I knew of Kool & the King, of course. I’ve heard “Jungle Boogie,” I know “Celebration,” maybe a few others. But I’d never thought much of them. I never took them seriously as a funk band perhaps because of the seeming novelty nature of their biggest hits.
But this is a pretty funky record, on the leaner side of the spectrum, which is something I really appreciate.
There’s some pretty cool stuff here, which breaks from convention and adds an element of unpredictability.
For example: I like how they break up “Funky Stuff” as if it was two sides of a single, even though it’s on an LP. And then, on “More Funky Stuff,” there is just this bonkers rhythm guitar part where the guy plays the same chord for what feels like more than a minute (more than a minute!!!) while the band around him gets louder and wilder.
Trying to hear “Jungle Boogie” again but for the first time is hard, but if you can put aside how many thousands of times you’ve heard it, it’s a pretty good funk song, musically anyway. No wonder it was a hit.
But there’s a serious misstep here which keeps me from giving the record higher marks, and that’s “Heaven at Once,” a slow jam ballad about creating a better world, with a spoken world conversation over top of it which has no rhythm to it whatever. I say this as a white guy with poor rhythm, but this guy – I think it might be Kool himself – has no “flow” as the kids call it. It’s awful. It really is. I can’t convey how awkward it is. Some really tasteful solos after that, though.
But if you can get pass the first part of “Heaven at Once,” this is a pretty great funk record; well played, well arranged and pretty catchy. And it’s got lots of space on many of the tracks, which is something I appreciate as well.