Kool & the Gang have already been founded in 1964. Almost sixty years later, they still release music – and even work with some founding members. On 28th July 2023, they release their new album People Just Wanna Have Fun. I have just been too curious about their sound in the 2020’s.
Kool & the Gang – About the Artists
Kool & the Gang are active since 1964, when they have been founded in Jersey City. The name derives from the nickname of founding member Robert Kool Bell, also Muhammad Bayyan. Bell as well als George Funky Brown (keyboard, percussion) are active band members since the very beginning. Additionally, there are Michael Ray (trumpet, vocals), Curtis Fitz Williams (keyboard, alto saxophone), Shawn McQuiller (vocals, guitar), Timothy Horton (drums, percussion) and lead guitarist Kevin Bell (also (Amir Bayyan). The band’s first release was a self-titled album in 1969. their key period have been the early 1980’s, when the band had global hits like Celebration (1980), Get Down on It (1981) or Cherish (1985). Even though there has just been limited chart success in this millennium, they still released six studio albums in this period.
Kool & the Gang – People Just Wanna Have Fun – Track by Track
The fifteen track album lasts 60 minutes.
1. Let’s Party
The opening track is also the only single release of the album so far. The collaboration with Sha Sha Jones has this lovely leverage of groovy and funky vibes. It sounds like Kool & the Gang, but does not spread the magic of their biggest hits.
2. Movie Star
No, this is (luckily) not a Harpo. The song starts with a flourish-alike trumpet part. The looped You Look Like a Movie Star feels to suck you back into the 1970’s. And then, you are deeply in it. You just cannot stop moving to the rhythm – even when the song has a female hip hop part and starts to feel much more modern.
3. People Just Wanna Have Fun
The title track is dominated by a very present bass drum. The song itself is rather thin to me. It does sound like a looped Best of remix of 1980’s funk songs. But this album comes with better moments, indeed.
4. We Are The Party
It’s not that much of a big step from People Just Wanna Have Fun to We Are The Party, at least when you just read the title. Apart from that the latter is almost two minutes longer, the songs do have a certain similarity, indeed: extremely frequently repeated, but very groovy and funky sounds by the US band, which is nicely working with their instruments. Overall, it is still not good enough to love the songs.
The fifth song feels less funky to me, but therefore has flavors of R&B and hip hop. Again, the band manages to create such a cool sound. The bass by Robert Kool Bell illustrates how talented and skilled the 72 year old musician still is. I feel that VIP is much better than the songs before, but I would have loved to have a better experience with these guys.
6. Na Na Na
The first twenty seconds of this song rather make me think of a Spanish pop musician’s summer pop song. Indeed, the song rather a bit of kitschy, but has a nice seasonal touch. If the chorus had a stronger punch and if the hip hop part wouldn’t feel that artificial, it could be a really cool one.
7. Go Get It
Go Get It gets me. At least at the beginning. The first tunes already sound so Kool & the Gang-alike. Even if the fascination is steadily decreasing, it makes me feel nostalgic and I really like it.
8. Give Love
With Give Love, the sound of the album offers some reggae-alike tunes. A nice alternative to the songs before. Unfortunately, the song moves away from that initial theme. Finally, the percussion work is really nice in this song.
9. I Want It All
I Want It All is one of the best songs of the album to me. Even though many characteristics of the track feel similar to other songs, I feel that it just works out better than other recordings on the album.
10. Heaven’s Gift
Heaven’s Gift is another nice listen. The strumming guitar in the background links the other elements of the song. The vocal parts and the rhythm majorly define the character of the song. Nice.
With 4:43 minutes, the song is one of the longest recordings of the album. The song is again touching that Spanish romance vibe, but it working out. Time to remember you Latin American dancing lessons. This one is great for some hot moves to the music.
12. For The Woman In You
This section of the album is rather featuring the emotional songs. This one, for example, is looking back to the roots of a long-lasting love, starting in Jersey, just as the band. The chorus, again, is a bit thin. But the song as such has a nice touch.
13. My Weakness
This one is going back to the funky-groovy sound. But it is just too repetitive. Hard to stand the full duration.
14. That’s What I Love About You
The second to last song is a bit more soulful and feels like a ballad. Could be more harmonic here and there, but it is not too bad.
15. 99 Miles To JC
The very last song of the album almost lasts eight minutes. The band is allowing for some drum solo at the beginning, before the saxophone and other instruments create a really nice atmosphere. The song reminds of jazz, especially in the beginning. There are vocal parts in 99 Miles To JC, but the stars of this song are definitely the instruments.
Kool & the Gang – People Just Wanna Have Fun – Spotify
Here is the album on Spotify:
Kool & the Gang – People Just Wanna Have Fun – My View
Especially on the instrumental and melodic side, People Just Wanna Have Fun comes with quite some impressive elements. However, the plot of the songs is often too weak in my point of view. The frequent repetitions make the songs feel as if they were lacking new ideas. Kool & the Gang deserves better – and they sometimes even show in here that they can do better.
Funk on Flyctory.com
Here are all postings on Flyctory.com related to funk music: