on 22 December 2000
As an avid Jazz-Funkateer I have most of their previous releases, and one thing is for sure as far as Incognito are concerned you always get quality musicians playing top arrangements. However there is something about this album that stands out head & shoulders above any of their previous offerings. You find yourself going back to it time and time again, and neglecting the rest of your music collection. If the band were wine then this would be their vintage (matured with age) The sheer class of this CD is outstanding. Take some of the best arrangements & musicianship you have heard in what seems like decades & add the supreme vocal talent of Maysa and you are in heaven on the best summers day you ever had! Buy it!
on 11 August 2008
Thirty years ago the lukewarm preserve of James Last and Ronnie Hazlehurst, now the softened Jazz master so cool, you'll need to appreciate the concept of absolute zero to register the temperature of Incognito.
Lift Muzak? Hotel Lounge? Monsieur sil't u plait! Bluey has a level of sophistication that earns him a niche all his own. This is fully orchestrated peerless acid Jazz. Everywhere there are similarities and you can name check all the tags for Anita Baker, Jeff Bradshaw or Norman Brown - but you'll only get close. Please don't say London /UK-ish this or that, just not even in the same league. New York isn't accurate either but at least suggests the level of sophistication this reaches.
The arrangements are written with precision and detail normally reserved for a film score. Hand slapped percussion amid complex running string and bass playing is decorated by brass and woodwind of every voice and timbre. Production in a word is meticulous, with myriad mix of contrasting instrumentation given its head yet preserving delicacy in the mix. The result is lush and in keeping with the mood of the recording, if a little predictable once you settle in.
Criticisms - Since Tribes, Vibes, it is starting to sound derivative. Odd selections from 100 Degrees and lead track Positivity fifteen years ago gave way to the dominant dance themes of their moments, but otherwise you get what it says on the tin Incognito, Incognito, Incognito . This is just as equally praise, because no-one actually goes to these lengths anymore. When you search the shelves for meat of the same flavour you always end up buying more Bluey. Like Prince, his trademark sound has become a genre in itself.
Judged against other Incognito releases (and it makes no difference what order you encounter them) this is easily up to the mark, but not without short comings. There is no obvious lead material here with the whole collection having very much a project feel about it. Second, while the Incognito "Family" boasts an impressive harem of voices, they are at times very poorly deployed. Nights over Egypt is lit up by (THE ONE AND ONLY ) Jocelyn Brown like she's been drinking napalm, only for her to inexplicably make way for Karen Bermod furiously writing cheques her voice simply cannot cash. Black Rain tantalises whilst demonstrating just how little writing constitutes great music if you know HOW to play. Favourites are the template setting Wild and Peaceful, with Marrakech remarkable for more than big Blue showing off with a Hammond B3.
No Time Like the Future is a gender separator - Women will dance in impossibly posh frocks, with cocktails and audiences eyes strategically placed. Alfa (Romeo) males will listen with Sennheiser reference headgear alone in a darkened room.
You have to remind yourself this is a decade old work that somehow has remained so sharp you could shave your legs with it. Noted faults aside this is compelling listening!
on 3 June 2000
Incognito have been accussed, and perhaps rightfully so, of being slick, too polished, lacking in raw energy and generally displaying an LA sheen in all they commit to the recording process. This album feels, to me at least, to display their obvious talents as arrangers and yet retain something of a fresh edge that lifts it above previous releases. The playing still represents the finest in Bristish studio musicianship with the likes of Crampton (Electric Bass), Bull (Kit) and the mellifluous Harvey (keys)churning out ridiculously tight grooves. Yet there appears to be a little more spice. The extended Keyboard solo on the track 'I can see the future' allows the player a great deal of room to improvise in a far less restricted way than in the past. I particularly enjoyed the North African influence of the album. Not just on the obviously titled 'Marrakesh' but the spacious use of percussion and harmonic and meolodic devices used to conjure up musical images.
Unfortunately, and I find this with most of incognito's albums, they release a very poor and obviously commercial track as a single. 'Nights over Egypt' I found as disappointing as 'Don't you worry 'bout a thing' and 'Always there'only because it seems an ill representation of their actual musical sensibilities.
One wishes that they could commit something a little earthier to record and their live recordings I find more satisfying.
All that said this is a good solid release from a band who always impress.
on 25 January 2000
More 'Incognito' than their previous album, Maysa sounds great, although a bit too jazzy on some tracks. Marrakech is fantastic and reminds me of the Tribes,Vibes album. Some fun stuff in 'Fearless' and of course 'Nights over Egypt'. If you like Incognito, get it.
on 24 February 2000
The opening number, 'Wild and Peaceful' provides an accurate description as to the stylistic content of the entire album. Here we have the usual Incognito mix of fearsome, tight funk-thump and laid-back, mellow endearments.
This is of course the formula that has served this band so well over the past decade, but this time the formula has had room to breath. Maybe the 3 years since the release of Beneath the Surface (which was good, but not this good) provided the fresh air required.
A jazz funk outfit(if we can attribute a label) needs it's fundamentals in the right place at the right volume. Richard Bailey, Randy Hope-Taylor and Julian Crampton (on which tracks we do not know) display ruthless synergy here.
Combined with the trademark horns, Bluey's (very) subtle chops and uncomprimisingly serious keyboards (from the outset), the experience is killer.
As for Maysa Leak, (arguably the finest female voice in the industry at present) you have to ask "why do labels continue to put out so much dross? " Girl Power? This is Woman Power!
Previous albums could rate four stars (on the Amazon scale of things), purely because there were always tracks that I didn't like (particularly the dance type tunes).
Everything about this album is a winner. Melodies are slick, harmonies complex, grooves are groovy, the songs singable, lyrics audible, and most important of all, you repeatedly take it out of the sleave to hear it again.
Easily the bands best so far. Bluey and his guys are going to have to work 'real hard' to top it!
I hope they do!