KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND-KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND.

KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND-KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND.

Imagine this scenario. You’re part of a band whose just released your debut album which fails to chart. A year later, you release the followup which not only reaches number one in the US R&B Charts and is certified triple-platinum, but features two singles that reach number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. Although this sounds somewhat far-fetched, and not unlike the scrip for a low-budget movie, it really happened back in 1975. The band were KC and The Sunshine Band.

Their debut album, Do It Good was released back in 1974, but failed to chart. Then when KC and The Sunshine Band released Get Down Tonight in April 1975, the single reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. Three months later in July 1975, KC and The Sunshine Band released their second album KC and The Sunshine Band. It reached number four in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. By now, KC and The Sunshine Band were one of the biggest bands of 1975, but in August 1975 they’d release a track that since then, has become synonymous with them That’s the Way (I Like It). This single replicated the success of Get Down Tonight, reaching number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. However, KC and The Sunshine Band which will be rereleased on 4th February 2014 on WEA Japan was just the start of a four year period when KC and The Sunshine Band became one of the biggest funk bands in America. Once I’ve told you about the making of KC and The Sunshine Band, I’ll tell you why the album KC and The Sunshine Band was so successful.

After the disappointment of the commercial failure of their debut album Do It Good, Harry “Wayne” Casey and Richard Finch the two original members of KC and The Sunshine Band set about writing new material for their next album. They cowrote eight tracks, plus chose to cover a track they cowrite for George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby album, I Get Lifted. The eight new tracks were heavy on hooks, and sometimes, are unkindly referred to as “bubblegum funk.” While it’s true the music isn’t the heavier funky sound of P-Funk, that’s doing KC and The Sunshine Band a disservice. They fuse funk with soul and disco, succeeding in turning many people onto funk, something James Brown and George Clinton had tried to do for many years.

Recording of the album took place at TK’s Miami Studios. After the disappointment of the commercial failure of their debut album Do It Good, Harry “Wayne” Casey and Richard Finch were joined by the other band members. While Harry sang lead vocal, Richard played bass, drums and percussion, with guitarist Jerome Smith and drummer Robert Johnson key to the band’s sound. Together with a horn section and backing vocalists, the nine tracks were recorded, with Harry and Richard arranging and producing the nine tracks that became KC and The Sunshine Band. Soon, the lives of the members of KC and The Sunshine Band would be transformed, when the first single was released from KC and The Sunshine Band.

Get Down Tonight was chosen as the first single to be released from KC and The Sunshine Band. It was released in April 1975, reaching number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. This bode well for the release of KC and The Sunshine Band. On its release in July 1975, it reached number four in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, resulting in the album being certified triple platinum in the US and platinum in Canada. KC and The Sunshine Band’s success continued apace, when they released the second single from KC and The Sunshine. That’s the Way (I Like It) was released in August 1975, replicating the success of Get Down Tonight, reaching number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts in September 1975. One further single, Boogie Shoes was released in February 1978, reaching number thirty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-nine in the US R&B Charts. While this was slightly disappointing, given the success of the two previous singles and the album KC and The Sunshine Band, the lives of the members of KC and The Sunshine Band had been changed forever. However, what made KC and The Sunshine Band such a successful album? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Opening KC and The Sunshine Band is Let It Go (Part One), where percussion and pounding drums give way to Harry’s vocal which signals the track bursting into life. The track heads in the direction of funk, with blazing horns, percussion and the rhythm section driving the track along. Harry’s like a cheerleader, encouraging the band on. Having expended so much energy, KC and The Sunshine Band regroup during a breakdown, before rebuilding and driving the track along to its close. This whets your appetite nicely, for what’s about to unfold.

You don’t have long to wait for something really special to unfold, with a track that’s since become synonymous with KC and The Sunshine Band That’s the Way (I Like It) bursting joyously into life. Suddenly, it’s late summer of 1975 again, with KC and The Sunshine Band providing the soundtrack. The familiar strains of the backing vocalists soaring above the massed ranks of the rhythm section percussion and rasping horns. Then comes Harry’s impassioned vocal, made even better by the continued presence of the backing vocals. Layers of backing vocals, a buzzing bass and punchy horns all play their part in the track’s success and sound. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the song’s hook-laden, good-time, joyful Miami sound as KC and The Sunshine Band fuse funk, soul and disco seamlessly.

How do you follow a classic track like the previous one, is something I’ve always wondered. Although Harry and Richard never knew how successful That’s the Way (I Like It) would be, they must have had an inkling. So whatever track follows has a hard act to follow. Here, Get Down Tonight sees KC and The Sunshine Band combine elements of funk and soul. There’s plenty of punchy, rasping horns that are key to sound, that are accompanied by a pounding, funky rhythm section. Harry’s vocal drifts in and out the track, not unlike Let It Go (Part One). However, it’s the band that take centre-stage, producing a track that although isn’t as hooky as the previous track, is catchy, good-time funk and far from the “bubblegum funk,” that KC and The Sunshine Band were unkindly accused of producing.

