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[Off The Record]
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Black Heat

Here’s funk that combines rhythm and licks equal to the fire of George Clinton’s big, bad-ass boogie clans with singing and grooves as warm and smooth as the best of the soul that came out of Philly in the ’70s. So how the hell could Black Heat’s first two albums — 1972’s Black Heat and 1974’s No Time To Burn, here in a double-disc package — get lost for 25 years? Producer Joel Dorn theorizes that the corporate hit machine wasn’t activated on their behalf. But now his label has at least ensured the seven-piece outfit a second hearing — and maybe their rightful place on the R&B honor roll.

Punch up " Street of Tears " or " Barbara’s Mood " and bliss out on the cool gliding melodies of the reeds and woodwinds. Dig into " Chip’s Funk " or " No Time To Burn " and get scalded by the wah-wah guitar pyro and the relentless push of the drums, congas, throaty bass, and keys. The bubbling percussive underbelly of mid-tempo songs like " You Should Have Listened, " which also benefits from an " I told ya so " lyric that sounds sassy enough to have been lifted from James Brown’s pocket, makes it easy to draw a straight line from these guys to the go-go music that leaked out of DC in the late ’80s. Yet their virtuosity also has the Afro-Latin command of early Santana. All of which makes Black Heat’s legacy great black American music whose time has come again.


Issue Date: June 7 - 14, 2001

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