Heatwave ‘Too Hot to Handle’ (BBR) 4/5

heatwaveBrit funk may well have started with the likes of Cymande and later Hi Tension, but its most soulful and refined representation was probably Heatwave who were as close to their US cousins without ever resorting to being across the pond clones. A full seven years before the likes of Sade or Loose Ends, Heatwave succeeded in immediately connecting with a US audience and doing so on their own terms. A key element in this was the songwriting genius (and that word is wholly appropriate here) of Rod Temperton from the most unlikely of places in Cleethorpes who would go on to form a seminal musical partnership with Quincy Jones and collectively deliver a twentieth century masterpiece in ‘Thriller’ (1983) as well as ‘The Dude’ (1981) for the ace arranger as a leader.
On this recording the emphasis is firmly on uptempo grooves and classy ballads, with the delicate love ballad, ‘Always and Forever’ a prime contender for the greatest soul love song ever cut by a UK band and it makes for a complete and wonderful change of tempo with the rest. Of course pride of place will naturally go to the single ‘Boogie Night’s that virtually defined the disco era on it’s own right and was a number two pop hit and top five R & B contender that catapulted the band to stardom and a performance on the prestigious Soul Train programme. Here, as a bonus the slightly elongated 12″ version is added for good measure and one of the all-time great intros complete with harp and subtle use of drum patterns leads into the funkiest of bass lines and keyboard wizard Temperton laying down some tasty synthesizer licks. Almost as strong is the mid-tempo groover, ‘Ain’t no half steppin’ with lovely harmonies that recall the Blackbyrds in full cry and little wonder US soul fans lapped this up. Fans of the Delfonics will revel in the collective harmonies on ‘All you do is dial’ while the falsetto vocals on the funky ditty of a title track is not without reminding one of Brass Construction or Cameo in their prime. With a Brit funk revival very much underway, now is an excellent time to re-investigate the memorable back catalogue and Heatwave most certainly deserve a prominent place at the dinner table.

Tim Stenhouse