"Welcome to the Old School Brand New Heavies!" cries N'Dea Davenport, lead singer of acid jazz band the Brand New Heavies, at the start of what she terms their "welcome home" concert.
Recorded in October 2008 at the Indigo2, Live in London marks the group's first-ever live album. Acid jazz fans rejoiced in 2005, when vocalist Davenport rejoined the Brand New Heavies, the British group that scored a series of hits in England beginning in 1990. Best known in the US for the 1991 single "Never Stop," the Brand New Heavies became leaders in the acid jazz and retro soul movements, predating artists such as Jamiroquai, Maxwell, and Jill Scott. Davenport subsequently exited the group in the mid-90s and a series of lead vocalists (including Siedah Garrett) followed to fill the role. After pursuing a solo career, Davenport returned in 2005 to record the album Get Used to It with her former bandmates. They have performed as a core quartet ever since, and their latest album, Live in London, shows that they haven't missed a step since their '90s heyday.
Along with backing musicians, Brand New Heavies core members Simon Bartholomew, Jan Kincaid, and Andrew Levy kick off the show with two instrumentals, setting the stage for Davenport's triumphant entry. Solid versions of "Never Stop" and "All Fired Up" stick closely to the original versions, although the UK hit "Dream on Dreamer" segues into an uptempo cover of "Midnight at the Oasis" that adds a funky twist to the 1970s single. Speaking of the '70s, the wah-wah pedal driven "Ride in the Sky" will make listeners want to check their calendars to ensure that this is really a 2009 album.
They also illustrate their debt to old school soul with a lovely cover of Stevie Wonder's "I Don't Know Why (I Love You)," which draws a direct parallel to their retro sound. Davenport's voice really shines here, as she uses her powerful range to full emotional effect. She also explores her vocals' sensual tone on "Sex God," which also features an irresistible bass line that really rides the song's slinky groove.