Incognito - Amplified Soul

Incognito
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I’ve always viewed the year 1979 as a high point in the gift to the world that is R&B music. I say that because that year serves as the distillation for all that came before, as well as offering a glimpse into what musical genres would be emerging. Nineteen seventy-nine also happens to be the year when music served as the harbinger for economic, cultural and political changes that resulted in the eventual removal of genres such as disco, blues and southern soul from mainstream black radio, and eventual rise of hip-hop.

So the year that Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick founded the group that eventually became Incognito was probably one of the last years that a listener could turn on an R&B radio station and hear artists that represented the breadth and depth of the music that we as SoulTrackers love. At least that’s the way it was on this side of the pond, and after spending the last quarter century as a fan of Incognito, I suspect that was Bluey’s reality as well.

I’ve always viewed the year 1979 as a high point in the gift to the world that is R&B music. I say that because that year serves as the distillation for all that came before, as well as offering a glimpse into what musical genres would be emerging. Nineteen seventy-nine also happens to be the year when music served as the harbinger for economic, cultural and political changes that resulted in the eventual removal of genres such as disco, blues and southern soul from mainstream black radio, and eventual rise of hip-hop.

So the year that Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick founded the group that eventually became Incognito was probably one of the last years that a listener could turn on an R&B radio station and hear artists that represented the breadth and depth of the music that we as SoulTrackers love. At least that’s the way it was on this side of the pond, and after spending the last quarter century as a fan of Incognito, I suspect that was Bluey’s reality as well.

Incognitoreflects that reality on Amplified Soul, the group’s 16th studio album. Listeners will hear everything from the intersection of instrumental jazz and funk (“Amplified Soul, Part 2”) to tunes that recount those rollicking days of the Memphis soul of Stax and Hi records (“Hats: Make Me Wanna Holler”). Amplified Soul features forays into the neo-soul sound on tracks such as “Deeper Still,” and a tribute to an outfit that inspired Bluey, coming in the form of a loving cover of Atlantic Starr’s “Silver Shadow.”

The Incognito lineup that made the group famous featured vocalists such as the great Maysa Leak, and I love hearing Maysa sing “Deep Waters” about as much as I enjoy hearing her sing the award winning tunes from her solo albums. However, one thing that makes Incognito unique has been Bluey’s knack for refreshing the group’s vocal talent.

That trend continues on Amplified Soul. Sometimes, Bluey taps a known quantity such as Deborah Bond, who lends her sultry vocals to the neo-funk number “I See the Sun.” Vocalist Imani brings her jazz tinged vocals to the brassy and percussive mid-tempo summertime jam “Rapture,” while Tony Momrelle, another longtime Incognito collaborator, contrasts his energetic vocals against the Caribbean influenced swing of “Something ‘bout July.”

Incognito is a group that balances having an identifiable sound with also creating music that never devolves into sounding repetitive. That ever rotating roster of vocalists bring a different sound to every Incognito jam, and the band benefits from Bluey’s knowledge and comfort with operating in a variety of genres. The payoff for fans is a project that is familiar as it is fresh, thirty-five years after the band’s auspicious beginning. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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