Heatwave was a band like no other. American vocalists Johnnie Wilder Jr. and his brother Keith Wilder joined with British singer-songwriter-keyboardist Rod Temperton, Swiss bassist Mario Mantese, Czechoslovak drummer Ernest “Bilbo” Berger, and Jamaican guitarist Eric Johns to form this truly international cadre of first-class R&B purveyors. Thanks to a string of hits including “Boogie Nights,” “Always and Forever” and “The Groove Line,” the seductive grooves of Heatwave ruled both the dancefloor and the bedroom. Big Break Records has recently spotlighted the gently alluring side of the group with an irresistible new anthology, Always and Forever: Love Songs and Smooth Grooves. Though non-chronologically sequenced, this set draws on all five of Heatwave’s studio albums released through 1982 (a 1988 “comeback” featured only Keith Wilder) as well as choice non-LP B-sides.
What could open a Heatwave love songs compendium but Rod Temperton’s mellow and tender ode to a love that will last “Always and Forever”? It’s presented here in its full-length album version from the band’s debut LP, the entirely Temperton-composed Too Hot to Handle. (All told, eleven out of the seventeen tracks here are the work of the prodigiously-talented Temperton, who moved into a behind-the-scenes role as of Heatwave’s third album, Hot Property.) As produced by Barry Blue, Too Hot lived up to its title showcasing the disparate funk, pop, soul and jazz styles that all informed Heatwave’s sound. Of course, the emphasis here is on the soft and romantic.
Four tracks have made the cut from Too Hot, including the falsetto-led reminder that “All You Do is Dial” for a smile and some loving. It’s graced with lightly burbling organ, subtle strings, brass accents and a gentle Latin beat. “Turn Out the Lamplight,” originally the B-side of Too Hot track “Super Soul Sister” and later memorably covered by George Benson, is as sweet and silky as prime Philly soul. “Lay It on Me” epitomizes the group’s mellow funk style. It’s just one of the tracks here to feature Johnnie Wilder’s soaring falsetto in the tradition of Russell Thompkins, Jr., William Hart or Ted “Wizard” Mills. Despite its colloquial title, the prettily slow-burning “Sho’Nuff Must Be Luv” is another elegant falsetto stunner of which Thom Bell would likely have been proud. (You’ll detect a touch of “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” in its graceful melody lines and arrangement for strings, woodwinds and horns.)
One can’t help swaying from the first notes of Johnnie Wilder’s mellifluous “Mind Blowing Decisions” off 1978’s Central Heating which introduced Roy Carter on guitar and keyboards. The cool, shimmering groove is layered with honeyed harmonies. Another Central selection, Johnnie’s warmly brass-flecked “Happiness, Togetherness,” is equally enticing, while the album’s “The Star of the Story” has a hauntingly ethereal, fusion vibe. Temperton’s wistfully ruminative “Leavin’ for a Dream” has, like, “Always and Forever,” all the hallmarks of classic pop songwriting.
Producer Phil Ramone knew a thing or two about classic pop. He teamed with an altered Heatwave line-up (including new keyboardist Calvin Duke, guitarist Billy Jones and bassist Derek Bramble, replacing Temperton, Johns and Mantese) for 1979’s Hot Property. Three of its tracks have been reprised here. Temperton’s lusty yet smooth “That’s the Way We’ll Always Say Goodnight” boasts lustrous strings as does the upbeat “All Talked Out” (with thrilling rhythms that recall Temperton’s indelible writing for Michael Jackson). “Razzle Dazzle” is a bright, brash dancer with tasty acoustic piano licks and an intricate vocal arrangement for a carnival-esque feel.
Indeed, not every track here is strictly a ballad. There’s a plenty of sultriness and spice not just on “Razzle Dazzle” but on selections like Candles‘ dramatic, string-laden “Turn Around” (1981) and Current‘s “Find It in Your Heart” (1982), both of which pick up the tempo with a dash of slick funk. Doo-wop vocals gild Candles’ “Where Did I Go Wrong.”
As Big Break has already remastered and reissued Heatwave’s five original albums, the beautifully designed, remastered and packaged Always and Forever: Love Songs and Smooth Grooves is an ideal companion and coda. Christian John Wikane has provided a brief, compelling introduction in the full-color booklet (housed in the Super Jewel Box), and compilation producer Wayne A. Dickson has remastered. Make no doubt; the music on this collection will live always and forever.
- Always and Forever
- Mind Blowing Decisions
- Where Did I Go Wrong
- Happiness Togetherness
- Look After Love
- Turn Out the Lamplight
- That’s the Way We’ll Always Say Goodnight
- All You Do is Dial
- Find It In Your Heart
- Turn Around
- All Talked Out
- The Star of a Story
- Lay It on Me
- Razzle Dazzle
- Leavin’ for a Dream
- Sho’ Nuff Must Be Love
- Birthday (Long Version)
Tracks 1, 8, 13 & 16 from Too Hot to Handle, GTO GTLP-013, 1976/Epic PE-34761, 1977
Tracks 2, 4, 12 & 15 from Central Heating, GTO GTLP-027/Epic JE-25360, 1978
Tracks 3 & 10 from Candles, GTO GTLP-047, 1981/Epic FE-36873, 1980
Tracks 5 & 9 from Current, Epic EPC-85812 (U.K.)/Epic FE-38065 (U.S.), 1982
Track 6 from GTO single GT 68, 1976
Tracks 7, 11 & 14 from Hot Property, GTO GTLP-039/Epic FE-35970, 1979
Track 17 edit issued on GTO single GT-248 and Epic single 50699, 1979