The Brand New Heavies – Sweet FreakWhat’s funkier than neosoul? Not much. Who are more neosoul than anything else you’ve heard this side of 1975? Not many. Apart from The Brand New Heavies. It took seven years for the acid funk pioneers that are BNH to release “Forward”; the record that marked the reunion with the voice of the band’s early years, N’Dea Davenport. Luckily for those waiting with baited breath for their next rhythmic offering, “Sweet Freak” was little more than a year in the making and is acting as a warm introduction to the band’s new flamboyant front woman, Dawn Joseph, and not a minute too soon. The opening number, “Sweet Freeek”, erupts in the way you would expect; with a tone-setting, jazz-fuelled horn arrangement decorated with seductive vocal bursts. The instrumentals are complex, playful and expertly constructed and act as a not so subtle reminder that for The Brand New Heavies the party is not over. Funky bass twangs set a steady pace over the next two tracks and land in the lap of “Bring In The Rain”. Slightly down tempo and more intimate than its predecessors, this track is both sulky and lifting, giving credit to Dawn Joseph as a deserving addition. It begs to be repeated. Irresistible melodies are the focal point throughout as the band layer soul, pop, funk and disco over track after track, including an organ clad cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and the En Vogue classic “Don’t let it go”. It’s not uncommon knowledge that 2014 is brimming with new r&b and hip-hop acts, but you’ve got to hand it to The Heavies, including three of the founding members – Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy – there’s not much else with this level of authenticity doing the “hustle” through the airwaves right now. It seems that it really does take two sturdy decades in the industry to produce a record this tight, this honey coated and this retro tinged. The term “You had to be there” has never been so fitting. Sure, this album would be better suited to a poolside party or an evening on a sunlit terrace than a murky November morning but you can’t have it all. Get your ears around Sweet Freak if you, like the rest of us, are in need of a burst of summery nostalgia to lend a hand in remembering that it’s not always going to be so damn miserable outside.
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Check out when the Brand New Heavies came to Mi-Soul HQ.
By Maya Radcliffe (@mayarrad)