The Brand New Heavies

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It says a lot that The Brand New Heavies’ co-founder and guitarist Simon Bartholomew describes their 11th album’s cover as “a bit clubby, a little bit sleazy”. With its plush sofa, expensive standard lamp, sparkling cut glass table and designer wallpaper, it’s about as sleazy as a dentist’s waiting room, and behind that sleeve is music similarly sterile. This, though, is because TBNH appears to have been trapped in amber since the late 1980s, waiting for someone to dig it up.

That person is Mark Ronson, who harbours such fond memories of seeing them play in 1991 he had them perform at his 40th birthday. He’s behind the unctuous cover of Kendrik Lamar’s These Walls, which finds N’Dea Davenport battling unescapable trumpets, but his enthusiasm isn’t exactly contagious, plus the track’s inseparable from the rest of the album. Beverly Knight does her best on Beautiful to pretend she’s singing with Chic, and Angie Stone locates Together’s groove, but only Honey Larochelle truly thrills, on the Prince-like Heat. If, as they claim, The Funk Is Back, does it honestly have to come with a pitch bend keyboard overdose and the line “Gonna make you funky if it takes me all night”…?

5/10

Wyndham Wallace

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