Brand New Heavies: Forward
DetailsGenre: Disco, Funk, r&b
Pros:N'Dea Davenport returns to the fold; a solid return to infectious soulful house - especially as Daft Punk fever reaches epic heights
Cons:The male-supported performances seem lackluster when compared with the others; not enough "forward" thinking on N'dea reunion
Acid jazz funk-disco UK troupe brings elements of their past with them on their journey into tomorrow
Acid jazz disco-funk UK troupe brings elements of their past with them on their journey into tomorrow
Acid jazz band Brand New Heavies continue to extol their admiration for long-playing disco jams on their eight studio LP, Forward. After a seven-year hiatus, the UK act returns with original band member N’Dea Davenport in place. On “Sunlight,” a seven-minute tune that radiates with the euphoric glow of Studio 54 magic, the singer passionately belting like a Jazmine Sullivan on disco. By the time, the song marches into halfway to the end, a set of instrumental breaks showing off sax solos and glorious strings marches around the enchanting chorus. Still, Davenport’s welcome home experience isn’t a takeover spectacle on Forward. The Heavies’ drummer Jan Kincaid supplies lead vocals to “On the One” and the R&B jam-stuffed “Heaven.” Introductory member Dawn Joseph also shows off her pipes on three of the album’s tracks, particularly the go-go/funk/rock of “Lifestyle.” Co-founder Simon Bartholomew, for the first time in BNH history, even jumps on a lead vocal assignment. But when the gents anchor the microphone, some of the magic departs from the disc – something obviously demonstrated on the reggae-tinged “Spice of Life.” As the band looks “forward” and onward (also bringing in extra help in songwriting with support from Johan Jones Wetterberg, Tim Laws and Marc Jackson Burrows) as they teeter with their lineup and guest slots, they are also smart to play up their best-known strengths, especially as Daft Punk disco reaches an all-time high. “Addicted” even sounds like Chic leftovers. Then “So You Remember” smells like it’s been marinated in ‘80’s synthpop riffs with EW&F’s “September.” And nothing satisfies the ear so purely as the heady instrumental title track, which fires up even more of those Jamiroquai vibes. Those looking for a really good time, a joyous escape back to soulful house and classic disco will certainly find Forward appealing. It’s not their finest work of art, but it’s certainly an uptempo rollercoaster that hardly knows how to stop.