Friday, June 22, 2012

The Brand New Heavies Bring Some '70s Old-School Flavor To "You Can Do It"

I was checking out acid jazz pioneers The Brand New Heavies' 1997 cover of '70s dance track "You Can Do It," which was originally recorded by Al Hudson and The Partners in 1979. The Heavies effectively channel some vintage '70s magic on this infectious cover. It  really sounds like they could have recorded this back in the party-'til-you-drop "Me Decade."

I really dig the vocal arrangements on The Heavies' rendition. Their voices flow so well together and are at once smooth and extremely soulful. And the groove is tight, with great horn lines, phat bass and some funky guitar licks. And the keyboard part that's played throughout the song keeps things percolating. It kind of reminds me of the main keyboard part on Kool & the Gang's hit "Ladies' Night" or Chocolate Milk's "Girl Callin'." "You Can Do It" is one of those tracks that makes you want to sing along because it's just so damn catchy.

The Brand New Heavies are an acid jazz and funk band that was formed in 1985 by drummer/keyboardist Jan Kincaid, guitarist Simon Bartholonew and bassist/keyboardist Andrew Levy. The three musicians were former schoolmates in the London suburb of Ealing. The three shared a mutual love for classic American soul and funk music from the 1970s. The trio was originally an instrumental act and went by the name Brother International and later added a horn section.

The group changed their name to the Brand New Heavies after signing their first record deal. As the Brand New Heavies, the group gained a cult following in the London club circuit. The group became pivotal figures in the burgeoning acid jazz scene in the UK during the late '80s and early '90s. (Acid Jazz is a beat-heavy genre that fuses elements of jazz, funk and hip hop). Vocalist Jay Ella Ruth eventually joined the group as its lead singer.

Ruth's tenure with the Heavies was short-lived. She was only with the band during 1990. She was succeeded by American singer N'Dea Davenport, who spent four years with the band. The Atlanta-born singer rejoined the Heavies in 2005 and is still with them.

"You Can Do It" is from the group's album Shelter, released in 1997. Grammy-winning and twice Oscar-nominated singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett was the lead singer of the Heavies at this time. She had joined the band in 1996 as Davenport's replacement. In addition to her lead-singing duties, Garrett contributed to the writing of six of the album's tracks, including the hit song "Sometimes." Garrett left the group in '98 to concentrate on her own songwriting.

Garrett was replaced by Carleen Anderson as the group's lead singer. Anderson is the daughter of soul singer Vicki Anderson, who is best known for being a part of James Brown's revue during the '60s and early '70s. Carleen is also the stepdaughter of  the late, great Bobby Byrd, who was James Brown's long-running right-hand man as well as founder and original member of the Famous Flames.

Anderson left the group in 2000. Following Anderson's departure, the Heavies had two other lead singers (Sy Smith and Nicole Russo) before they reunited with Davenport in 2005.


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