Funk Rock legends The Heavy have recently released the brand new album AMEN, out now via their own Bad Son Recordings. AMEN was recorded at Rockfield Studios, produced with Tchad Blake (The Black Keys, U2) and engineered with Real World Studios’ Joe Jones. It writhes with seditious blues drama, soul and gospel passion, the crunch of prime hip-hop and garage punk’s visceral electricity.
The versatile record finds the band revitalised after pandemic-related separation and back ripping through at soul force 10. They paved the way to the almighty AMEN with a string of singles showcasing the multifaceted sides of the thrilling record. From the buzz funk tornado ‘Hurricane Coming’, the Pentecostal pop of ‘I Feel The Love’, gnarled roadhouse rocker ‘Stone Cold Killer’ and soul-drenched ‘Without A Woman’, the band have whipped fans into a frenzy across the world.
We thought it was about time we found out more about what makes the band tick, so we asked them to pick the four albums that have proved to be some of the greatest influences on their music.
Chris Ellul: Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On
Somehow, at a time when everyone drank Becks and smoked B&H, I found myself taking this record home after a 15-Mile bus journey to the nearest town with some civilisation. And when I say some, I’m being courteous. This is an album I come back to again and again. ‘Luv ’n’ Haight’ and ‘Just Like a Baby’ still floor me now, in the same way they did the first time I heard them. This record influenced me so much musically, and was the record that led me to put down the guitar and pick up the drums. The sounds are so dry, that everything is right there inside your ears. It’s full of hiss and the sound of degraded tape. I love the blend of drum machines and real drums. It’s wonky, and full of heart. In a way, it feels like the blueprint for The Heavy, to me.
Daniel Taylor: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Picture the scene, I’m a teenage imbecile growing up in a small market town in the west of England. 91–92. Ain’t nothing going on and going nowhere fast. Enter BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK by RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS. . .
From the intro of ‘Power of Equality’ that was it. I was dumb struck. But there was so much emotional depth too: ‘Breaking the Girl’ and ‘I Could Have Lied’, the acoustic melancholy of it is still such a vibe.
Then there’s the hits, ‘Give It Away’ and ‘Under the Bridge’. Those riffs! FFS!
There was a movie too which documented the recording process Funky Monks – that was where I first began to take a real interest in the actual recording of music. It’s like an A-to-Z of how to make an album. And it looks amazing. Rick Rubin’s haunted mansion in LA – It was all so glamorous and unobtainable – Flea in Jordan’s and 501s aside.Peak Frusciante!
Gus Van Sant art directed the sleeve and photography, and it’s still iconic.This record exposed me to so many sources of inspiration. I saw Flea really early one morning on the Bowery in NYC, but I just went all week and said nothing.
I never did do the whole socks on c*cks thing though… thankfully.
Kelvin Swaby: Ann Peebles – I Can’t Stand the Rain
From the time the Mica-Sonic drum machine opens up the record with Ann’s gravelly, gentle but commanding tone, this entire 27-minute album does not let up.
Al Jackson’s drums are just so fat and high in the mix throughout and every seemingly simple fill is on all of the money.
My love for horns most likely stems from the badness of Willie Mitchell productions and Memphis Horns implementation. His horn and string scores throughout Al Green’s career are absolutely crazy. Listen to ‘Strong As Death (Sweet As Love)’ to get my meaning.
‘Run, Run, Run;, I’m Gonna ‘Tear Your Playhouse Down’ and the title track all shine as brightly as mercury, but there is no filler on this. . . at all.
All soul and with so much space for Ann to preach, you can’t help but return when the tenth track is done.
Littered with hooks and for me, one for all days. Anytime.
Spencer Page: The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
My love affair with The Kinks started at around the age of fourteen when I first heard ‘You Really Got Me’ on one of my Mum’s many Greatest Hits of the 60s tapes. Dave Davies iconic guitar intro was like a shot of pure adrenalin, and from there I desperately sought out as much of their material as I could get my grubby little hands on. The three local music shops only seemed to have Kinks ‘Best-Of’s’, and these were readily devoured. But still I was left wanting more. There was no doubt that The Kinks had realised some incredible singles but I wanted their ALBUMS and, in particular, Village Green. This mythical record was consistently touted as their masterpiece and yet I couldn’t get hold of it for love nor money. This would have been in the mid-1990s, way before the advent of the internet and its limitless library of musical history. After much hunting and sleuthing I eventually struck gold – a friend at school confirmed that his Dad had a copy on CD and that he would make me a tape of it. And so a few days later I returned home from school one rainy afternoon and headed straight for the house hi-fi system and my trusted over-ear headphones…
From the opening of ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ it was clear that this was unlike anything that had gone before in the Kinks catalogue. Gone were the all-powerful R&B riffs and beat-band pop songs. This was a group that was finding its creative stride in emphatic style. Ray Davies, already by this point well established as a formidable creative force, was now writing with a palpable sense of freedom.
Songs like ‘Do You Remember Walter?’, ‘Picture Book’ and ‘Johnny Thunder’ are nostalgic laments drenched with sadness. Then there’s ‘Big Sky’, essentially a spoken word piece that tackles the subject of God against the dreamiest of musical backdrops. ‘Village Green’ is a wonderfully sarcastic and quintessentially English folk song about a purer, simpler time and place. ‘Phenomenal Cat’ is (I hope intentionally) utterly hilarious, whilst ‘Wicked Annabella’ is a dark fable of seduction that showcases Dave Davies’ oft overlooked abilities as a songwriter. There’s even time for a nod to Howlin’ Wolf’s ’Smokestack Lightning’ on ‘Last of the Steam Powered Trains’.
Both Ray Davies and the rest of the band are at the absolute peak of the powers on this record – every musical choice serves the song. Musical styles are in plentiful and varied supply, from folk to blues and beyond. Humour and pathos run throughout the whole album whilst never detracting from the most important aspect of it – Ray Davies incredible knack for the most poignant story-telling.
As a piece of art, Village Green Preservation Society is at the top table of great British albums and deserves its place alongside other acclaimed ‘concept albums’ of the same era such as Sergeant Pepper and the Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. It made me look at music and songwriting in a completely different way, and continues to do so to this day.
The Heavy will tour the UK in September this year, dates as follows: 15 – London (KOKO) • 16 – Manchester (Academy 2) • 18 – Glasgow (St Lukes) • 19 – Birmingham (Academy 2) • 21 – Bristol (SWX) Tickets are on sale now HERE.