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J-Zone’s Tool Box:
Kool and The Gang – Let the Music Take Your Mind

“Let the Music Take Your Mind” b/w “Chocolate Buttermilk”

Year / Label: 1970 / De-Lite
Catalog #: DE-529

How often is it that you find a funk 45 with two different songs and each has a loaded drum break? That’s why this particular 7” was a goldmine for beatsmiths. How often is it that your third single is a brand new song that doesn’t appear on any album? That’s why this particular 7” was essential for K&TG fans circa 1970. And finally, how often is it that you cop a 45 and really have difficulty choosing the better song? That’s why this particular 7” is a must for collectors – and that’s also why it’s Kool and the Gang’s best 45.

“Let the Music Take Your Mind” didn’t appear on the group’s debut album. In fact, only a live version appeared on their next LP (Live at the Sex Machine) and the song wasn’t available on a full-length release until a greatest hits volume the following year. (The song was eventually tacked on to later pressings of the first LP.) The seven man funk mob from Jersey City were an album-driven act, but early on they captured the rogue aesthetic of the funk 45 by bolstering album cuts with their latest material, some of which never made it to a full-length (e.g. “Can’t Stop Doing It To You.”)  But they didn’t fumble when the time came to give the people something new. Following the protocol of the day, “Let the Music Take Your Mind” is a “Dance to the Music”-style roll call for the entire band to get busy on the solo tip. Sly and JB set the concept off, The Bar-Kays gave it a whirl (“Don’t Stop Dancing to the Music”) and seemingly every flash-in-the-pan, greasy spoon house band followed suit, but Kool and the Gang’s take is arguably the most effective. Although not as ripe for sampling, Funky George’s drum solo here trumps even the lauded “N.T.” for its sheer power and control (ask Ice Cube). Kool’s bass boogie gave the Beastie Boys the strongest fraction of their “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.” The Gang even rounds out the roll call with an answer to a popular K&TG trivia question. A mystery of what-the-hell-were-they-saying-on-the-hook-of-Electric-Relaxation proportions is solved when Woody Sparrow’s name is called for a guitar riff – he was the mysterious eighth man on the front cover of the first LP. Sparrow had passed away by the time Live at the Sex Machine was recorded, so “Let the Music Take Your Mind” is the only documented piece of his work.

As for the overall groove, it’s Classic Kool from needle drop to record stop. The song also represents a brief phase of the band – one that was post-raw, hyper-syncopated, wholly instrumental jazz funk and pre-pre-”Jungle Boogie” prototype Kool, a sound that was cemented on Live at P.J.’s a year later. For a good bout of whiplash, pan it to the side with the drums and turn it up loud. Word to a Jheri-curled Ice Cube.

Side note: A rare extended version of the song exists on compilations, with a horn-driven intro, a refrain in the middle, and an extended sax solo. But the 45 is really all you need.

As for the b-side, the group needed to keep the buzz up on the first LP and they chose one of its stronger cuts to do it. (Although I always wished “Give It Up” was a 7”.) A loose interpolation of Archie Bell’s “Tighten Up,” “Chocolate Buttermilk” gets to the point in just over two minutes. The horns that fortified many a Pete Rock joint are the recognizable calling card of the song, but the true gem is the underutilized drum break – one that fell completely out of usage when hip-hop song tempos skidded and drumbreaks were smashed into individual sounds in the early ‘90s. Funky George’s paradiddle / roll extravaganza combined with a lightning fast foot pedal make it colorful enough to stand on its own (see Master Ace and Marley Marl’s “Simon Says.”)

Overall, this one represents all of the finest attributes of a funk 45, but more importantly, it represents the group on the cusp of its first progression. Kool and the Gang were constantly growing, and by only their third single, they were embarking on a new trademark sound. Subjectivity reigns supreme when it comes to music, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more complete and essential Kool and the Gang 45.

Rating: 10/10

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Kool and The Gang – Let the Music Take Your Mind"

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