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The G.T.O. Singles Collection
UK Big Break Records CD, 2010

Disc: 1
1) Ain't No Half Steppin' 2) Special Offer 3) Super Soul Sister 4) Turn out the Lamplight 5) Boogie Nights 6) All You Do Is Dial 7) Too Hot to Handle 8) Slip Your Disc to This 9) The Groove Line 10) Happiness Togetherness 11) Mind Blowing Decisions 12) I'll Beat Your Booty
Disc: 2
1) Always and Forever 2) Mind Blowing Decisions (Remix Version) 3) Razzle Dazzle 4) Birthday 5) Therm Warfare 6) Disco 7) Gangsters of the Groove 8) Someone Like You 9) Jitterbuggin' 10) Goin' Crazy 11) Posin Till Closin 12) Where Did I Go Wrong

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Too Hot To Handle...Plus + Central Heating...Plus
UK Edsel CD, 2010
Two original albums on 2-CD
Disc: 1: Too Hot to Handle (1977)
1) Too Hot To Handle 2) Boogie Nights 3) Ain't No Half Steppin' 4) Always And Forever 5) Super Soul Sister 6) All You Do Is Dial 7) Lay It On Me 8) Sho'nuff Must Be Luv 9) Beat Your Booty
Bonus Tracks:
10) Special Offer 11) Boogie Nights [7" Edit] 12) Slip Your Disc To This 13) Boogie Nights [Special Disco Version]

Disc: 2: Central Heating (1978)
1) Put The Word Out 2) Send Out For Sunshine 3) Central Heating 4) Happiness Togetherness 5) The Groove Line 6) Mind Blowing Decisions 7) The Star Of A Story 8) Party Poops 9) Leavin' For A Dream
Bonus Tracks:
10) Mind Blowing Decisions [Extended Remix Version] 11) The Groove Line [Extended Version]

International pop-funk group Heatwave released five albums between 1977 and 1982, and all of them are now available as CD reissues. First, Edsel published a 2-disc set of their first 2 albums, Too Hot to Handle and Central Heating, originally from 1976 and 1977. Now Big Break Records (part of Cherry Red) has released the group's next three albums, Hot Property (1979), Candles (1981) and Current (1982) - all three with lots of bonus cuts, plus a 2-CD compilation The G.T.O. Singles Collection. In addition to that, Sony Japan has released all five albums in Japan in their mini-LP cardboard sleeve series.

The group was formed in German by American military serviceman brothers Johnnie and Keith Wilder. However, the group's real mastermind was a British keyboardist and songwriter Rod Temperton, who later penned megahits for Michael Jackson and numerous soul superstars who were produced by Quincy Jones. The other members in the original lineup who recorded in the seventies were Mario Mantese (Swiss), Ernest Berger (Czech) and Eric Johns (from Los Angeles). Later recruitments were Roy Carter, Derek Bramble, Calvin Duke, William L. Jones and J.D. Nicholas, who later replaced Lionel Richie in the Commodores.

Much of the material Heatwave recorded was much too mild and pop-oriented to succeed in US Soul Charts, but three of their singles were solid enough to climb to US soul top ten. Boogie Nights was their breakthrough smash in the U.S.A., taken from their debut set Too Hot to Handle. Even a bigger hit for the group was, though, the followup single Always and Forever, a melodic Temperton pop ballad that was also covered by Luther Vandross in 1994. Heatwave's original reading was sung by Johnnie Wilder Jnr. and it could be compared to the most pop-oriented Lionel Richie ballads. A third track that is worth a mention from the debut album was their debut UK single, a mellow 2-stepper Ain't No Half Steppin', which is also my personal favourite from their repertoire.

The second album Central Heating contained the # 3 US soul hit The Groove Line, which reminds me of Kool & the Gang's early 80s pop-disco hits. I'm actually amazed that Heatwave didn't follow this style, since Kool & the Gang received a string of major hits with this kind of mixture of pop, disco and funk music. Obviously the guys tried to reach even a greater audience with melodious pop material, but failed to reach US top ten after 1978. A sweet soul type of mid-paced song Mind Blowing Decisions was a minor hit in U.S.A., taken from the same album. After completing the album, Rod Temperton announced that he will no longer continue performing with the group, but rather concentrates on his writing, although he would continue to write songs for Heatwave as well.

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Hot Property
UK Big Break Records CD, 2010

1) Razzle Dazzle 2) Eyeballin' 3) This Night We Fell 4) Raise A Blaze 5) First Day Of Snow 6) One Night Tan 7) Therm Warfare 8) All Talked Out 9) That's The Way We'll Always Say Goodnight 10) Disco
Bonus tracks:
11) Birthday [7" Version] 12) Eyeballin' [US 12" Disco Version] 13) One Night Tan [US 7" Version] 14) Therm Warfare [UK 7" Version] 15) Birthday [US 12" Version]

Thus, Temperton is no longer listed as a member of the group in their following three albums, which have now been reissued by Big Break Records. The first one of them, Hot Property was originally released in 1979, and it spawned two singles, both of which were very disappointing saleswise. Razzle Dazzle was released in May 1979 during the hottest disco period, and it simply wasn't catchy and distinctive enough to gain attention. In the U.S. market, Epic did not release Razzle Dazzle but picked the next album track Eyeballin' for the single. It's a rather routine funk offering and didn't have the same pop appeal as Temperton's big hits for US artists. It hardly managed to climb to US top 30 and was certainly a big disappointment for the group.

