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Soul - Released August 20, 2021 | Omnivore Recordings

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R&B - Released June 7, 1994 | Island Def Jam

Though Kool & the Gang was a fine hardcore funk outfit in the 1970s, the group decided, by the close of that decade, to reinvent its sound for pop radio. The result -- a combination of slick production, R&B vocals, and the band's already well-honed grooves -- made Kool & the Gang one of the biggest-selling and most beloved pop acts of the '80s. Celebration: the Best of Kool & the Gang collects 17 of the band's singles from this era, most of which will be immediately familiar to anyone even remotely familiar with '80s pop radio. The Gang wrote numerous, highly polished dance grooves featuring a heavy backbeat, staccato horn charts, and infectious vocal choruses that seem custom-built for group singalongs. The international smash "Celebration" is one such song (has there been more definitive party anthem?), as is the hard-grooving "Ladies Night," and the groove imperative "Get Down on It." The Gang also scored with their midtempo R&B ("Joanna"), funk-tinged soul ("Fresh"), and swelling ballads in the adult contemporary mode ("Cherish"). These showcase the Gang's superior vocalists (check out James "J.T." Taylor's butter-smooth croon on "Too Hot," for example). Those seeking a comprehensive collection of Kool & the Gang's '80s hits need look no further than this excellent compilation. © Anthony Tognazzini /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 1, 2005 | Island Def Jam

Believe it or not, Gold is the first compilation with U.S. distribution to provide a fair and rather thorough glance at Kool & the Gang's career from 1969 through 1987. Dozens upon dozens of other sets either focus on one of the group's distinct eras or attempt clumsily to appease those who want "Jungle Boogie" and "Joanna" in one spot. The Chronicles catalog division of Mercury realized that roughly 90 percent of Kool & the Gang's chart hits can fit neatly on two discs, so this is an ideal package for casual fans who can appreciate raw '70s funk and slick, radio-friendly '80s R&B. It would be impossible to plot a thorough introductory course across two discs, since the group's catalog runs too deep. There wasn't enough room for the likes of "Steppin' Out," "Jones vs. Jones," "Slick Superchick," or "Take It to the Top," all of which were popular on black radio stations, and the compilers' decision to focus on the biggest singles means that a lot of subdued album cuts -- such as "Breeze and Soul" and "Winter Sadness" -- aren't factored in. A lot of care went into the presentation, with plenty of photos, thorough chart-placement information, and insightful liner notes from group associate Cleveland Brown. No Kool & the Gang compilation can be flawless, but this is one of the best ones out there. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1973 | Island Mercury

Prior to James "JT" Taylor adding pop flavor vocals, which help garner a handful of top selling albums, this was Kool & the Gang's most successful album, spawning three bonafide R&B hits. Produced by Robert Bell, and featuring Donal Boyce's incredulous vocals, these songs have held up well. The fast, chugging "Jungle Boogie" was a club favorite, while "Funky Stuff," with its "whoa whoa whoa" hook, was slower and spacier than "Jungle Boogie." The band formerly known as the Jazziacs got their first R&B number one with "Hollywood Swinging," a slightly faster than mid-tempo song with whistles, festive ambiance and lead vocals by keyboardist Ricky West. All three hits were inspired by Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa," and were recorded in one night at a studio in midtown Manhattan. The title cut flash backs to their prerecording jazz days, when they dazzled New Jerseyites with their playing skills. © Andrew Hamilton /TiVo
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R&B - Released November 15, 1984 | Mercury Records

This album marked the end of Kool & the Gang's 15-year association with De-Lite Records. Impressively, the group charted each of those 15 years, including ten number one singles. Emergency continued that tradition, and was responsible for two of those number one singles. The first release, "Misled," with its crackin' bassline, led the charge; it peaked at number three on the Billboard R&B charts. "Fresh," an invigorating dance single with melodic verses and accented chorus chants, followed and surpassed "Misled," claiming the top spot. Mostly known for their funk and dance songs, the nine-piece band hit on a more tranquil note with "Cherish." With its adult contemporary appeal, the tender-flowing single eased its way to the top of the charts. All three of the aforementioned singles were also Billboard pop Top Ten singles. The final chapter in the group's De-Lite Records catalog came with the release of the title track, "Emergency," a rock-flavored single that crested at number seven on the Billboard R&B charts. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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R&B - Released March 1, 1999 | Mercury Records

Spanning the band's early-'70s genesis as an unhinged funk congregation and their later resurgence with urbane R&B balladry and synth-inflected disco, The Very Best of Kool & the Gang may not be a unified collection, but it is the first to offer every hit that's expected -- as well as a few that aren't -- from the band's long career. The emphasis is definitely on their peak as a pop group, from 1979 to 1986, with pride of place going to the hits "Celebration," "Get Down on It," "Ladies Night," "Too Hot," "Misled," and "Joanna." Fans of the funk get only three tracks ("Funky Stuff," "Hollywood Swinging," and "Jungle Boogie," all from 1973's Wild and Peaceful), which won't cause anyone to sell their copies of The Best of Kool & the Gang 1969-1976, but does give pop fans a glimpse of their mid-'70s greatness. All in all, this lengthy collection doesn't transition well from hit to hit, but then again, chronological order would've forced legions of pop fans to forward through the funk material to get to their favorites. © John Bush /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1980 | Island Mercury

