The Brand New Heavies
|"Not all of our
songs are cheerful"
Rewind a decade. It's the early '90s, Japan
is still riding the tail end of the Bubble, and the Aoyama
club scene is getting into full swing. A trendy young crowd
with plenty of disposable income is living it up and dancing
the night away at discothques like Apollo and Blue.
The soundtrack to their revelry? The Brand New Heavies and
England's other so-called "acid jazz"
bands that were so central to the development of the funky,
breezy, jazzy Shibuya kei sound.
Fast-forward a decade. Acid jazz is a distant memory, but
its legacy remains in the popularity of what's now
being called "club jazz" or "nu jazz."
And The Brand New Heavies? They're back with We Won't
Stop, their first new album-released, in a sign of
their enduring appeal here, by Japan's Pony Canyon
imprint-and their first Japan tour in six years.
A sense of nostalgia surrounds the tour. Not only has it been
six years since we've seen the core trio of drummer/keyboardist
Jan Kincaid, guitarist Simon Bartholomew and bassist/keyboardist
Andrew Levy, but the Heavies' upbeat message recalls
a time when optimism was still fashionable. The New World
Order had encouraged a sense of stability, the go-go technology
bubble was just beginning to ripple through the economy, and
Japan still seemed to have a bright future.
Not that The Brand New Heavies deliberately set out to be
optimistic. "It's not a conscious decision,"
Bartholomew said in a '97 interview with Nuvo.net.
"A lot of people ask us about it, if we plan it all
out. But it's just the way it comes out. And not all
of our songs are cheerful," he quipped.
Notwithstanding Bartholomew's comment, the Heavies,
who formed in London in 1985, will always be known for the
sunny English take they developed on American funk and soul.
Who could resist the upbeat message and expert groove of hits
like "Dream Come True," "Never Stop,"
and "You Are The Universe?"
Few, it seemed, as the Heavies posted a string of hit singles
and Top 40-charting albums. Debuting with the self-titled
The Brand New Heavies in 1990, the band began a series of
impressive releases that would culminate in 1994's
platinum Brother Sister. After that album, however, singer
N'Dea Davenport left the band, and they were unable
to recapture the magic on subsequent releases. Following 1997's
Shelter, they dropped off the commercial map, and while still
gigging across Europe and releasing some best-of compilations,
didn't issue any original material until this year.
We Won't Stop, Heavies fans will be pleased to learn,
marked the return of Davenport for at least some of the album.
The singer puts in an appearance on "What Do You Take
Me For," a track that recalls the classic Heavies sound
with glistening horn and string parts. Other tracks show a
tendency toward hip-hop and programming vs. organic sounds,
but for the most part, We Won't Stop goes a long way
toward satisfying fans' wishes for a long overdue album.
The Brand New Heavies play Liquid
Room on June 4. See listings for details.