The Brand New Heavies
Vinyl LP Record [2LP]
"In 1990, Acid Jazz was a term unheard of in mainstream music circles, and The Brand New Heavies were indeed brand new. But with vocalist N'Dea Davenport, the pioneering Heavies built a bridge from an underground music sensation in London and stretched it all the way to American radio and MTV. It was a remarkable feat, and their self-titled debut album offers every explanation for it, bursting at the seams with equal parts soul and originality. As a brand new band, the Heavies didn't know quite what they had on their hands with vocalist N'Dea Davenport; she's only featured on four cuts here, but as it turned out three of them were released as singles and her fiery, soulful vocals wound up being the key to the band's commercial success. She comes on full force on the intoxicating radio smash "Never Stop" and the horn-heavy funk workout "Dream Come True," but pulls back with equal ease on the ultra-smooth "Ride in the Sky" and casts a spell of irresistible seduction on the sultry "Stay This Way." Of course, featuring Davenport on only four of ten tracks leaves the album a little lop-sided, but thankfully the instrumentals are strong enough to carry the load. "BNH," for all of its jazzy horns and smooth funk rhythms, tidily sums up what the band is all about; "People Get Ready" and "Gimme One of Those" are spirited exercises that sound like outtakes from the "Shaft" soundtrack; and "Put the Funk Back in It" proves the Heavies can shake the house even from a ballad tempo. But the most impressive instrumental cut by far is "Sphynx," a mesmerizing and sophisticated composition that somehow manages to sound like just the sort of thing John Coltrane would record if he were alive and kicking in the 70's. In fact, so authentic is the album's retro sound, it no doubt sent more than a few early listeners scrambling for the credits to find out if this was a debut release from a new group or an unearthed reissue. From start to finish, the Brand New Heavies take us on an addictive trip back to a time when the grooves were thick, the writing was sophisticated, and the vocals were genuine, unadulterated soul. The Heavies would eventually surpass the heights they reached here, but in retrospect the album offers every clue that they were on their way to becoming legends in the Acid Jazz genre. Heavy indeed."