Heatwave - Candles (Reissue)

Heatwave

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Heatwave - Candles

1979 was the year that should have ended the group Heatwave -- that would have ended most any other group.  Following their 1978 smash album Central Heating, a second platinum album that moved Heatwave to the top of the R&B pyramid, and just before the release of 1979's Hot Property, Heatwave endured two tragedies: the near fatal stabbing of guitarist Mario Mantese (who would never return to the group) and the horrific auto accident that left vocalist and group leader Johnny Wilder a quadriplegic.  Such tragedy would have justifiably spelled the end of the act, but the sheer determination of the group's members, and in particular Wilder (who had to relearn how to sing with significantly decreased lung capacity and no control of his body below his neck), prevailed, and Heatwave was back in the studio by late 1980 recording their fourth album, Candles.

Heatwave - Candles

1979 was the year that should have ended the group Heatwave -- that would have ended most any other group.  Following their 1978 smash album Central Heating, a second platinum album that moved Heatwave to the top of the R&B pyramid, and just before the release of 1979's Hot Property, Heatwave endured two tragedies: the near fatal stabbing of guitarist Mario Mantese (who would never return to the group) and the horrific auto accident that left vocalist and group leader Johnny Wilder a quadriplegic.  Such tragedy would have justifiably spelled the end of the act, but the sheer determination of the group's members, and in particular Wilder (who had to relearn how to sing with significantly decreased lung capacity and no control of his body below his neck), prevailed, and Heatwave was back in the studio by late 1980 recording their fourth album, Candles.

To complicate matters further, while Heatwave was simply struggling for survival, Rod Temperton, the band's keyboardist and songwriter, was thriving. Commandeered by Quincy Jones to write most of the hits for Michael Jackson's Off The Wall (which, believe it or not, included some music turned down by Heatwave) and George Benson's Give Me the Night, Temperton had become pop music's most prolific hitmaker, and consequently resigned as a member of Heatwave, though he continued to write for the group.

With all that had beset Heatwave in the preparation for Candles, the disc was anything but a mournful exercise. Leading off with the hit dance cut, "Gangsters of the Groove," the album was pure fun from start to finish, with a string of irresistible dance numbers on par with the group's first two albums and vastly superior than the disappointing Hot Property. The retrained Wilder sounded great on his leads, and the addition of J.D. Nicholas (later of the Commodores) buttressed the group's always strong vocals.  While Wilder also wrote three songs for the album, again it was Temperton who delivered the goods with the dance tracks "Dreamin' You," "Gangsters," "Party Suite" and "Posin' 'Til Closin'." But arguably the highlight of the disc was the beautiful ballad, "All I Am," which, perhaps unintentionally, bore a special poignancy as Wilder, then wheelchair bound, sang, "Who do you think you see / when you look at me? Is it somebody strong / somebody you could admire?"

Even though Heatwave would issue one more disc (the lesser recording, Current) before splitting in 1984, it was Candles that provided the most fitting coda for a group that had far more impact in its short time in the sun than one could have expected. An unlikely combination of artists from several countries, Heatwave showed on Candles incredible resiliency and courage under intense difficulty, and created an album that belied its circumstances by sounding absolutely joyous and effortless. So much was stolen from Heatwave in the preceding two years, but Candles gave a huge "thumbs up" to the band's fans, letting them know that their faith, unity and determination were stronger than any blow that fate could deal.   Recommended.

By Chris Rizik 

 

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