THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: Forward (Heavy Tone Records)

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With a permanent core of Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy, the Brand New Heavies have been peddling their highly distinctive brand of soul and funk since the early 90s, but for all kinds of reasons it’s been something like six years since they’ve released any new material. Well, after what’s been far too long the band are back … and back in top form. Positive, energised and sounding as vital as ever, the group return with the appropriately titled 13 tracker ‘Forward’ and what a great album it is!

Everything you know and love about the BNHs is here and – as is their way – they unveil one or two surprises – including a new lead singer. For ‘Forward’ the core trio have drafted in Dawn Joseph as lead vocalist and she take charge of three of the LP’s best cuts – the restrained dancer that is ‘Lifestyle’, the Samba-school-inspired ‘Lights’ and the ultra chirpy ‘A Little Funk In Your Pocket’ –which despite its title isn’t really funk… rather, a lovely, infectious chirpy mid-tempo vibe. Dawn has a great old school soul voice and a sensuous undertow that makes her tracks that much more convincing. Recordings for ‘Forward’ began before Dawn was signed up so on a couple of cuts lead vocals are handled by BNHs’ aluminous N’Dea Davenport. She takes lead on ‘Sunlight’ – the LP’s lead single. Yes, easy to hear why they’ve gone with it. The tune’s a huge slab of uplifting modern soul that should guarantee both air time (provided radio programmers switch on their hearing aids!) and club airings (discerning soul DJs will have no problems selecting the tune… with or without hearing aids!). Ms D also takes lead on the addictive ‘Addicted’ and she joins Simon and Jan on the uplifting cover of the Players Association’s ‘Turn The Music Up’ – a tune from the era that inspired the band in the first instance.

Simon and Jan go on to handle lead vocal chores themselves on five on the tracks. Kincaid’s out front on the poppy ‘Heaven’, the loping, disco-flavoured ‘On The One’ an the deliciously smooth ‘One More For The Road’. Mr B’s on song for the brassy ‘The Way It Goes’ and the quirky ‘Spice Of Life’ – one of the album’s oddities – offering an electro slice of reggae! Add to all that a couple of supercharged instrumentals and you have a wonderful album that proves once again that in the Brand New Heavies we have a totally convincing UK-based modern soul band…. and look out for an interview with the group here @ SJF very soon

(BB) 4/5