Monday, August 06, 2007


Legendary groovemeisters Kool & The Gang are back on the scene with "Still Kool" on New Door Records/UMe), the chart-topping band's first studio release in ten years. Combining soulful R&B, pop, hip-hop, Urban AC and more, the disc showcases the extraordinary versatility that has won them the status of musical icons - while venturing into new sonic territory in collaboration with some talented protégés. The band that vaulted up the pop charts with such indelible tracks as "Celebration," "Ladies Night" and "Joanna" delivers a fleet of silky, melodic tunes on "Still Kool," with its trademark blend of irresistible grooves, expressive horn lines and infectious chorus hooks. On songs like "Miracles," "Dave," "Steppin' Into Love" and "Too Low for Zero," Kool & The Gang relay messages of compassion and hope with the same grace and musicality that have made them a household name for decades. But the purveyors of such booty-rocking standards as "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" don't fail to flex their funk -- on both old-school workouts ("Bang Bang With the Gang") and hip-hop jams ("Give It Up," "Livin' in the 21"). In addition, the troupe puts its signature on such classic covers as Marvin Gaye's "What's Happening Brother" (which is performed in a medley with the original "Is What It Is") and Christopher Cross' "Sailing."

The new album, the band's first studio outing since 1996's "State of Affairs," finds the R&B giants joining forces with fiery 23-year-old vocalist Jirmad Gordon; the youthful phenom had been working on a solo project with bassist and co-founder Robert "Kool" Bell's son, Hakim Bell (who contributed to "Still Kool" as co-writer, co-producer and rapper). "We knew Jirmad was a dynamite singer, but we thought at first he might be a little too young to sing for the band," Kool recalls. "But when he came into the studio with us, he really rose to the challenge." "Jirmad is a rising star," adds sax player/keyboardist/singer/flautist Khalis Bayyan, who produced and wrote numerous tracks on "Still Kool." "He's got the chops and the passion. It turned out to be a perfect fit - after all, we were even younger than he is when we started." In addition to contributing vocals, Gordon also contributed lyrics to one song on the disc, the randy club anthem "Give It Up," which he co-wrote with longtime Kool & The Gang keyboardist Curtis F. Williams.

The tumultuous state of the world is a frequent focus of the band's new material. "Miracles" was initially written after Bayyan narrowly survived a terrifying car crash but took on new depth when it embraced the story of the "lost boys" of Sudan. "Livin' in the 21" argues for "a little faith" amid the new century's turmoil. "Dave," inspired by the classic sci-fi film "2001: A Space Odyssey," turns that movie's computer-and-astronaut dialogue into a plea for a better future. Opener "America," meanwhile, explores immigration and the various borders that divide us. But these more sober questions are balanced by plenty of party grooves and romantic interludes - and the result is quintessentially Kool.

Recorded in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles at Sony, 4th Quarter and Alley Cat Studios, "Still Kool" was produced by Khalis Bayyan, George Brown and Curtis F. Williams.

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