Perfect Union

Kool & the Gang

(CD - Ru-Jac Records #OVCD 428)

Review by Andy Kellman

The release of Perfect Union is bittersweet. Kool & the Gang's first proper album since 2007's Still Kool was completed just before the death of Ronald Bell, and issued only a couple weeks after the death of Dennis "D.T." Thomas, leaving Robert "Kool" Bell and George "Funky" Brown as the band's surviving co-founders. Back in 2016, the funk legends hit the Adult R&B chart with the easy-striding "Sexy," which introduced Walt Anderson, a singer who is spirited and engaging like James "J.T." Taylor -- the band's mainstream-era frontman -- and to his credit is no impressionist. "Sexy" lands in the middle of Perfect Union and is followed by a romantic midtempo cut with even more appeal, "All to Myself" (with former members Amir and Royal Bayyan teaming on guitar), and another highlight, the smoothly uplifting "Hold On." The songs that are either more celebratory or message-oriented don't come across with the same natural finesse, and some aspects -- references to social media platforms in a chorus, for instance -- are ill-advised, especially when considering the band's deep history. Even so, it's obvious why Kool & the Gang have remained a major draw on-stage. The interplay among the musicians is lively, and there's a fine balance struck between Anderson and a group of additional vocalists that includes Shawn McQuiller, who is in his third decade with the band. Despite the inestimable losses of Ronald and D.T., there's a way forward for Kool, Funky, and the evolving Gang.

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