of "Summer Madness".
Just imagine what could be done with all that time....:)
80 minutes huh....my my my my....lol
Thought Id let ya know...at my sons school.. they have an 8 track tape player in the showcase full of other things from "the past"....lol...It made me feel old !!!!!..But those 8 tracks were the bomb !!!...they would go on and on and on and on and on........
I know. .I sadly put them up there with. .you know who...(Lionel Ritchie)..and you know how I feel about him !!!!
As I sit and listen to Kool and the Gangs early music.. I wonder "Do they ever listen to what they made and wonder themselves why they "sold out" ???
80 minutes of "Summer Madness" that certainly was a song that I "can't get enough" of...........
just out of curiosity.....
What other songs did yiou have on that long running 8 track format ?????
I made up several of these "special tapes" back in the day. "Summer Madness" was one, another was of "Pali Gap"-Hendrix, another was "Sex Machine" - Sly Stone and another was "Chameleon" - Herbie Hancock.
I wish I still had them, but ALL my 8-tracks are long gone...:(
All I can Say is Well Put "Kool was my gang" to and I also saw them perform and i felt like they forgot us and left us behind.
What year did you see Kool & The Gang and in what type of setting was it.......??
It was the Fall of 1981 at the University of Alabama basically College Kids I was a Freshman in School trying to impress the ladies LOL. On the stage that night Luther led the Concert off followed by Kool and the Gang with the Highlight group The Commodores with Lionel Ritchie closing out it was a great Concert.
Hey...tell everyone about our trip to the Kool and the Gang show at CMU when the wine bottle exploded in the bag..in my hands. Remember that?? I remember at the U. of Pittsburgh we used to really get our groove on with the Gang. As a mater of fact, Spike Mickens is a cousin of our friend Aaron. Oh yeah...get down, get down!!!
I think that you just told them about the "exploding wine bottle".......I'll allow you to go in to the details...lol
One thing I will bring up here about that concert was the GREAT posters that they gave away at the show at CMU remember ? They were silver and worked very nicely in a "black light setting....lol
I was underage at that time........:)
I don't know if you will remember this or not but there is one other "Pittsburgh Connection" that comes to mind when I think of Kool & the Gang.
Back in 1974 when the honorable Elijah Mohammehed passed away they had a memorial service for him at Soldiers and Sailors hall. The memorial service lasted all day, was free & open to the public (non muslims were permitted) & since I didn't have anything else to do that day I attended. During the service there were many speakers eulogizing..... .....their dead leader some of whom were interesting & some of whom were actually pretty boring.
In between each speaker they played cuts from "Light Of The World" - Kool & The Gang. Sound strange anyone ???
Well it shouldn't .......the album "Light Of The World" was not only popular at that time but it was also an album that is almost complertely influenced by the teachings of the Nation Of Islam. At that time as part of their publicity Kool & The Gang made it VERY well known that they were "students of the messenger" !! If you have the album...... ....take a close listen to songs like "Fruitman" and see if you don't agree !!
They certainly went pretty far away from those kind of roots in the 80's didn't they ??
"Eat naturally & you WILL see the difference....."
I also remember the tune "Whiting, H&G"
"H&G Whitting", Ah yes.......the "fish song"......lol
These guys were "stone cold" Nation of Islam back in the day....I sure hope they got enough money for SELLING OUT !!
Ahem.....underage!!! So that's why you would ask me to go into the liquor store!! (Ha, Ha) We were all going to see Kool & the Gang and I rushed to the state store to get some wine for the fellas(Since I was the oldest looking!!. as underage too, was only 19 at the time!!) Anyway, I was in such a rush to get to the show that I dropped the bottle. It bounced off the hard floor, I caught it and it was still intact...for about ten seconds. The bottle exploded in my hand and I went to the emergency room while the guys went to the show without the wine. I caught up to them later.
(I’m no longer a busshead!!)
Back to P*FUNK REVIEW