Cooly's Hot Box
Cooly's Hot Box
Depending on how you look at it, Cooly's Hot Box is either one of the best kept secrets in modern soul/dance music, or is exhibit #1 about what is wrong with the modern pop and urban radio machine that has, thusfar, ignored Cooly's. An extremely talented duo consisting of Christian Urich and Angela Johnson, Cooly's has already demonstrated it is among the most creative and enjoyable modern dance groups and should by all rights be dominating the radio waves. However, they currently remain an act with a small cult following due, in large part, to narrow radio playlists dominated by faceless hip-hop acts.
Formed as a quartet at the State University of New York, Cooly's has built up a regional following over the past half decade. In 2002 they released their debut, Take It, a wonderful piece of dance and rhythmic jazz that sounded like a modernized Heatwave with jazzier underpinnings. Ulrich set the tone for the disc, with cool arrangements and beats that gave dance club credibility, and Johnson's bright vocals (think of a more soulful Jody Watley) made the well-written songs memorable front to back. Cuts like "Friend of Mine," "What a Surprise," the Soul 2 Soul-like "Simple," and the smooth ballad "14 Hours" were top notch musically and vocally. The only weakness was that, while borrowing disco era grooves, Cooly's Hot Box lyrically fell into some of the narcissism and oversimplified view of sex that in many ways defined that era. However, the overall feel of the disc was so strong that it overcame the lyrical weakness and became one of the better discs of 2002.
After Take It, both Ulrich and Johnson worked on a number of individual projects, with Johnson releasing the excellent, soulful 2003 disc They Don't Know (one of our top 10 picks of that year) and Ulrich working with his other group, the three-piece dance band Tortured Soul. Johnson also recorded a sophomore solo disc, Got To Let It Go, which is slated for a Spring 2005 U.S. release, and wrote a tune for Maysa's most recent album.
Ulrich and Johnson came together in early 2004 and began working on the second Cooly's album, Don't Be Afraid, Get On, released in October 2004 on Purpose Records.
By Chris Rizik