Mark Goodier is running down the Top 40 on Radio One and for the first time in my life I have a professional interest in the result. Our record was hovering in the 30s during its mid-week reports and should be there or thereabouts come the Sunday evening. The chart runs through the 30s and its not there; getting a bit nervous now as we enter the 20s. At 26 we are there. The Brand New Heavies have gone Top 30 and a journey begun five years before had reached fruition. Over the rest of the decade the band would score many hits and would become bonafide pop stars.
It all started at the height of the 80s rare groove scene at a club ran by Lascelles Gordon and Barrie Sharpe, the Cat In The Hat. It specialised in playing funk and attracted a crowd of like-minded punters that included saxophonist Jim Wellman and a trio of school friends from Ealing: Andrew Levy, Jan Kincaid and Simon Bartholomew. The six of them (Gordon and Sharpe joining too) formed a band, the Brothers, with backing singer Diana Brown. Within the year Brown and Sharpe had left and the others became the Brand New Heavies. They were storing up a cache of great tunes that would become the basis of their first sessions.
The band, fronted by singer Linda Muriel, (who scored hits in the 90s with Incognito) got a deal with Chrysalis subsidiary, Cooltempo. A single Got To Give was the only outcome as the band was dropped when house music replaced soul at the top of the dance charts. Undeterred the Heavies continued gigging and demoing and by 1989 had enough tunes to go looking for another deal.
A cassette tape landed at the door of Acid Jazz Records, a fledgling operation based at owner Ed Piller’s front room. He and partner Gilles Peterson went to see the band and soon the band were recording their debut album, with a new lead singer, Jay Ella Ruth. The tracks were recorded quickly and the album was finished by mid-89 when the first single People Get Ready b/w Gimme One Of Those was released. The album took a little bit longer, as first Piller and Peterson disentangled themselves and then Piller spent time looking for a bigger company to release the LP. When none stepped forward the Acid Jazz blue-covered Brand New Heavies album was prepared.
Released in May 1990 the album had built up a head of (London-centric) publicity on the back of the launch of a new London FM radio station Jazz FM, part of the first wave of new deregulated broadcasting licenses granted that year. The station had used a couple of the album’s tracks on their test broadcasts that had repeated on a loop throughout the months leading up to its official launch. This publicity helped make the record a modest success, but it was nothing compared to what would happen next. In the US successful indie label Delicious Vinyl picked up the album, and added their own vocalist N’Dea Davenport. Their release, that added a cut dropped from the UK album Never Stop, spent almost a year in the US R&B charts. The single went Top 3 R&B which paved the way for the band’s subsequent UK hits, when the band were licensed to the London/ ffrr label.
Our release features all of the tracks that were recorded for the band’s UK debut - including some wonderful song’s sung by drummer Kincaid that were kept back from the original album release, and the N’Dea Davenport version of Never Stop that was lined up to be released as an Acid Jazz single before London/ ffr came to the party and released their version. This is the ultimate edition of the classic ‘blue’ Brand New Heavies album.
By Dean Rudland