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The Brand New Heavies - Shelter
This 1997 release was the fifth album from this group and marked a much smoother style of jazz/funk than we hear from previous albums. Though Wikipedia lists the group as acid jazz, I'm not so sure. Think of Jamiroquai all of a sudden getting mellow and you have an idea of their sound.
The band consists of:
Siedah Garret - Vocals
Simon Bartholomew - Guitar
Jan Kincaid - Drums and Keyboards
Andrew levy - Bass & Keyboards
That being said, the group have had numerous member changes over the years, but this was the line up for this album.
As always the music is what counts:
1. I Like It
After a slightly bizarre intro we get a lovely funky lead guitar which is accompanied by some nice drumming and synthesizer work. Ultra funky and the vocal meets this well, there is a background (noise) of people 'being happy'. This song is all about the beat and we get a bit of Latin trumpet coming in too, a cool dance track that really is very smooth. In fact a little too smooth for my liking, great track for a bar/lounge. 7/10.
I kind of remember this being in the charts, though I don't think it did that well. The vocals are very strong here and the drumming background is just that. Lyrically it has a kind of story but to be honest it is the feel good factor of the beat, vocals and catchy chorus that makes this song work. Again funky, but more of a soul funk feel. Nice, 7/10 again.
Much funkier, even the synth controlled voice. The beat is incredibly good, all bass guitar and drums, really funky lead guitar work too. I would be happy to listen to this without a vocal it is really, really funky and infectious, seriously Jamiroquai like. 8/10.
4. You Are The Universe
Bit of a soul funk outing again, bit cheesy, bit catchy, bit poppy. Not my favourite but competent enough 5/10.
5. Crying Water
Oh no, too smooth by far, lounge, lounge, lounge and medallion man. 3/10.
6. Day By Day
We slow things down here, the intro sounds very like Rose Royce or Chic (if you remember them). I like this, not quite a ballad, more like a slowish funk dance type of track. Like the brass use in this track and the keyboards are dead slinky. 7/10.
7. Feels Like Right
Great piano intro. Much more of an R&B feel to this, though unmistakably still funky. Even slower than last track. The drums tend to overpower the vocal until she gets going, and then, I'm afraid, we hear the lyrics which are ultra cheesy and formulaic. Musically nice, but nice is not always a nice word. 4/10.
8. Highest High
I love the intro to this, a kind of mix of gospel vocal and funky synths, very 70's background percussion, keyboards and guitar.....but......no more. It never really goes where it could, you keep feeling it is going to explode, and yet it is all a bit too controlled. If it wasn't for the brass section I would rate this lower. 4/10.
9. Stay Gone
You start to get the feeling by this track that the album is losing it's way a bit. Ballad, not for me. 2/10.
10. You've Got A Friend
This actually made an impact in the charts and is on many a 'chill' album. This has great lyrics, great chorus, and very, very infectious beat. Without a doubt the 2nd best track on the whole CD. I sometimes listen to this and think oh god that is soooooo cheesy, and yet I always seem to transfer it to whatever my listening device I have. So it is at least long lasting. The ending, which seems very gospel like and goes on for a while is actually very nice. 8/10.
11. Once Is Twice Enough
An instrumental track, and as I hinted at earlier, some of this bands stuff is worth listening to without vocals. Love the trumpet, trombone and sax on this track. Funky as funky comes, yep, they have found their way again, Now we have the best track, very Mark Ronson like, many years before he even approached a studio, great stuff, a definite 9/10.
12. After Forever
Back to smooth vocals, lyrically awful, too smooth, what a shame after the last track, just unworthy. 2/10.
13. Last To Know
So, we go out as we came in, funky dance track and strong female vocals. In fact, it could actually be the 2nd part of the first track. Strong trumpet work again which really is very accomplished. Nice. 7/10.
For a paltry £2 (and that is with postage) from Amazon, if you are looking for an intro to British Funk then you cannot go far wrong.
Far too smooth for some, including me for the most part. Yet a great 'unwind' CD. My biggest criticism is that the brass section and the saxophonists do not get enough credit for their part, which on some tracks actually 'saves' the songs in places. Some of these players are pretty well stars in their own right, go check them out:
Gerard Presencer - Trumpet
Noel Langley - Trumpet
Paul 'Shilts' Weimar - Saxophone
Michael Smith - Saxophone
Dennis Rollins - Trombone
Pat Hartley - Trombone
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Like It
4 You Are The Universe
5 Crying Water
6 Day By Day
7 Feels Like Right
8 Highest High
9 Stay Gone
10 You've Got A Friend
11 Once Is Twice Enough
12 After Forever
13 Last To Know