KOOL & THE GANG / “Summer Madness (Live)”

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6 Responses to “KOOL & THE GANG / “Summer Madness (Live)””

Berry Says:
July 8th, 2007 at 9:16 am

Um, you both make good points so I have nothing to add to this debate. Perhaps it is due to my lack of perspective as I grew up with both groups…may as well throw the Gap Band into the ring as well. Anyway, love that live version…I hadn’t heard it before.

Kayvon Says:
July 8th, 2007 at 9:37 am

Gotta love it, Summer Madness is imprinted on my musical psyche and I can’t help quoting the solo lines when I play. Also George Brown is one of my favourite funk drummers, not the tightest but he seems to be able to give you palpitations with his grooves. Chocolate buttermilk is one of my favourites which kinda picks up where Amen, Brother left off.

btw just been reading the Kool & the Gang home page and found out where ‘Who’s gonna take the weight?’ comes from, they got framed by narcotics officers. Shady.

Qawi Robinson Says:
July 9th, 2007 at 10:44 am

As a 70’s Baby like Mtume, I have fond memories listening to Kool and the Gang (KATG) on my family’s record players and 8-tracks. Also like Mtume, I slightly disagree with Baba Kalamu’s assessment of KATG being the halcyon of Blackness while other groups, EWF in particular, were less funky or "funk lite". Not that religion or political astuteness should play into this review, but it should be noted that most groups of the time wore Afros and were championing Blackness, not just KATG. Geez Baba Kalamu, does every band have to have a card carrying Black Panther to be down for the cause. 🙂 I guess Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers were enigmas as their Christian background let them to revolutionary music. 🙂 Also, even an untrained listener like myself can tell that EWF was physically larger and had a bigger horn presence than KATG. That brassy sound, coupled with EWFs disco inspired music (aka Boogie Wonderland), led them to sound less funky as they were covering a myriad of genres at the time. Still you can’t tell me that the basslines of Serpentine Fire and Shining Star weren’t funky. Still, as this is a KATG review, let me say that I was much impressed with them back in ’87. I was a high school kid then and was blitzed with New Edition, Teddy Riley, and other 80’s groups/bands. Still, I got to go to the KATG by accident and enjoyed their musicianship even as an "old school" band. They had lights, smoke, and costumes that were on par with EWF as well. They brought down the house with their classic tracks and even got great responses from Emergency and Joanna (their hits at the time). All thing brings me to the "funk" track of the week – "Summer Madness". While Kalamu made a remark that EWF’s music was metaphysical – I put Summer Madness in the same category. As I had never heard this live version before, it is pretty much on par with the studio one.

          kalamu sez          

i understand your sentiments. but you are disagreeing with arguments i didn’t make.

1. i didn’t present katg as "the halcyon of Blackness." i put them in the context of funk bands and both called the funk leaders by name, i.e. p-funk & jb, as well as cited a number of bands from ohio. i spoke specificly about katg as a funk band.

2. don’t boil the funk movement down to one moment in time. in terms of afros, that was a political struggle around hair styles. the prevailing trend for men and women was straightened hair (the men called it ‘conks’). by the mid-70s most groups did wear afros but that was only after years of struggle around the issue, which was my point that the hairstyle was more than just a style.

3. i did not make mention of black panthers. 

4. curtis mayfield and the staple singers–i don’t know that their christian background led them to revolutionary struggle but i do know that they were active participants in the movement, first for civil rights and later the black power movement. they are not enigmas but rather are products of their time period who decided to take an active leadership position. we’ve already written specifically about the progressiveness of the staple singers.

"The Staple Singers maintained their reputation as one of the most popular purveyors of social commentary in song. Other artists may have been better known, but there certainly was no other group that rivaled The Staple Singers as messengers of pride and empowerment."

5. mtume, brought ewf into this discussion. as you admit ewf was much broader than a funk band, which was essentially my point: ewf was not a funk band. pre-80s katg was a funk band. i never argued that ewf did not have elements of funk in their music, in fact, i specifically said that they could play funk. my argument was that when it came to playing funk, ewf was no match for katg. mtume was also referring to me calling ewf a pop band. i stand by that. moreover, as i stated, in the 80s katg became a "cross over pop band."


6. as both you and mtume noted, katg could and often did bring down the house. ordinary folked loved their music. i think the real issue is my antagonism toward presenting the petit bourgoisie as stellar examples of blackness while downgrading working class orientations. to be clear, as i stated, there is room enough in the spectrum for different approaches. i’m a trane freak. make mine jazz. that does not mean that i don’t listen to or appreciate other kinds of music. isn’t it ok to give katg props for their funk just like we give trane props for jazz or ewf props for progressive pop or give props to anyone else who makes a contribution in a specific field? the strength of black music is in the totality of it, the broad community of different styles and approaches rather than in any one or two individuals.

thanks for your response. i hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings.


p.s. mtume made mention of ewf dropping science. i think he was speaking metaphorically, however, science is based on materialism and not on metaphysics, which is why i disagree with characterizing ewf as dropping science. i am not opposed to spiritually but let’s not confuse spiritualism with science.


Ekere Says:
July 11th, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Oh. I haven’t been hear (I noticed this mistake but I’m gonna leave it in) in a LONG time. What a gift it is to resurface–in the midst of a serious heatwave–
and have this sultry jam poured in my ears. Yes, I love “Summer Madness.” And you know what’s funny? Here in this 18 story block of bricks where I live with my ever expanding family, folks throw parties and barbecue downstairs. Sometimes the loud music gets on my nerves, but two weeks ago the DJ threw on “Get Down on It” and I started singing and dancing with my newborn like we were both up in the club. Word. 🙂

I was born in 73 but it’s obvious that Kool and The Gang had different incarnations. I guess they just wanted to stay up with the times. Whatever. They sure did drop some gems.

one love,

Ken Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 8:29 pm

“Summer Madness,” like “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” always evokes that feel-good vibe when the weather has turned and life, by necessity, slows down. I’ve always found the “live” version such a diversion from anything else I’ve heard from Kool & the Gang–that open-ended, toe-in-the-jazz bucket feel, plus sounding like they brought The Fifth Dimension in on vocals (and I don’t mean that disparagingly).

In that you make mention of the influence of Ohio bands on the 70’s music scene, I’d like to throw in the Wilder Brothers, who fronted Heatwave. I wouldn’t call Heatwave a funk band–but vocally, songwriting-wise, in terms of musicianship and ( based on some of the archive stuff on sites like Youtube), performance-wise, one of the tightest bands of the 70’s.

Meaning in the music. I think the messages that were so attractive to us in the 70’s are still out here today. More challenging to find, given the nature of the music industry today. But Exhibit A: couple of months ago, saw a video of The Roots performing “Don’t Feel Right,” live (I’m again remineded of y’all’s fine write-up on the “Game Theory” tracks). They came out with that manic take on the beginning of “Jungle Boogie”…but then, for the first stanza, broke out into a loping, cooled out riff with that “Summer Madness” bassline underneath. It was a powerful choice by the group. And the affect of the performance on the audience was unbelievable. Camera panned to all these young faces and they looked hungry and hypnotized at the same time. Heads nodding in affirmation. You could see that they had found something elusive that they had been looking for. Kind of scene that gives you hope in the world. I think the band was moved, too. Black Thought closed out to the applause at the end with a big, “uh-HUNH!” The type of “un-hunh” you say when you’ve given people more than they expected, surprised them in a very good way.

wyatt Stanton Says:
January 10th, 2011 at 10:14 am

this song is beeeeessstttttt!!!!!!!!!

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