Incognito - Amplified Soul

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole's Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

From as far back as 1980 jazz funk powerhouse Incognito has been in the capable hands of its creator Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick. Indeed this enduring success has been one of the more endearing qualities of this often changing collective and now they are back with the band's sixteenth studio project, the stunningly good Amplified Soul. Make no mistake for those of us who have honed our musical sensibilities with thirty plus years of jazz, funk and fusion, this one is a real gem and although Incognito's 2010 release, Transatlantic R.P.M., found Maunick reaching back to the inspirations he originally took from 1970's fusion, with Amplified Soul he has gone one step further by delivering a body of work that is replete with the mood of old school soul. With outstanding vocal performances from the likes of Vanessa Haynes, Tony Momrelle, Imaani, Katie Leone, Chiara Hunter, Carleen Anderson, and Deborah Bond this is indeed a soul-fest of the highest order. Not only that, with sixteen (yes sixteen) tracks, this is a collection that blends quantity with quality in a way that is very rarely seen.

The title cut, divided into two parts is (courtesy of Momrelle's fine vocal) rich with sensitive soul and when later it is reprised, mid album, in instrumental form, it provides a superb gateway to the Stevie Wonder like 'Something Bout' July'. Later, Brand New Heavies stalwart Carleen Anderson adds some vocal magic to the intense 'Another Way' which just keeps on building while elsewhere the slinky neo soul vibe of 'Deeper Still' and the zesty 'I See The Sun' both prove to be slices of classic Incognito. The bluesy 'Day Or Night' is another song that hardcore Incognito aficionados will be sure to savor and when Imaani steps up for the mid-tempo 'Rapture' it turns out to be to be extremely easy on the ear.

Much the same can be said of 'Hands Up If You Wanna Be Loved' where Katie Leone serves up a particularly edgy vocal and although 'Wind Sorceress' merges the mood of Van McCoy with a smattering of jazz-fusion, the magnificently vibrant 'Hats' will be guaranteed to revive even the most tired of dancing feet.

Bluey brings down the curtain with the thoughtful, message laden 'Stop Running Away' yet truth to tell Amplified Soul is, by and large, an up tempo brass driven extravaganza that offers any number of tracks guaranteed to fill dance floors anywhere. In this respect the easy grooving 'Never Known Love Like This' is absolutely up there. It owes much to a fine duet from Momrelle and Haynes that really hits the spot and when Haynes steps center stage for 'I Couldn't Love You More' the dial rapidly hits soul factor 10. She keeps it there for 'The Hands Of Time' (not to be confused with the Tyrone Davis 1970 blockbuster '{Turn Back} The Hands Of Time') that has soul to burn but she really blows the doors off with the dazzling 'Silver Shadow'. Already a firm personal favorite, it's a tune where Haynes high-octane performance is completely in sync with that of the rhythmic horn section.

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