Incognito - Bees + Things + Flowers

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Incognito has spent over a quarter century bending classification through its soulful combination of R&B and jazz and a string of progressive, ultra-cool albums.  So for its newest disc, Jean-Paul Maunick and company have taken a step back, providing new looks at some of their past hits and covering such diverse outside material as Roy Ayers' revered "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" (from which the album's title was taken), America's "Tin Man" and Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In the City."  The disc takes a decidedly downtempo approach, often providing simple acoustic backings and sparse beats behind the generally strong vocals.  And Bluey has brought together a terrific group of singers, including Carleen Anderson, Maysa, Imaani and Tony Monrelle, and has smartly given them room to improvise. 

Incognito has spent over a quarter century bending classification through its soulful combination of R&B and jazz and a string of progressive, ultra-cool albums.  So for its newest disc, Jean-Paul Maunick and company have taken a step back, providing new looks at some of their past hits and covering such diverse outside material as Roy Ayers' revered "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" (from which the album's title was taken), America's "Tin Man" and Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In the City."  The disc takes a decidedly downtempo approach, often providing simple acoustic backings and sparse beats behind the generally strong vocals.  And Bluey has brought together a terrific group of singers, including Carleen Anderson, Maysa, Imaani and Tony Monrelle, and has smartly given them room to improvise. 

The disc has the feel of a live, acoustic session, marred only by superfluous, after-the-fact strings on a few cuts (the most damaged of which is a remake of the wonderful "Still A Friend of Mine").  Not all of the music is inspired, but it is all extremely listenable.  So cuts such as the cover of Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's the Way of the World" or the 60's-pop arranged "Tin Man" don't replace the originals by any stretch, but are solid, mellow listening.  Much better are two soft covers of former Incognito hits, "Everyday" and "Deep Water," both of which sound great in stripped down versions, as well as the beautiful new ballads, "Crave" (with Imaani singing lead) and "You Are Golden."

Bees + Things + Flowers won't supplant any Incognito greatest hits compilations or the original versions of the other songs covered here, but for fans of the group it supplies both a pleasant reexamination of a number of great old songs and the introduction of some worthwhile new ones.

by Chris Rizik

 
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