The Brand New Heavies, The Brand New Heavies

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Brand New Heavies

The Brand New Heavies

Shortly after the release of this, their 1992 American debut, London's Brand New Heavies became the most successful practitioners of a style dubbed acid jazz. A cheeky response in name alone to England's acid house movement, acid jazz was instead a direct outgrowth of London's fascination with "rare groove," a particular blend of soulful disco, sophisticated funk, and danceable jazz imports championed by the city's pirate radio and club DJs of the early '80s that reached back through to the early '70s.

Acid jazz takes off on this UK groove classic.

It's these records that the Brand New Heavies use as stylistic source material. Unlike their contemporaries in Soul II Soul, the Heavies didn't at this point modernize the analog textures of Roy Ayers, to name but one rare groove icon. Instead, they distill the essence of his rhythms and chord changes, and focus on the resulting body heat. Soon they would absorb some of the studio slickness of hip-hop and house music, but here the Heavies play like a tight and hungry live band. Their ace in the hole is N'Dea Davenport, an Atlanta-born singer of taste and serious chops. Her spirited cameos — particularly "Dream Come True," "Never Stop," and "Stay This Way" — have aged as smoothly as the band's sweet inspirations.