Kool & the Gang

State of Affairs

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With former lead singer James "J.T." Taylor rejoining his old band after a break of several years, hopes were high among Kool & the Gang fans that the reunited group could rejoin the ranks of hitmakers once again with State of Affairs. But the painful state of affairs revealed on this disappointing, sterile-sounding effort was that the Gang were trying too hard to show they could hang with the then-current batch of high-tech R&B chart-toppers. The supreme irony of clunky-sounding funk numbers like "Crabs in a Barrel" is that at the same time this album was released, soul revivalists like D'Angelo and Maxwell were making celebrated debuts with music that owed not a little to Kool & the Gang's sweaty '70s grooves. But the group missed that development completely, using robotic programmed rhythms to ruin even appealing tunes, like the wistful "In the Hood." Meanwhile, even though the group's politics were never particularly prominent or sophisticated, offering "Life in the '90s/so good...so bad" as the message of one track hardly counts as commentary. Classy ballads like "Second Thoughts" and "Reunited" are about the only sign Taylor and his bandmates aren't ready for the junk heap; unfortunately, that's exactly where most of State of Affairs belongs.

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