Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Citing the “Minister of Super Heavy Funk” James Brown as the inspiration for their band name, the London-bred trio of Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy formed The Heavies—later rebranded as The Brand New Heavies—in 1985. After nurturing a devoted fan base across the local London club landscape for a handful of years and helping to elevate the burgeoning Acid Jazz genre in the process, the band earned widespread acclaim with the 1991 North American release of their self-titled debut album.
The formal introduction to the Heavies’ expert musicianship, Brand New Heavies was also the first time most of our ears were blessed by the magical, soaring voice of the lovely N’Dea Davenport. But what many stateside fans may not know is that the album was originally recorded and released in the UK—in 1990, the year prior to the North America release—with a different featured vocalist (Jay Ella Ruth) lending her vocals to three tracks.
Upon inking a solo development deal with Delicious Vinyl, Davenport was introduced to the Heavies and they commenced to produce some of the sweetest music you’ll ever hear, including the winsome single “Never Stop” (which did not appear on the UK version), “Stay This Way,” “Dream Come True,” and “Ride in the Sky.” Davenport’s contributions are excellent, though six of the LP’s ten tracks are predominantly instrumental affairs without her vocals, each banging and bumping with a confluence of bass, guitar & horns in glorious abundance. All in all, an inspired, career-galvanizing effort that can’t help but put a permanent smile on the listener’s face. Precisely the kind of joyous, soul-redeeming record that erases all of your urban blues the moment you drop the needle on it.
In the 26 years since their eponymous breakthrough LP, the Heavies have blessed our ears with nine stellar studio albums, all firmly rooted in the group’s signature confection of funk, soul, jazz and disco, with sprinkles of hip-hop incorporated here and there, most prominently displayed on 1992’s Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1. A rotating roster of lead vocalists notwithstanding, the band have managed to produce some of the most consistently invigorating and sophisticated sounds around. Much respect.