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A Heavy weekend.

Byline: By Jo Manning South Wales Echo

The Brand New Heavies may not have been heard on a stereo near you since the Rachel-from-Friends haircut was in fashion.

But that doesn't mean the Admiral Cardiff Big Weekend Sunday headliners have been sitting on their laurels for the past five years.

'We haven't stopped working actually,' says Simon Bartholomew, the Heavies' guitarist and one of the founding members of the London-based soul-funksters.

'We've been playing all over the world, working with different vocalists like Carleen Anderson and writing new songs. Our last album was the Greatest Hits package and that normally sounds the death knell on a band, but we haven't finished yet.'

In fact, there are lots of exciting new developments on the Heavies front.

Their new 24-year-old singer, Nicole Russo, who follows in the illustrious footsteps of Anderson, N'Dea Davenport and Siedah Garrett, will be performing live with Simon, bassist Andrew Levy and drummer Jan Kincaid tomorrow night. And in the autumn, the Heavies are bringing out their new studio album - It's All About The Funk.

'We met Nicole after she brought out an album Through My Eyes,' explained Simon. 'We were very impressed, asked her to join us and we've been very excited about her ever since.

'She's very into her R'n'B which brings something different to the mix and she's our first singer from the UK which obviously makes working with her a lot more practical. We used to have to fly our American singers like N'Dea over.'

Band members Jan, Andrew and Simon originally met at school in Ealing, London, and were inspired to form the Brand New Heavies while pursuing their love of soul music and '70s funk.

The boys put their instrumental grooves on tape before graduating to live outings at clubs and rare groove parties. Building up a strong following in the subsequent years they were signed to Acid Jazz.

Adding American vocalist N'Dea Davenport, the Heavies experienced their first taste of success in the States with the release of single Never Stop.

'It was a crazy time,' remembers Simon. 'We were all just 23-years-old and getting to do the coolest things while in America.

'We got invited to play at Ray Charles' 50th anniversary, met Quincy Jones, and Stevie Wonder came over to us and sang back one of our songs to us. The word 'formidable' came to mind!'

Returning to London, the Heavies recorded their most successful record to date with Brother Sister, spawning singles like Dream On Dreamer, Midnight At The Oasis, Back To Love and Spend Some Time. In-demand vocalist Siedah Garrett replaced N'Dea for the follow-up album Shelter, released in 1997.

Subsequent releases with Carleen Anderson kept the band in the limelight although the Heavies were left in no man's land when their label merged with another at the turn of the Millennium. However, it hasn't stopped the band from writing, playing and jamming.

'It's the love of the music that keeps us going,' adds Simon.

'In the beginning people were borrowing money off their girlfriends to make the album and that sort of spirit has remained.'

The Brand New Heavies round off the live entertainment at the Admiral Cardiff Big Weekend tomorrow night. They take to the stage at 9.15pm following sets from local soulstress Rhian Benson and Carameloson.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 31, 2004
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