Most Wanted! Kool & The Gang – Summer Madness (De-Lite Records)
Kool & The Gang most definitely reach the peak of their Jazz/Funk period back in 1974. This with the release of their ‘Light Of Worlds’ album and the inclusion of the stellar ‘Summer Madness’.
A quick listen to ‘Summer Madness’ suffices to catch the magnetism of Khalis Bayyan‘s work on synths. And, in the meantime, to realize we’re in presence of a rare musicianship. As a matter of fact, ‘Summer Madness’ is futuristic Jazz/Funk masterpiece for the time being. But also a chill-out manifesto in the meantime. A gem that would pretty much have found its niche on José Padilla‘s famous sunsets if the Café del Mar had been around at the time.
No surprisingly, ‘Summer Madness’ has seen the light on many different versions along with time. Eventually influencing countless artists who either covered or sampled or reproduced parts of it. From DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince who brilliantly sampled it back in 1991 on the memorable ‘Summertime’. To violinist Jerald Daemyon who gave it his own interpretation back in 1994. This with additional remix courtesy of Masters At Work two years after. Not to mention Ray Hayden & Maysa Leak on ‘When We’re Making Love’ that same year.
We’re not that much into unofficial releases usually. But the three different mixes on the 2003 Japanese pressing of ‘Summer Madness’ make it pretty much worth the investment.
In 1964, 13 year-old Robert ‘Kool’ Bell, his brother (Ronald) and 5 high school friends formed an instrumental band called The Jazziacs. They changed their name to Kool & The Flames 4 years later, then to Kool & The Gang in 1969 (to avoid confusion with James Brown‘s Famous Flames). They got signed on Gene Redd‘s newly launched De-Lite Records label during the same year.
Their career, just like like Earth, Wind & Fire, can be split into 2 periods. The first (1973 – 1978) establishing them on the burgeoing Funk scene with a twist of Jazz, blending earthy brass, funky bass guitar and chanted vocals. A period which they paved with classics such as ‘Summer Madness’, ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Open Sesame’.
The second one seeing them makin’ a clear-cut transition into Dance/Soul Pop territories. As a result, they would turn themselves into an impressive hit machine, reaching their peak during the first half of the 80’s along with producer Eumir Deodato. Classics such as ‘Ladies Night’, ‘Celebration’ and ‘Big Fun’ among others summarizing their leadership at the time. If not extra goodies such as ‘Too Hot’, Steppin’ Out’, ‘Big Fun’ or ‘Take My Heart’…