Kool & the Gang

Spirit of the Boogie

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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.

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