Formed as a jazz ensemble in the mid 60s, Kool & the Gang have become one of the most inspired and influential funk units of all time. Just as funky as James Brown or Parliament (and sampled almost as frequently), Kool & the Gang relied on their jazz backgrounds and long friendship to form a tightly knit group with the interplay and improvisation of a jazz outfit, plus the energy and spark of a band with equal ties to soul, R&B and funk.
Always a staple of their appeal, the group’s live act was documented on two 1971 LPs, Live At The Sex Machine and Live At P.J.’s, including left-field covers of Walk On By and Wichita Lineman (as well as the not so unusual I Want to Take You Higher). Studio albums followed in 1972 and 1973, but it was with Kool & the Gang’s sixth LP, Wild and Peaceful, that they hit the big time. Funky Stuff became their first Top 40 hit at the end of 1973, followed by both Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging reached the pop Top 10. During the next four years however, Kool & the Gang could only manage an occasional Top 40 hit (‘Higher Plane’, ‘Spirit of the Boogie’), and though they did win a Grammy award for Open Sesame (from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack), the rise of disco, a movement centred around producers and vocalists, in direct contrast to the group’s focus on instrumentalists had appeared to end their popularity. Their 30-year long career and impact in the music industry by Kool & The Gang has left traces of exceptional talent, and even though the glory days may be over, the band and the music are still glorifying all that music is about.