Kool & The Gang

Kool & The Gang

Profile:
Formed by Robert "Kool" Bell, his brother Ronald Bell and a bunch of their New Jersey teenage friends in the mid-60s (then called the Jazziacs), Kool & the Gang played traditional jazz in regional venues for several years, slowly morphing their style to incorporate emerging funk sounds of Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown. They were signed by the De-Lite label in the early 70s and gathered a small but loyal national following (particularly for their 1971 release Live at the Sex Machine). The group's fortunes exploded in 1974 with Wild and Peaceful, an infectiously raw album that spawned three smash hits, "Funky Stuff," "Hollywood Swinging," and "Jungle Boogie," all featuring great instrumentation and lyrics virtually shouted by the group. However, as quickly as they rode to fame, Kool & the Gang faded, their rough sound appearing out of place against the slick, dance-oriented sounds that began to dominate popular radio in the late 70s.

Kool & the Gang was an afterthought in the music world in 1979 when they brought in the honey-sounding lead James J.T. Taylor and pop/jazz producer Eumir Deodato for one last gasp, a shiny dance album called Ladies Night. Deodato simplified and sweetened the group's jazz stylings in a heavily produced package, fronted by Taylor's irresistible tenor voice. It was an across-the-board smash, leading to two top hits, the title cut and the midtempo "Too Hot." It was also the beginning of a nearly unprecedented string of top 10 pop and soul hits for the group that would make Kool & the Gang the top selling soul group of the 80s. Ladies Night was followed by the even bigger Celebration, the joyous title cut of which became the theme song of countless sports teams in the 80s and one of the most played songs of the past 25 years. The next five years brought hit after hit, including chart toppers "Misled," "Cherish," "Take My Heart," "Joanna," "Fresh" and "Let's Go Dancin'." The infectious innocuousness of their music sometimes went to a silly extreme ("Get Down On It"), but the group clearly created a catalogue of enjoyable, well performed cuts, both during Deodato's tenure as producer and after they took over the production of their albums in 1983 -- songs that have generally aged well. Their 1987 album, Forever, was another smash, but also provided warning sign that the fresh sounds Kool and the Gang introduced in 1979 had run their course and had begun to sound formulaic.

In 1987 Taylor left the group to pursue a modestly successful solo career (he had one major hit with "All I Want Is Forever," a duet with Regina Belle), and the group continued on but never had another chart hit. They spent the next decade on the oldies circuit before Taylor rejoined for a 1996 reunion tour and the album State of Affairs, a extremely enjoyable disc (and the group's strongest lyrically) that was unfortunately ignored by both Pop and Soul radio.

Now a quintet consisting of brothers Robert "Kool" Bell, Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan), George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Charles Smith (all original group members), the group tours internationally, and has a particularly large following in Asia. J.T. Taylor has continued his solo career, with limited success.
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Kool & The Gang Discography

Albums

BE 899.004-H Kool And The Gang* Kool And The Gang (Album) De-Lite Records BE 899.004-H Netherlands 1970 Sell This Version
DE 2008 Kool And The Gang* Live At The Sex Machine (Album) De-Lite Records DE 2008 US 1971 Sell This Version
2347-001 Kool & The Gang Live At P.J.'s (Album) De-Lite Records 2347-001 UK 1971 Sell This Version
9088-2011 Kool And The Gang* Music Is The Message (Album) De-Lite Records 9088-2011 Canada 1972 Sell This Version
DEP-2012 Kool And The Gang* Good Times (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records DEP-2012 US 1972 Sell This Version
DEP-2013 Kool & The Gang Wild And Peaceful (Album) De-Lite Records DEP-2013 US 1973 Sell This Version
DEP-2014 Kool & The Gang Light Of Worlds (Album) De-Lite Records DEP-2014 US 1974 Sell This Version
2310 416 Kool & The Gang Spirit Of The Boogie (Album) De-Lite Records 2310 416 UK 1975 Sell This Version
DEP 2018 Kool & The Gang Love & Understanding (Album) De-Lite Records DEP 2018 US 1976 Sell This Version
DEP-2023 Kool & The Gang Open Sesame (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records DEP-2023 US 1976 Sell This Version
3100 299 Kool & The Gang Love & Understanding(Cass, Album) Polydor 3100 299 UK 1976 Sell This Version
940 558 Kool & The Gang The Force (Album) De-Lite Records 940 558 France 1977 Sell This Version
DSR-9509 Kool & The Gang Everybody's Dancin' (Album) De-Lite Records DSR-9509 US 1978 Sell This Version
0060.282 Kool & The Gang Ladies' Night (Album) De-Lite Records 0060.282 Germany 1979 Sell This Version
MIP4-1-9416 Kool & The Gang Celebrate! (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records MIP4-1-9416 Canada 1980 Sell This Version
DCR4 8502 Kool & The Gang Something Special (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records DCR4 8502 US 1981 Sell This Version
DCR4 8505, 822 535-4 M-1 Kool & The Gang As One (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records DCR4 8505, 822 535-4 M-1 US 1982 Sell This Version
25AP 2711 Kool & The Gang In The Heart (Album) De-Lite Records 25AP 2711 Japan 1983 Sell This Version
LP(11)2278 Kool & The Gang Emergency (Album) De-Lite Records, De-Lite Records LP(11)2278 Colombia 1984 Sell This Version
PC 84-07 Kool & The Gang Startrak Profile(2xLP, Promo) Westwood One PC 84-07 US 1984 Sell This Version
32 487-1 Kool & The Gang Forever (Album) Mercury 32 487-1 Germany 1986 Sell This Version
838 233-1 Kool & The Gang Sweat (Album) Mercury 838 233-1 Netherlands 1989 Sell This Version
INT 845.188 Kool And The Gang* Unite (Album) JRS Records INT 845.188 Germany 1992 Sell This Version
MDCD 4 Kool & The Gang New York City Cool(CD, Album) Music De Luxe MDCD 4 UK 1994 Sell This Version
0078222 CUR Kool & The Gang / J.T. Taylor Kool & The Gang / J.T. Taylor - State Of Affairs (Album) Curb Records 0078222 CUR Germany 1995 Sell This Version