The Brand New Heavies’ Debut Album Is A Moment In British Soul History

Acid Jazz newcomer Laville praises one of his primary inspirations...

The unique history of British soul music is often shelved in favour of honouring its larger American cousin.

Yet right here in this country lies a supremely gifted soul lineage, one that moves from 60s soul clubs to absorb afro-Caribbean influence, jazz-funk, and more.

A timeline that is peppered by classic recordings, its breakthrough moments often go unheralded by all but the faithful few.

Take The Brand New Heavies. Part of the Acid Jazz explosion, the band's wonderful debut album was a breakout success, scoring critical and commercial acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

London newcomer Laville grew up on records like this, and they formed the bedrock of his musical imagination.

Recently signing with Acid Jazz for the release of his own debut album, Laville was able to complete the circle, matching himself against his earliest inspirations.

Here, Laville writes for Clash about a glorious moment in UK soul history – the Brand New Heavies' 1990 debut album.

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From the beginning of the album you know that your in for a funk and soul extravaganza. N’dea explodes onto ‘Dream Come True’ with that timeless scat which is the perfect Segway into the string driven verse which only gets better with every crystal clear vocal she graces us with.

I think when I signed to Acid Jazz Records I was overwhelmed because of tracks like this but when I started writing my own funk and disco tracks like ‘This City’ and ‘Wavy Love’ I wasn’t scared anymore.

I don’t think I realised what it took to make funk and disco music relevant. I had to listen to so many disco tracks to find the essence of disco and funk and make it relevant to 2019. It just so happened that Nile Rodgers released a documentary on disco and I think I wrote 'This City' within an hour of completing the documentary.

I remember being very young, probably around six when I first heard this album. This was my first taste of home grown funk and soul, which I later came to know was Acid Jazz. I remember I would dance around all relatives houses to music all the time, I was known to be a little performer as were my cousins. We’d make up dance routines to all kinds of music acid jazz being one of them. I remember three artists being played in my house on the regular – Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai were two of those.

‘Stay This Way’ is one of my go to soothing Sunday tracks. It never does more than it should. There's a touch of gospel coming from the vocal which melts into the funk guitar groove seamlessly.

"Our love will be here forever, I hope that we'll stay together…" is one of those chants that deserves 100,000 singing it back at you. I feel the same way at the bridge section of ‘This City’ – like, I just want people to join in.

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When I covered ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ it was in the same vein as ‘Don't Let It Got To You Head’. I wanted to cover a classic that will always stand the test of time. I didn’t want to cover a modern classic as nothing modern is really holding a candle the classics in fact they are taking bits from the classics to make modern classics. I think this is one of my favourite covers of all time simply because the Heavies chose a track that will never get boring or dated and N’dea sings this track like an angel. 

The track from this album that means the most to me is ‘Never Stop’. This track reminds me of family. Family that are with us and those that are no longer with us.

I remember when this would start at a family function the ‘wooohhhh’ would also start automatically. The hands would reach for the heavens and the waistlines would start to sway to the twinkle of the keys and the straight up funk of the guitar. Then when "never stop, never give it up" starts I'd hear the rooms chant it over and over like a mantra for life.

When this album was released people needed this music, they needed to get free, they needed to feel like life was all inclusive and no one was alone. Things were not great socially so having this as a mantra was like honey for the soul.

I can't thank the Heavies enough for shaping my musical palette.

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Laville's debut album 'The Wanderer' is out now on Acid Jazz.

Photo Credit: Peter Blair

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