Kool & The Gang Is Back and Ready to Party
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With a new album titled “People Just Want to Have Fun” on the way, Kool & The Gang is once again ready to party.
In fact, the first single from the album – released in May – is “Let’s Party.”
The band has already taken the party on the road, with a concert at The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre this Saturday, July 1. For tickets, click HERE.
Kool & The Gang has its earliest roots in Youngstown. Founding members Robert “Kool” Bell and his late younger brother, Ronald, lived with their family on Youngstown’s East Side in the 1950s. The family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1960, when Robert was 10 years old.
Robert started the band while still in high school in New Jersey in the mid-1960s. Since then, Kool & the Gang has released 33 albums, achieved worldwide fame as kings of party funk, and became one of the most sampled bands on the planet.
Ronald “Khalis” Bell died in 2020, and his fellow horn player and co-founding member Dennis Thomas died in 2021.
Drummer George “Funky” Brown, also a co-founder, still is an active member, along with Bell.
The band’s new 15-track album, which will be released July 14, will include some of the last studio work recorded by Ronald Bell and Thomas.
In a press statement, Bell said the new album sums up the band’s long career.
“You’ve got the funk; you’ve got the jazzier tracks. We have a few ballads on there,” he said. “There are songs that cross over to a pop sort of thing. We go from ’70s, the ’80s, right into now. It’s old school; it’s new school – we kind of captured it all here. With all our music over the years, people have had fun. So I’d say this album just about sums it all up.”
The title of the new release is a truism, and one that Kool has based his music on. The innate desire to have fun is a condition of humanity that seems even more true as the negativity of everyday life piles up. People just want to have fun, and Bell is here to help see that they do.
Of course, losing two founding members in recent years was a blow. But Bell has found strength in his bandmates.
“Some of the new members have been with me now for 25 years,” he told Rolling Stone magazine last year. “New members can be old members too. You got to keep movin’.”
Sha Sha Jones was tapped for lead vocals on the album. She can be seen on the band’s video for “Let’s Party,” which has the whole ensemble partying at a California pool party, all dressed in white. “Let’s Party” is a good-time jam with a deep bass groove, and the band’s signature horn flourishes.
Also handling vocals on the new album are Shawn McQuiller, Lavell Evans, Dominique Karan, Rick Marcel and Walt Anderson, plus rappers Ami Miller & Ole’.
The new single fits in nicely with Bell’s oeuvre, which includes global party anthems “Ladies Night,” “Celebrate, “Jungle Boogie,” “Get Down on It,” “Too Hot” and “Fresh.”
A press release announcing the album calls the group “the most sampled R&B band of all time.” Segments of Kool songs have been lifted by stars such as Madonna, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill and Diddy. Kool’s music has also been featured on various film soundtracks, including “Rocky,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Wreck-It Ralph.”
The album isn’t the only new Kool & the Gang material on its way. Brown, the drummer and keyboardist, will release a book on July 11 titled “Too Hot: Kool & The Gang & Me.” It’s a memoir of his life in the band.
Brown produced the new album at his studio in California.
In a recent interview with Billboard, he said the recording process started five years ago with Sha Sha Jones. The singer was a natural fit.
“Right away, it was like hand in glove, and we came up with the ‘Let’s Party,’ track,” Brown told Billboard. “All the original horns are on that track. So we put that away and started coming up with more original material like ‘We Are the Party,’ once again with all the original members.”
On “99 Miles to JC,” the late Ronald Bell can be heard on a saxophone solo.
Kool & The Gang has played in the Youngstown area only a few times over the years. The band’s most recent visit to Bell’s hometown came in 2018, when the band played a concert at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Pictured at top: Kool & The Gang during the band’s recent appearance on “Good Morning America.” Flanking show host Robin Roberts, center, is Robert “Kool” Bell, right; and George Brown, left.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.