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New singer brings fresh vibes to 'Brand New Heavies' funk

Garrett August 13, 1997
Web posted at: 6:23 p.m. EDT (2223 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Take three lads from England who are fluent in Valley Girl, add a new lead singer from Los Angeles who's comfortable with cockney, and mix in a funky '70s beat, and you've got the latest incarnation of the Brand New Heavies.

The band, which appeared on the recording scene in 1990 with its first album, "The Brand New Heavies," has just released its latest album, "Shelter," the first to feature new bandmember Siedah Garrett.

Garrett, a Los Angeles native who has crooned with the likes of Michael Jackson, replaces N'Dea Davenport on vocals.

"Obviously Siedah's brought a whole new different thing to what we are doing, you know, in terms of the sound vocally. When you take one lead vocalist and replace another with a completely different personality, the sound changes automatically," said drummer Jan Kincaid.

clips from video

The look and sound of the Brand New Heavies is as decidedly retro as their clothes and music videos. Kincaid describes their work as "very eclectic, funky, soulful music."

Guitarist Simon Bartholomew agrees: "It's kind of R&B, isn't it, with an old flair to it, and a bit of the new, too -- infectious grooves, catchy melodies."

Kincaid picks up the thought again. "(It's) very jazzy as well. There's so many different things in there as well, and that's what gives us our sound."

Part of the Heavies' sound has rubbed off on Garrett, and vice versa. She now asks for fish and chips in a cockney accent; they tease her with their, like, total Valley Girl sayings. "Yeah, like totally," says Bartholomew.

And while Garrett says she's having the time of her life touring around the world with the Heavies, the singer-songwriter still looks back fondly on her past music experiences, including work with Quincy Jones and a tour with the King of Pop.

Garrett co-wrote the Jackson hit "Man in the Mirror" and was the voice opposite Jackson in "I Just Can't Stop Loving You."

"It was like an amazing experience to watch him do his thing every night, but there were times when we had to give it up for him and clap for him, he is just a phenomenal, phenomenal entertainer and I learned a lot from him," she said.

The band's sound, classified as acid jazz by some, has a wide following. Even that eternal swinger Hugh Hefner proved he is hip to the Heavies' groovy retro, appearing in a video for their song "Sometimes."

Correspondent Mark Scheerer contributed to this report.  
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