KOOL & THE GANG – “ICON”

Kool & The Gang

“ICON”

(Mercury/UME)

Few things make us wistfully recollect our youth as when a heritage radio station changes its format. It happened 30 years ago this month when WABC switched from Top 40 to talk, then again in 2005 when WCBS-FM temporarily dropped its oldies format (it brought it back with some alterations in 2008), and this past week, KISS-FM (98.3) ended its run of playing smooth soul music as ESPN made the station owners an offer that they couldn’t refuse to change it into a sports talk station.

Kool & The Gang, whose members hailed from Jersey City, were a staple of the KISS-FM playlist in its glory days. Ronald “Kool” Bell and his troupe could do it all from gritty gunk (“Hollywood Swinging” and “Jungle Boogie”) to silky Top 40 hits that were fronted by singer J.T. Taylor as “Fresh,” “Ladies Night,” “Joanna,” “Get Down On It,” “Take My Heart (You Can Have It)”, and that bar mitzvah/wedding reception staple, “Celebration.”

This is yet another group that deserve enshrinement into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but has been grossly overlooked.