Graded on a Curve:
KC and The Sunshine Band, KC and The Sunshine Band

Damn it! Where did I leave my boogie shoes? Hey you, have you seen my boogie shoes? Because I’m headed to the disco to boogie down to the funky sounds of KC and The Sunshine Band and I can hardly head to the disco and boogie down to the funky sounds of KC and The Sunshine Band without my boogie shoes, now can I?

If you were alive in the year 1975 there was no avoiding the irresistible disco-funk of KC (aka Harry Wayne Casey) and The Sunshine Band. What made them impossible to ignore was the combination of Casey’s “play that funky music white boy” vocals, great hooks, and lots of good old sonic propulsion thanks to the band’s “I can’t drive 55” percussion. KC’s 1974 debut LP Do It Good does it good indeed, but the band really kicked disco ass on its eponymous 1975 sophomore LP, which included such immortal dance floor standards as “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “Get Down Tonight,” and “Boogie Shoes,” the last of which was inexplicably not released as a single.

I understand that plenty of people—most of them white male rockers—despised all things disco at the time. I know because I flirted with disco disgust myself. But not even a die-hard Lynyrd Skynyrd aficionado like yours truly could deny the infectious quality of KC and The Sunshine Band at their get-down best. KC and Company specialized in simple but irreproachably funky good time music, and only a total ogre could write them off as “mere disco.” What KC and The Sunshine Band were was a great Top 40 band capable of turning out songs you couldn’t turn off, even if your tastes ran—as mine did—to “Sweet Home Alabama.” Hell, both Skynyrd and KC hailed from Florida, and that makes them soul brothers, doesn’t it?

The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau wrote, “No matter what you label them, these otherwise meaningless dance tunes are as bright and distinct as the run of disco mush is dull.” And that about says it all. Casey and co-conspirator Richard Finch had an unerring knack for writing songs as chockfull of sunshine as a Florida orange. Just listen to the way Casey’s bright keyboards lively up the compulsively danceable “Get Down Tonight,” which is a dance floor manifesto from the Miami Disco Army if ever I’ve heard one.

And you’ve got to love the way the female backing vocalists stiffen the spine of the primally simple “That’s the Way (I Like It),” a dance track worthy of the Troggs. This is bump and grind beneath a glittering disco ball music, and every time I listen to it I break out in disco finger and a polyester shirt with very, very long lapels. As for “Boogie Shoes,” it features some of the happiest horn blare you’ll ever hear, and is a slice of stutter rock (“I wanna put on/My, my, my, my, my boogie shoes!”) at its fu-, fu-, fu- funkiest. Toss in the conga-mad “Let It Go (Part I)”—KC and The Sunshine Band boasted two percussionists in addition to a drummer for reasons of total salsafied funkification, and you can definitely hear it on this one—and you’ve got an A Side that simply refuses to step off the dance floor.

Side Two isn’t as strong, and that’s too bad. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong” except that it won’t cause you to stand up and shout, “I just gots to boogie!” It’s likeable enough, mind you, but it lacks that trademark KC and The Sunshine Band pizzazz. “I’m So Crazy (‘Bout You)” is pure Motown and okay, but it too falls short in the boogie department. The disposable “What Makes You Happy” is a slowish funk number and unfortunately short on melody, while “I Get Lifted” takes me higher and is a definite keeper thanks to its tres funky guitar and groove-happy percussion.

Robert Christgau made a rather tenuous cognitive leap when he wrote, “This band is like the Ramones—the hooks sneak up on you.” But what higher compliment can you pay a band, especially one that specialized in disposable pop product? Except—can music with hooks this wicked really be called disposable pop product? The songs on KC and The Sunshine Band may have sounded ephemeral, but they’ve stood the test of time. I know this because I just spent a half-hour dancing around my living room to them. So I ask again, where are my boogie shoes? Where are my, my, my, my, my boogie shoes?

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text