If you’re tired of your usual Christmas music and are looking to add some funk to your holiday proceedings, you’re in luck: Kool & the Gang has just released Kool For The Holidays, featuring their takes on some classic holiday songs, including “Joy To The World,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

“Every year, family and friends would ask, ‘When are you guys gonna do a Christmas album?'” Robert “Kool” Bell told Radio.com. “This year, we decided that we’re finally going to do one. So we did seven originals and seven covers.”

He says, though, that the album isn’t limited to Christmas: some of the songs can be played throughout the year: “The approach is, it can be for several holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July. ‘Home for the Holidays’ isn’t just a Christmas song , it’s a song about being home for the holidays. Which we don’t get to do too often!”

Indeed, the band is often on the road, and had to squeeze sessions in during their tour schedule to get the record finished. Although they are bona fide R&B legends, they took themselves out of their comfort zone on some recent tours, to get in front of new audiences.

“Last year we went out with Van Halen, we did 48 shows with them. This summer we went out with Kid Rock. We also did a show with Dave Matthews.” They share management with Dave Matthews, and Kool for the Holidays is out on Matthews’ label ATO Records.

But with this album behind them, their attention is turning to another new release and another holiday. “We are looking at 2014, that’s our 50th anniversary. We started in 1964. Our first album came out July 3, 1969, so we’re looking to July 4 weekend in 2014 to release our new record.” He says that the album will feature mostly new songs, and they’re looking to collaborate with other artists. Their management company also represents Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Lionel Richie, all of whom they’re interested in having on the album, and ditto for Dave Matthews himself. They’re also planning on working with Kid Rock.

With the sounds of funk and disco dominating the pop charts in 2013 – via hits like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” – it seems like the perfect time for Kool & The Gang to re-emerge. “Get Lucky” was propelled by a guitar line by Kool’s old friend, Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and it turns out Kool will be on his next album. “Nile is doing a project called Nile & Friends. And we have a song on that called ‘I Wanna Dance,’ which was done way before he got together with Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk for ‘Get Lucky.’  And we’re going to try to get him on our album. He’s family: his cousin (Robert) “Spike” Mickens was our trumpet player, he passed away years ago.”

“But yes: I do believe the styles and the sounds that you’re hearing out there now, ‘Blurred Lines,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ even Justin Timberlake, that sort of R&B vibe going on, some of these guys are mixing their records with that sound.” And it looks like we’ll hear much more of it, from the original source, in 2014.

Brian Ives, Radio.com


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