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POP MUSIC REVIEW : The Cutting Edge Is Gone From Brand New Heavies

August 17, 1994

Brand New Heavies, very old grooves.

Although the English band flirted with the cutting edge a couple of years ago on its second album, a round-robin collaboration with a host of rappers, the Brand New Heavies are partisans of natural, organic R&B. At the House of Blues on Monday they took the stage in classic deployment, the core group's bass and drums supported by keyboards and a live horn section.

They went on to demonstrate that while purity is fine, it's not enough. The Brand New Heavies have all the parts in place, from Sly to James Brown, but there's no inspiration or inner fire. The band doesn't bring much songwriting flair to the table, mainly coming up with pleasant, digestible product along the lines of the R&B hit "Never Stop." There are no evident efforts to expand the traditions they re-enact.

Singer N'Dea Davenport's vocals on record have some supple expressiveness, but in Monday's spotty sound mix she sounded anonymous on all but the softest ballads. The formless show kept stalling out whenever it got some momentum going.

The best moments were the more relaxed ones, where the music was able to stretch and breathe. When the band powered on all cylinders, it over-syncopated until the beats were minced beyond recognition.

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