To add to their catastrophe in 1979, the lead singer and co-founder of the group, Johnnie Wilder Jnr was in a near-fatal car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Heatwave was forced to find a new lead singer, and J.D. Nicholas was brought to replace Johnnie on stage, and Nicholas stayed with the group until 1984, when we joined the Commodores.

The second US single One Night Tan can easily be recognised as a Temperton song, echoeing for instance the Brothers Johnson's more melodious tracks, but the production really lacked any sparkle. Producer Phil Ramone certainly wasn't Quincy Jones! The single flopped completely, and Eyeballin' was the only hit that charted in the US Soul charts from this album.

Personally, I would have picked Therm Warfare as the single, which was actually also release in the U.K. in July 1979 but with no chart position. The tracks is one of the most swinging tracks Heatwave has put on record, as they were using additional horn section - in their own lineup, there were no horn players at all.

As bonus tracks on the album, were are offered even two different versions of the B-side single track Birthday, a non-album track which contained mellow saxophone over a fragile ballad track that remotely reminds me of the Whispers.

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UK Big Break Records CD, 2010
1) Gangsters of the Groove 2) Jitterbuggin' 3) Party Suite 4) Turn Around 5) Posin' Til Closin' 6) All I Am 7) Dreamin You 8) Goin' Crazy 9) Where Did I Go Wrong
Bonus tracks:
10) Gangsters of the Groove (Single Version) 11) Jitterbuggin' (UK Single Version) 12) Where Did I Go Wrong (US Single Version) 13) Posin' Til Closin (UK Single Version) 14) Turn Around (US Single Version) 15) Find Someone Like You (B-Side) 16) Wack That Axe (B-side) 17) Gangsters of the Groove (UK 12" Remix) 18) Posin' Til Closin (UK 12" Version)

Although Rod Temperton was no longer performing with Heatwave, he continued writing songs for them, and probably the most important aspect was that on this album, numerous top musicians familar from Quincy Jones production were contributing, too. These included Paulinho DaCosta, Michael Boddicker, Jerry Hey and Gary Grant. At least the group was now boasting top-notch musical background, but at the same time I have to confess that I didn't like their new lead singer's (J.D. Nicholas) thin and colourless vocals at all.

The opening track Gangsters of the Groove was a sophisticated pop-funk trying to create similar feel to Brothers Johnsons' disco-funk sound, and although it is remembered as a "killer song" by Keith in the liner notes, I can easily understand why it never raised higher than on position 21 in US Soul Charts.

Jitterbuggin' was a more typical Rod Temperton song echoeing Give Me the Night that Rod wrote to George Benson. I was amazed Epic didn't try this as a single in the US market. It was released in U.K., though, and reached # 34 slot in UK pop charts.

For some reason, Epic preferred Where Did I Go Wrong as the second single pick, and although this sweet soul ballad was again influenced by The Whispers sound, it didn't raise higher than on position 74 in US Soul Charts.

If you can bear the weak vocals, the rest of the album offered relaxed, typical easily digestible Rod Temperton music, with professional musicianship but a strong inclination to pop music.

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UK Big Break Records CD, 2010
1) Lettin' It Loose 2) State To State 3) Look After Love 4) Naturally 5) The Big Guns 6) Find It In Your Heart 7) Hold On To The One 8) Mind What You Find
Bonus tracks:
9) Lettin' It Loose (12" Extended Version) 10) Look After Love (7" Single Edit) 11) Mind What You Find (12" Extended Version)

On this 1982 album by the group Barry Blue had returned as the producer of the group - he had produced the first two albums for Heatwave. This album was trying to recreate the Quincy Jones produced Rod Temperton sound, and again several star musicians were involved, including Herbie Hancock, Greg Phillinganes and Paulinho DaCosta. The first single release Lettin' It Loose is a laid back party-funk in the Raydio / Kool & the Gang mould and even adding some mild rapping, but it only gained the position 54 on US Soul Charts.

The album also features Carl Carlwell, ex-Temptations Louis Price and Leee John Ashley Ingram from UK pop-disco group Imagination as guest vocalists. Leee John reveals in the liner note interview that Keith Wilder even tried to buy Leee's contract out from Imagination so that he could become the lead singer of Heatwave. The band leader Johnnie Wilder Jr., who had been badly injured and paralyzed in the car accident, still wanted to sing in the studio, and the producers and band members describe how it took 3 weeks to record the tender Rod Temperton ballad Look After Love, as Johnnie could only sing short bits at a time. "Each time Johnnie sang a note one of us would have to strike him in the chest just to get enough air into his lungs".

The band members described the recording process very frustrating, and not surprisingly the group disbanded after the very modest success of the album. Derek Bramble became a famous producer, while J.D. Nicholas joined The Commodores to record their Grammy-winning Nightshift. Johnnie Wilder died in 2006, but Keith Wilder still fronts the current lineup of Heatwave, with no original members left. The group's last album Fire was released in 1988 on Soul City label, but with very little success. -IT

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