Saturday, September 13, 2008

HEATWAVE: Central Heating

Heatwave - Central Heating

Heatwave’s Rod Temperton is probably best known for having written a few songs for Michael Jackson, including the title track from Thriller, a song you are required to like if we are to co-exist peacefully. Heatwave, the group he put together with brothers Johnnie and Keith Wilder in the mid-1970s, made five albums between 1976 and 1982. You might know their 1976 ballad “Always and Forever”.

Central Heating is their sophomore LP, and it’s a succulent slab of smooth groove. This is a slicker brand of funk than the gritty, James Brown-style 60s funk, and a less loony brand than His Eminence George Clinton and his disciples. This lies somewhere in the ballpark of Kool and the Gang or Earth, Wind and Fire; shoulder-shuffling, Soul Train-style, feel-good music.

The album opens with a “message for the nation” about dancing and getting funky and that sort of business. It’s exactly the kind of platform I support, and the kind we’re just not hearing enough of in this contentious election season. The band warns against the total bummer of being one of those “Party Poops”, and we should all heed their advice. Hardships are acknowledged on this record, like the rent and welfare woes described on “Send out for Sunshine” but Heatwave invites you to forget all about them and just get down. The album standout “The Groove Line” invites you to “Leave your worries behind” and it makes a musical argument convincing enough to win over even the most cynical person you know. Give it a try! “The Groove Line” funks harder than anything else here; after a broiling intro, spiky rhythm guitars set up lead vocalist Keith Wilder’s snappy commands: “Pack your grip! Taking you on a trip!”

Much of the album consists of ballads, and they're just as excellent as their dancing cousins. "Mind Blowing Decisions” is the best of the slow-burners here. With a gorgeous sway and a counter-melody to die for (“Must decide how to go…”) this will find its way onto your after-dark playlist.

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