During their eight-year reign as one of the premiere R&B/funk bands, Kool & the Gang, featuring James "J.T." Taylor on lead, had one Top Ten hit after another and quite a few number one hits. This album did not spawn any number one singles, but it did house two festive Top Ten numbers in "Big Fun" and "Let's Go Dancin' (Ooh La, La, La)." The former has a rapid, groovin' bassline accentuated by some jittering horns. The latter is Caribbean-flavored single ideal for a popular party/cook-out dance called the electric slide. Respectively, they peaked at six and seven on the Billboard R&B charts. Though it appears that the lyric to the title song depicts a relationship between a man and woman, it is actually speaking of the band as an unit. The nine-piece outfit also pays homage to the great bandleader Cab Calloway with the rhythmic number "Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho." Aside from the two released singles, this album does not have that constant spark like some of their more accomplished efforts. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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Soul - Released September 1, 1974 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

"This set added synthesizers, gave the brass several new dimensions, and moved their groove into a pulsing, sophisticated place." © TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1980 | Mercury Records

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During their eight-year reign as one of the premiere R&B/funk bands, Kool & the Gang, featuring James "J.T." Taylor on lead, had one Top Ten hit after another and quite a few number one hits. This album did not spawn any number one singles, but it did house two festive Top Ten numbers in "Big Fun" and "Let's Go Dancin' (Ooh La, La, La)." The former has a rapid, groovin' bassline accentuated by some jittering horns. The latter is Caribbean-flavored single ideal for a popular party/cook-out dance called the electric slide. Respectively, they peaked at six and seven on the Billboard R&B charts. Though it appears that the lyric to the title song depicts a relationship between a man and woman, it is actually speaking of the band as an unit. The nine-piece outfit also pays homage to the great bandleader Cab Calloway with the rhythmic number "Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho." Aside from the two released singles, this album does not have that constant spark like some of their more accomplished efforts. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | Mercury Records

Discussing Kool & the Gang in the early '70s, James Brown enthused, "They're the second-baddest out there...They make such bad records that you got to be careful when you play a new tape on the way home from the record store. Their groove is so strong you could wreck." And that really says it all. Kool & the Gang were funk's kings in 1975, and Spirit of the Boogie was the finest album they ever recorded -- the staggering climax of their development thus far. The record-buying public thought so too -- the album gave the band their first Top Five R&B hit. Spirit of the Boogie may have been first and foremost a funk masterpiece, but it was also so much more. From the African art on the foldout sleeve to the spiritual and musical purity of many of the songs, this album not only bound the band's reverence for their roots to a blistering, street-smart funk, but also demonstrated a keen awareness of their own role in their musical odyssey. "Ancestral Ceremony" pays homage by quoting from Kool's earlier songs, while "Jungle Jazz" tracks back to the original pounding jams that imbibed 1973's "Jungle Boogie." The title track, meanwhile, is quintessential Kool & the Gang -- fiery funk which is kept in check by rhythm and chant. It gave the band a springtime number one on the R&B charts -- their third. This is a phenomenal set, a superlative album. And because the grooves are so strong, it's easy to forgive weak moments -- most especially the mawkish "Sunshine and Love." Kool & the Gang were outstanding during this period, before they caught the disco bug. Spirit of the Boogie remains a proud achievement. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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R&B - Released March 30, 2011 | Island Def Jam

Spanning the band's early-'70s genesis as an unhinged funk congregation and their later resurgence with urbane R&B balladry and synth-inflected disco, The Very Best of Kool & the Gang may not be a unified collection, but it is the first to offer every hit that's expected -- as well as a few that aren't -- from the band's long career. The emphasis is definitely on their peak as a pop group, from 1979 to 1986, with pride of place going to the hits "Celebration," "Get Down on It," "Ladies Night," "Too Hot," "Misled," and "Joanna." Fans of the funk get only three tracks ("Funky Stuff," "Hollywood Swinging," and "Jungle Boogie," all from 1973's Wild and Peaceful), which won't cause anyone to sell their copies of The Best of Kool & the Gang 1969-1976, but does give pop fans a glimpse of their mid-'70s greatness. All in all, this lengthy collection doesn't transition well from hit to hit, but then again, chronological order would've forced legions of pop fans to forward through the funk material to get to their favorites. © John Bush /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1998 | Island Def Jam

