Brand New Heavies - Sweet Freaks (2014)

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I first came across the term “acid jazz” around 1997 in relation to the group Incognito. Bluey  and his  crew had just dropped the album Beneath of Surface, hot off the heels of their triumphs with Positivity and 100° and Rising, and it stayed in heavy rotation for a couple of years. From my standpoint in Indiana, acid jazz sounded a lot like the funk, jazz fusion that I been listening to since the 1970s. So I was apt to call Incognito and The Brand New Heavies – the other British based band associated with that movement that made and continues to make noise on this side of the pond – a funk band.

I first came across the term “acid jazz” around 1997 in relation to the group Incognito. Bluey  and his  crew had just dropped the album Beneath of Surface, hot off the heels of their triumphs with Positivity and 100° and Rising, and it stayed in heavy rotation for a couple of years. From my standpoint in Indiana, acid jazz sounded a lot like the funk, jazz fusion that I been listening to since the 1970s. So I was apt to call Incognito and The Brand New Heavies – the other British based band associated with that movement that made and continues to make noise on this side of the pond – a funk band.

It turns out that those two outfits had more in common than just their longevity. Both groups emerged from the English music scene during roughly the same era and both made their commercial splashes in America after adding the distinctive voice of an American female soul vocalist. In the case of Incognito, that voice belonged to SoulTracks’ favorite Maysa Leak, while N’Dea Davenport helped land The Brand New Heavies on the American pop charts. The Heavies, like Incognito, operates like a machine in that they often employ a next artist up philosophy when Davenport steps away to pursue solo interests.

For Sweet Freaks, the band’s follow to 2013’s Forward, Dawn Joseph is the next (or now) vocalist up. Joseph leads listeners on a faced paced, energetic record that is deeply indebted to the disco and funk music that dominated the music scene in the late 1970s and early 80s on both sides of the ocean, and clearly influenced the acid jazz movement.

Sweet Freaks is a consistent project sporting a bevy of dance club ready tracks. However, there are a few standouts with “95 Tonight” being the best of the bunch. A driving, yet smooth bass line propels this tune that is augmented by percussive horns and flecks of guitar play. The entire arrangement along with those roll up the rug, forget about the time, check  your attitude at the door and party lyrics will remind some listeners of Chic at their late 1970s apex.

“Self Portrait” showcases Joseph’s ability to wrap her soulful vocals around a track that combines a fat funky bass line with jazz horns and rock inspired guitar riffs, while “You Are The Fire” puts Joseph’s Diana Ross “Love Hangover”-style passion and intensity into an upbeat, funk-infused torch song. The track’s lyrics remind once again that sensuality and passion often come through in what is left unsaid. “Lay me down/Spark my desire/How is it that you take me higher/So much passion in the sweet sensation/Our bodies making conversation.”

Sweet Freaks provides listeners with a lot of original material with a classic funk and disco feel, and a dash of oldies but goodies sporting some funky new threads (“Sledgehammer and “Don’t Let Go”). Ultimately, what The Heavies have bestowed upon their fans during his Holiday season is the gift of a funky escape. So when things get a little bit too heated or holier than thou this Christmas, call a time out and let The Heavies take you in a funkier direction. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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