Throwback R&B acts on both sides of the Atlantic have struck gold by mining the classic sounds of James Brown, Motown, and Aretha Franklin, but few have touched on the fuzzed-out end of the soul spectrum occupied by the likes of Funkadelic, Rare Earth, and psychedelic-era Temptations. Grafting growling guitar licks and falsetto vocals reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield to gritty, booming backbeats, UK band the Heavy offers a credible update to the rawk-and-soul combo on its debut album, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire. Mayfield's shadow looms large over the proceedings, both as the principal inspiration for vocalist Kelvin Swaby's delivery and for the echoes of blaxploitation classic “Freddie's Dead” heard in the hammering funk of “That Kind of Man.” While the Heavy shows off range and solid songwriting chops with more sedate numbers like simmering album-opener “Brukpocket's Lament” or acoustic-guitar groovers “Set Me Free” and “Our Special Place,” its strong suit remains feral, distortion-laced funk. On the driving “Dignity” (with its cheeky nod to the Spencer Davis Group's version of “Gimme Some Lovin'”) and the ferocious album-closing hidden track “Big Bad Wolf,” The Heavy lays down soul with a garage-punk intensity that reveals the band has more in common with the Dirtbombs than Amy Winehouse.
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