Kool & The Gang Kool Funk Essentials

Not to be confused with Polygram's Funk Essentials series, this disc is a collection of Kool and the Gang tracks between 1970 and '77. This scantly labelled disc seems designed for sampling, like the George Clinton P-Funk series. However, the "remixes" here are nothing more than original tracks minus the vocals. This should be a good thing - Kool were indeed cool up until the time they brought Deodato and James J.T. Taylor into the mix, permanently sending their sound to the shallow end of the funk pool. Kool Funk Essentials starts off with a blazing version of "This is You, This is Me," from their best-known early album Wild and Peaceful. The band is in all its jazzy glory here, and the track goes on an extra minute beyond the original issue as a further bonus, but it's downhill from there. Most of these tracks are drawn from the mid-'70s, when the band became more vocally oriented. The massed male and female harmonies of albums such as Love and Understanding are stripped away, leading to tracks that are monotonous minus vocals. Some of these tracks are jams that have remained in the can for good reason: they're good for samples and that's about it. There are three or four tunes on this CD that are worthwhile for Kool fans to own, the rest are, at best, a different kind of large band funk than from what many contemporary bands take their cues from, so they may be worthwhile for budding arrangers. I'll go back to Live at P.J.'s or Spirit of the Boogie for my Kool fix. (Linus)