I'm a big fan of Incognito. You are too right? So you know that this CD, the band's 16th studio album celebrates the band's 35th anniversary. Who imagined that as they held their vinyl copy of "Jazz Funk" in their hands?

So come on, let's see how things sound in 2014... 'Amplify my Soul (Part 1)' is a pleading vocal intro which sets the tone for the rest of the album and that tone is emotion - it's a technically outstanding record but it's about moods and feelings, as Incognito records (thank God) usually are.

'I Couldn't Love You More' is a mid-tempo, horn-laden vocal which is a pure delight and Bluey's guitar solo is an exercise in good taste. 'Rapture' treads that same path of great lyric and strong female vocal draped over that bubbly, uplifting rhythm section. If you're feeling good now, another strong female vocal (with a serious dose of attitude) will make you feel even better on the anthemic 'Hands Up if You Wanna be Loved'. I have tickets to see Incognito in July 2014 and please, please, let them play this.

I started off talking about moods, and many music fans have got their happy fix in 2014 from Pharrell Williams' masterpiece. Bluey delivers 'Hats (Makes me Wanna Holler)' with the same world party sensibility and verve. It's the first single - and it's a great choice. This should chart worldwide - I mean it, it's that strong. Atlantic Starr's 'Silver Shadow' has always stood tall in the 80's soul canon - and in Bluey's hands it's just never sounded better. More strong vocals and horns, keys and strings you could drown in - bliss!

Now all this uplifting vibe won't lead Incognito fans to believe that the band can't get serious - 'Deeper Still' is a moody groove which I think will please Jill Scott fans. That stylish, almost spoken vocal is very sexy. Ah, you all know what I'm talking about... Things stay intense for the sax-led 'Amplify my Soul (Part 2)' which drips 70's fusion - listen to Caldera's 'Seraphim' and you'll see what I mean. This song grabs you and won't let go. This band can take a groove and twist it however they like and 'Something 'Bout July' comes over as a Stevie Wonder homage in its complexity and that amazing male lead vocal courtesy of Tony Momrelle.

By now, many records would be running out of steam but 'Day or Night' keeps the energy level up with a rhythm that's almost impossible not to move to and another standout female vocal. The jazz feeling is strong. This band is ticking all the boxes for me... If you are dreaming of long ago Blue Note days when you hear the gorgeous instrumental 'Wind Sorceress', so am I - and I think that's the whole point. The piano intro to 'Another Way' could trick you into thinking it's still 1975, but the darkness of the groove and the searing intensity of the female vocal - not forgetting the frankness of the lyric - make this an edgy post-millennium prayer.

The drums and bass sit back on the groove perfectly for the chorus to the heartbreakingly beautiful 'I See the Sun'. The introspective lyric strikes a chord with me but there's no time for navel gazing when that chorus comes round again. In the end, this song is a thousand summer days rolled into one where the mundane is swept aside, even if just for a moment. This album has a couple of anthems - this is mine. Change of pace, change of mood - 'Never Known a Love Like This' is (I'm going to say this) a disco record. A great one. That I want to hear played live in Manchester just over a month after I'm writing this... OK? And tell me that bass break is not the very spirit of Bernard Edwards...

Bluey's playing with us. 'The Hands of Time' sounds playful, with all the expected Incognito goodies, but it's a song of regret. Listen to the minor chord on the fade if you need proof... Bluey (for it is he) must get tired of people comparing his voice with that of Curtis Mayfield, but I'm going to do the same. The chord sequence used in this song is so reminiscent of past soul gems and a voice that has a pleading quality is a great fit. I'm making this sound clinical and formulaic - it's anything but. It's lovely and it's a fitting close to the well-rounded record I tried to hint at when I began typing this review.

If you are a fan of Incognito, you'll love this record. If you're not a fan of Incognito, you'll love this record. It's about 35 years of a band that has always respected musical traditions and added its own vibe, but more importantly it's about your life - and my life. It's manna for the soul. Nothing more to say...



 

 

Ear Music 0209349ERE Producers Bluey and Matt Cooper



For the lyrics of the album go to
www.incognito.org.uk/lyrics/amplified-soul
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