A collection including nine of the ten tracks from the Brand New Heavies' self-titled debut album, plus three tracks recorded live in Tokyo, In Tha Beginning… is a fresh look at the acid jazz group's first recordings. Entrenched in England's rare-groove scene at the time, the Brand New Heavies were a tight unit that fused dexterous instrumental jazz-funk with just a touch of P-Funk bounce for club audiences. The results, on "Dream Come True," "People Get Ready," and the instrumental highlight "BNH," are great examples of acid jazz.
By the time the Brand New Heavies released Shelter in 1997, urban R&B was shifting toward the more organic grooves that they helped pioneer in the early '90s. Although the Heavies were into acid jazz as well, they smoothed over many of the experimental elements of their music in the mid-'90s, leaving behind a seductive, earthy, and jazzy variation of urban soul. That provided the foundation for Shelter, their first album featuring Siedah Garrett as lead singer. Garrett's smooth voice helps push the band toward more conventional territory, yet their songwriting is stronger than most of the contemporaries, and their sound is funkier and more convincing. While there are no standout singles on Shelter, it's a uniformly engaging listen, illustrating that the Brand New Heavies are one of the great underrated urban R&B bands of the '90s.