It was old school friends Jan
pursuing their near-obsessive love of soul music and 70's funk that
inspired them to form The Brand New Heavies. Growing up in the London
suburb of Ealing, the trio of childhood friends became avid record
collectors, and then regular clubbers on the ‘rare groove’
scene where they would hear records by the likes of James Brown, The
Crusaders, Mass Production, the Meters, Rufus, and a mass of early to
late 70's funksters.
"At the age of 15, we were very passionate about dance and soul music"
, Andrew recalls, "and we got so into it that the only thing left was
to try it ourselves".
Rehearsing regularly at Jan's home the boys put their grooves on to
tape, and were later over the moon when DJ’s at the seminal 'Cat
in the Hat' club began cutting from James Brown records to cassettes of
the band's jams.
Initially an instrumental-only band, the BNH would augment their trio
with a brass section; playing the clubs and rare groove parties for
several years where they built a significant and fiercely loyal
following among - what was then - a cult audience. They even secured a
record deal, but were swiftly dropped by a confused record company when
Acid House burst on the scene; prefering to jump on the latter
It was Acid Jazz, the maverick independent that gave the band the
relatively tiny budget of £8000 to record an album. The result,
in 1990 was a muscular, funky album of original music with its roots
firmly in the 70's funk mould. In a world full of samples, sequencers,
and electronic bleeps, it was refreshing to hear an album played by
musicians with real instruments, and the rave reviews that followed
reflected the same.
In the U.S.A. TBNH were like a breath of fresh air. Delicious Vinyl,
the New York based independent label seized upon TBNH, but put the band
together with their own vocalist N'dea Davenport: an excellent, gutsy,
soul singer who re-recorded some of the, Heavies songs made with their
former singer Jay Ella Ruth who had since left the band.
Releasing 'Never Stop' - from the album - as a single in the U.S.A.
proved to be an uncanny move. The college radio stations played the
single by this new English band, and R&B radio played the single
because it was essentially a contemporary soul record. BINGO!, the
single raced into the R&B charts; a first time hit by a U.K. group
since Soul II Soul some four years previous. In the U.K. the
eponymously titled BNH album spawned the hits "Dream Come True", "Never
Stop", and "Stay This Way", therefore broadening their audience from
rare groove cult to mainstream success.
When BNH played live in the USA they were feted by audiences that
hadn’t seen live funk bands in a long time, but especially
impressed were the rap community who saw in ‘the Heavies’ a
band playing grooves that rappers would usually sample from old 70's
records. So impressed with the BNH were legendary funksters and R&B
artists like Ray Charles who invited the band to play his 50th
anniversary in the music biz. Where the Heavies finally met some of
their heroes like Stevie Wonder and Ouincy Jones. By the time the band
played New York it was the new young hip-hoppers that latched on to
their sound. After a blazing 'Heavies set at the S,.O.B. club the gig
ended in a near riot when O-Tip from A Tribe Called Ouest and MC Serch
from 3rd. Bass joined them onstage for some drastic free-styling over
the 'Heavies non-stop grooves. It seemed that everybody was fighting to
go on stage with the band, whilst some 2,000 ticketless punters outside
were fighting to get into the gig. And this from an English band!
After the reception received in New York it seemed an obvious move to
make a hip-hop record. They did. Their next album was a first of its
kind. In June 1992 The Brand New Heavies recorded 'Heavy Rhyme
Experience Vol. 1' LIVE in the studio with Black Sheep, Pharcyde, Main
Source, Master Ace, and Grand Puba Maxwell to name but a few.
Following the release of 'Heavy Rhyme Experience...' the entire group
returned to London to work on their second album proper which was to
become 'Brother Sister'. 'Brother Sister' was released to critical
acclaim, platinum sales, and a sold-out UK tour that took in the major
summer festivals. It was to be N'dea Davenport's last time with the
band. She was originally signed to Delicious Vinyl as a solo artist and
it was always on the cards that she would eventually make her own
album. After her marriage in '95, she set up home in New Orleans and
began writing for her debut album.
A string of chart singles like, "Dream On Dreamer", "Midnight At The
Oasis", "Back To Love", "Close To You" and "Spend Some Time"
established The Brand New Heavies as one of the UK's finest
contemporary soul/dance groups, albeit paving the way for the likes of
Jamiroquai, an old friend who was waiting in the wings.
With the departure of N'dea Davenport it looked as though it would be
tough to find a lead vocalist to fill her shoes but alas, such is the
'Heavies credibility among the International soul fraternity that none
other than SIEDAH GARRETT came along. SIEDAH is perhaps best known in
the UK as the singer who dueted with Michael Jackson on "I Just Can't
Stop Loving You". However in her native U.S. she is known as a prolific
singer and songwriter of remarkable pedigree. SIEDAH originally hooked
up with Jackson through Ouincy Jones who played Jackson a demo of, "Man
In The Mirror". Garrett co-wrote and sang the demo in which Jackson was
so impressed with her voice that he invited her to sing with him on
the, 'Dangerous' tour where she sang the duet live and provided backing
vocals throughout the tour. Siedah went on to co-write 'Keep The Faith'
with Jackson, featured on the 'Dangerous' album.
As an in-demand backing vocalist Siedah has performed with everyone
from Johnnie Mathis to Donna Summer, from The Pointer Sisters to
RuPaul, including such prestigious pop/dance artists like The
Commodores and Madonna. Songs penned by her have turned up on such
smash hit albums like Ouincy Jones' 'Back On The Block' and Paula
Abdul's 'Forever Your Girl'. She's written songs for everyone from
Micheal Jackson to Aretha Franklin and many, many artists between, and
now........now she's a Brand New Heavy!
The boys met up with Siedah in '96 to write and record their third
album; the results of which will be released at the end of March '97.
Entitled 'SHELTER', the album boasts 13 new songs all written and
produced by The Brand New Heavies. A single, 'Sometimes' will be
released in the UK on the 31st. of March. The band recently went to New
York to re-work the single with KENNY 'DOPE' GONZALEZ and LOUIS VEGA,
otherwise known as MASTERS AT WORK to give a 'NUYORICAN' flavour to the
Today the band have a new lead vocalist to join their ranks: none other than Carleen Anderson
The Brand New Heavies continue their tradition that started in 1989
when the band recruited local girl, Jay Ella Ruth (TBNH) to their
ranks, followed by N´dea Davenport (Brother Sister) from New
Orleans, then Siedah Garret, singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles,
joined the Band in 1996 to make The Brand New Heavies third platinum
The band found a new lead vocalist on their own doorstep; the orginal
Acid Jazz Queen Carleen Anderson. Orginally from the U.S.A, Carleen -
the daughter of the legendary Vicki Anderson and step-daughter of Bobby
Bird, both members of the James Brown Revue since the early sixties -
settled in the U.K. in 1991 when she joined The Young Disciples for
their hugely influential self titled album. The band are currently
working on a new album due for release on FFRR later in the year. In
the meantime, The Brand New Heavies are set to release a new single
entitled "Saturday Night".