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Album Review

Although disco was well dead by the end of the 1970s, Kool & the Gang nevertheless unleashed a chart-topping, dance-club rattling monster that proved there was still life on the Excess Express. Celebrate, released in fall 1980, further gelled the exquisite relationship between the band and Brazilian fusion guru Deodato and, with equal nods to fusion, funk, and, yes, disco, the album gave the band a massive hit. Reaching into the Top Ten on both the R&B and pop charts, it furthered the comeback commenced with Ladies Night. But it was Celebrate's first baby, the unstoppable "Celebration," that provided the band a comeback of unparalleled heights. Ronald Bell predicted that the song would "be an international anthem," and he was proved right. Not only did it slam to the top of the U.S. charts, it was quickly adopted as a symbol of freedom — first to welcome home the hostages released from Iran, then to laud Democrat Walter Mondale's presidential nomination. The downside was that this one song not only grossly overshadowed the album, but also set an unreachable standard for the rest of the set, which lost steam in its wake. Although "Jones Vs. Jones" crept into the charts, it was the thumping bass and drums on "Love Festival" and the disco ghosts of "Night People" which emerged as club favorites in the early part of the decade. And Celebrate itself marked the end of an era for Kool & the Gang, as the band would slip even farther from their funk roots and adopted dance grooves into the realms of smooth soul. But what a way to go!


Formed: 1964 in Jersey City, NJ

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed as a jazz ensemble in the mid-'60s, Kool & the Gang became one of the most inspired and influential funk units during the '70s, and one of the most popular R&B groups of the '80s after their breakout hit "Celebration" in 1979. Just as funky as James Brown or Parliament (and sampled almost as frequently), Kool & the Gang relied on their jazz backgrounds and long friendship to form a tightly knit group with the interplay and improvisation of a jazz outfit, plus the energy and spark of a band...
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Celebrate!, Kool & The Gang
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