Boogie Shoes was the third and final single released from KC and The Sunshine Band and closed Side One of the original album. Like That’s the Way (I Like It), this is another track that demonstrates what made KC and The Sunshine Band’s music so successful. From the opening bars, they have you’re attention with the combination of rhythm section and growling horns. The lyrics are simple, memorable and have a feel-good sound. Importantly, the whole track is dance-floor friendly. Harry’s vocal is full of joy, all hollers and happiness, with the horns ever-present throughout the track, while the rhythm section and percussion provide the track’s heartbeat. Similar to the other two singles, Harry and Richard ensure the track isn’t short of hooks, and has a real feel-good sound that’s dance-floor friendly. 

Ain’t Nothing Wrong was the track that opened Side Two of KC and The Sunshine Band. You can imaging having listened to Side One, flipping the record over and wondering can it match the quality of Side One. Instantly, you’re aware of a more laid-back sound wafting out of your speakers. There’s still rasping horns, but the track is much more soulful. Just the rhythm section, piano and backing vocalists accompany Harry’s gentle, heartfelt vocal. The track along meanders, with flourishes of piano, guitars and growling horns key to the track’s sound and success. Meanwhile Harry spreads his message of love, while demonstrating a much mellower, soulful side of KC and The Sunshine Band.

I’m So Crazy (About You) sees a driving, pounding rhythm section open the track, before being joined by punchy, braying horns. Harry’s vocal is soft, tender and contrasts with the rest of the arrangement. This makes you focus on his vocal and the lyrics. The punchy arrangement suits the song, and is another example of Harry “Wayne” Casey and Richard Finch’s ability to write songs with catchy, memorable lyrics. There’s a poppy quality to the lyrics and the arrangement, even though the band are fusing funk and soul. Although this is an example of a good pop song, it’s tracks like this that lead to unkind accusations of KC and The Sunshine Band producing “bubblegum funk.” Mind you, many of these barbed arrows came from less successful funkateers, jealous of the band’s success.

What Makes You Happy sees another change in style from the band. The tempo drops way down, with guitars and the rhythm section producing a track with a sixties sound. The addition of the Hammond organ and Harry’s vocal adds to this. Gone is the joyous vocal from Harry, replaced by a more thoughtful delivery. He’s accompanied by growling horns, while the rhythm section take the arrangement in a direction where rock and funk combine. This is a very different song from other tracks, and rebuts the accusations of KC and The Sunshine Band  producing “bubblegum funk.

I Get Lifted was a track that Harry and Richard cowrote for George McCrae’s debut album Rock Your Baby. KC and The Sunshine Band ‘s cover version gives new meaning to the track. Harry uses his vocal to produce a sultry exploration of the lyrics subtleties and nuances. Similarly, the rest of the band take the song in a new direction. There’s space to the arrangement, which the rhythm section and guitars leave. Chiming, crystalline guitars, a buzzing bass and percussion provide the backdrop for Harry’s sensual, joyful vamping vocal. Together with the rest of the band their interpretation of this song brings new life and meaning to it.

Closing KC and The Sunshine Band is Let It Go (Part Two), which is a perfect two minute reminder of the track that started the album. My theory is that it’s designed to remind you how good the track is and that you’ll flip the record over and listen again. Nowadays we don’t even need to do that, just press play again. 

KC and The Sunshine Band was just the first of four KC and The Sunshine Band’s albums that would be certified platinum. When KC and The Sunshine Band released  their next album The Sound of Sunshine failed it to chart. Thankfully, this was just a temporary hitch, explained by the fact It was an instrumental album, credited to just the Sunshine Band. Normal service was resumed with 1976s Part 3, which was also certified triple platinum. Two years later in 1978, Who Do Ya (Love) was certified platinum, as was 1979s Do You Wanna Go Party. Following Do You Wanna Go Party KC and The Sunshine Band never enjoyed the same commercial success.

Seven further albums followed, with 2007s Yummy the last of these. For five years, KC and The Sunshine Band were one of the biggest funk bands around, fusing their unique brand of funk, soul and disco. The album that started it was 1975s KC and The Sunshine Band. This was a long way from their 1974 debut album Do It Good, which failed to chart. However, any album that featured three singles of the quality of Get Down Tonight, That’s the Way (I Like It) and the brilliant Boogie Shoes was destined for greatness in 1975. Having said that, there’s more to the album KC and The Sunshine Band than just three tracks. Let It Go (Part One), Get Down Tonight, Ain’t Nothing Wrong and I’m So Crazy (About You) are proof of this. For me, KC and The Sunshine Band, which will be rereleased by WEA Japan on 4th February 2014, and its mixture of funk, disco and sunshine soul is the perfect soundtrack to the long summer nights that lie ahead. KC and The Sunshine Band is guaranteed to get any party started and have everyone looking for their Boogie Shoes. Standout Tracks: Get Down Tonight, That’s the Way (I Like It), Boogie Shoes and Ain’t Nothing Wrong.

KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND-KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND.

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