Given the “here today, gone tomorrow” philosophy that dominates the world of soul and R&B, longevity is certainly a rare quality. But there’s nothing at all ephemeral about Brit funk’s finest exponents, the Brand New Heavies, who are still going strong after beginning life back in the late 1980s. This new 2-CD collection can’t claim to be a comprehensive overview of the Acid Jazz pioneers’ career but it undoubtedly cherry picks their best moments from the last two decades.
The ever-present rhythmic core of the London-based trio comprises drummer/vocalist Jan Kincaid, guitarist Simon Bartholomew and bassist Andrew Levy and they have been fronted by a variety of female vocalists over the years – including American chanteuses N’Dea Davenport, Siedah Garrett, and Carleen Anderson, all of who are featured on this set’s 38 tracks. Each brought their own distinctive qualities to the group – former US session singer, Garrett, who duetted with Michael Jackson on his ‘The Man In The Mirror’, brought urbane sophistication while Anderson’s ethereal warbling took the group to a different level.
But it was the hyper-energetic and charismatic N’Dea Davenport with her breezy pop-soul delivery who seemed to gel best with the band and it’s her contributions that represent the true standout moments on this set – like the brilliant ‘Stay This Way’, the infectious ‘Dreams Come True’, ‘Brother Sister’, ‘Dream On Dreamer’, and the group’s gloriously funky reconfiguration of Maria Muldaur’s ‘Midnight At The Oasis’. Inexplicably, the band’s Top 3 US R&B hit, 1991’s ‘Never Stop’ is omitted from this new collection, which also includes the fan favourites ‘Highest High’, ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Have A Good Time’ as well as the Heavies’ sinewy Carleen Anderson-led take on the Young Disciplines ‘Apparently Nothing’.
This set provides a good, solid overview of the band’s hit-making history though the omission of the essential ‘Never Stop’ and pre-’91 cuts like ‘Got To Give’ – probably due to licensing issues rather than any negligence on the compiler’s part – prevent it from being a truly definitive one.