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BBC – Music – Review of Heatwave

Written by on October 17, 2020

Formed in Germany by US serviceman Johnnie Wilder, and bolstered by the addition of songwriter Rod Temperton, Heatwave honed their craft in mid-70s London.

Once their third single, Boogie Nights, became an enormous hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the group were propelled from being relative unknowns to overnight sensations.

Their second album, 1978’s Central Heating, was recorded amid intense touring schedules just as their fame was breaking. It’s an exciting record, where the group have everything to prove.

Like their 1976 debut, Too Hot To Handle, this album was written largely by Temperton, who by now had his tight, snappy disco-R&B down pat. Put the Word Out follows the template set by Boogie Nights, emerging out of a jam, before introducing a tightly woven funk.

Transatlantic hit The Groove Line, with its incessant rhythm, sweet vocals and message of unity, inspired much in-club formation dancing and maintained their momentum.

But it’s not all a whirl round the dancefloor: The Star of a Story is a sensual down-tempo groove not a million miles away from Michael Jackson’s Baby Be Mine, written by Temperton for Thriller four years later. It showcases the unmistakable vocal blend between the Wilder brothers and sounds like a London-via-Chicago version of Rotary Connection’s I Am the Black Gold of the Sun.

Lead vocalist Johnnie Wilder wrote two songs, the second of which, Mind Blowing Decisions, became one of the group’s most highly regarded songs. And they could cut it live, too. The band toured America supporting heavyweights and peers such as Commodores, The O’Jays, Bohannon and The Isley Brothers, and truly held their own.

Central Heating was the last great Heatwave album, but they had made their mark. Temperton was soon to leave the band for a stellar career as, to all intents and purposes, Quincy Jones’ in-house writer.

In 1979 lead vocalist Johnnie Wilder was paralysed in a car crash, and after could only attend studio sessions in a production capacity. But Central Heating remains a great, unified album from an often-overlooked band.

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