With their long track record, Kool & the Gang have always offered dance-provoking rhythms and Something Special fits that bill, too. Featuring the number one single "Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)," James "J.T." Taylor approaches the song in a cool, mesmerizing tone, closing out the vamp in his falsetto with a burst of energy while the background vocals chant the subtitle throughout the chorus. Not known to lead a song in falsetto, Taylor further utilizes this talent on the motivated rhythms of the nocturnal scenario of "Steppin' Out." It maintained a steady stride, rising to the number ten spot on the charts. The third single from the album was "Get Down on It." As the title indicates, this is a gritty funk track that worked its way up the charts to claim the number three position, selling more than 500,000 copies. Although there were no more charted singles from this album, the entire collection is deserving of recognition. On a slower note, "Pass It On" and "No Show" received regional airplay. The former encourages people to spread love to all children, and the latter is a sorrowful account of a man left standing in the rain, waiting for the love that never showed. Both singles have similar rhythm arrangements. As for inspirational songs, "Stand Up and Sing" is a moderately paced single with lyrics that are uplifting. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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R&B - Released May 13, 1979 | Island Def Jam

Kool & the Gang closed out the 1970s by edging the door shut on their classic sound. Ladies' Night marked the band's initial shift from their dirty funk to a more mainstream pop -- a lighter groove that primed clubbers for dance-'til-you-drop style partying. With the Brazilian fusion musician Eumir Deodato stepping into the production helm with a shared vision of "keep[ing] it simple and basic and clean," Kool & the Gang added a hot new spark to their sound, best illustrated across the title track, which topped the R&B charts for nearly a month. This ideal was also furthered on the downtempo soul of "Too Hot." The former was a jangly, spangly slab of pure dance that quickly became a club favorite, the latter a 180 degree shift that focused instead on vocalist James Taylor's rich timbre, a ballad of lost love where his vocals are smoother than even the sax solo. With the rest of the record falling into step behind these two giants, Ladies' Night kicked off Kool & the Gang's new musical era and, even though it certainly distanced some of their more funk-minded fans, it picked up a faithful army who'd keep the band in the charts for nearly a decade to come. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1970 | Mercury Records

Kool & the Gang's funky debut was an unexpected hit, with a first single (self-titled) climbing both the pop and R&B charts. Subsequent singles -- "The Gang's Back Again," "Let the Music Take Your Mind," and "Funky Man," -- followed the first into the charts, and there were plenty of other standout tracks: "Raw Hamburger," "Chocolate Buttermilk," and "Kool's Back Again." Though barely over a half an hour long, Kool and the Gang is a blast of a record containing strong elements that would become the band's trademarks: smooth melodies, suave rhythms, and brassy horns. This is one of Kool & the Gang's jazzier albums and a strong debut worth checking out, though less accessible than any of their later pop recordings. © JT Griffith /TiVo
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R&B - Released May 18, 1999 | Island Def Jam

This collection of 12" tracks features a nice mix of the group's older, funkier stuff with its soul-pop hits of the '80s, including "Open Sesame," "Love and Understanding," "Get Down on It," "Tonight," and "Ladies Night." Many Gang fans will savor the tracks; casual fans may find this to be overkill. Those who have heard "Celebration" one time too many may still appreciate "Celebremos," Kool & the Gang's Spanish version of their greatest hit. © Gina Boldman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal Music Group International

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R&B - Released January 1, 1982 | Mercury Records

During their eight-year reign as one of the premiere R&B/funk bands, Kool & the Gang, featuring James "J.T." Taylor on lead, had one Top Ten hit after another and quite a few number one hits. This album did not spawn any number one singles, but it did house two festive Top Ten numbers in "Big Fun" and "Let's Go Dancin' (Ooh La, La, La)." The former has a rapid, groovin' bassline accentuated by some jittering horns. The latter is Caribbean-flavored single ideal for a popular party/cook-out dance called the electric slide. Respectively, they peaked at six and seven on the Billboard R&B charts. Though it appears that the lyric to the title song depicts a relationship between a man and woman, it is actually speaking of the band as an unit. The nine-piece outfit also pays homage to the great bandleader Cab Calloway with the rhythmic number "Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho." Aside from the two released singles, this album does not have that constant spark like some of their more accomplished efforts. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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Electronic - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

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R&B - Released January 1, 1972 | Mercury Records

Kool & the Gang's fourth album -- but only their second studio record -- was just as strong and joyous as its live predecessors, though it featured a few more vocals and emphasized strong musicianship over hard grooves. (Of course, the band always did pretty well at both.) The title track and "Love the Life You Live" were two more great party jams to add to their repertoire, despite the growing similarity of Robert "Kool" Bell's basslines. The two-part "Electric Frog" was a squelchy instrumental spotlighting an Arp synthesizer and some great ensemble playing on the chorus, while the band reserved a great feature for trumpeter Robert "Spike" Mickens on "Blowin' with the Wind." "Love the Life You Live" was the most fully realized early Kool & the Gang jam, and the one that most looks forward to their parade of hits to come ("Funky Stuff," "Hollywood Swinging"). Ending the album with a smile (if not style) was "Funky Granny," a lightweight but hilarious sequel to their 1970 hit "Funky Man." © John Bush /TiVo
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R&B - Released September 1, 1974 | Island Mercury

"This set added synthesizers, gave the brass several new dimensions, and moved their groove into a pulsing, sophisticated place." © TiVo