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BBC – Music – Review of Incognito

Written by on October 17, 2020

Positivity was the joyous fourth album from Incognito, the vision of former Light of the World guitarist Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, and their third release on Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud imprint. Packed with positive, on-message grooves, it is a work full of passion and sincerity.

By 1993, Incognito was a fluid studio collective that’d perfected a truly international, timeless groove. As bandleader, Maunick was able to tease out vibrant performances from the 15 or so musicians involved. With strident vocals from Maysa Leak and newcomer Marc Anthoni, Positivity picks up from where their 1992 benchmark, Tribes Vibes and Scribes, left off.

The group had previously included well-selected covers amongst their work, such as Ronnie Laws’ Always There or Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing, but Positivity was composed entirely of originals.

Standout tracks include Where Do We Go From Here and the album’s lead single, Still a Friend of Mine. Deep Waters is truly accomplished, a luscious, downbeat groove that unfolds gracefully, with subtle orchestration and muted horns.

Talkin’ Loud, with Leak’s passionate vocal, is a fitting tribute to their label and to their like-minded travellers of the early 90s. With lyrics such as “Talkin’ loud and sayin’ something / Revelations from a risin’ generation,” it was a celebratory listen and demonstrated that this jazz-tinged funk and soul was no longer a museum piece, but something living and breathing, alive at the fringes of the mainstream music scene.

Positivity reunited Maunick with fellow Light of the World and original Incognito member Paul “Tubbs” Williams, who adds with his fluid basslines to the instrumentals Inversions and Better Days. The former, with its Hammond stabs and sweet piano, was co-written by sometime member Max Beesley, one of his last regular gigs before taking up acting full-time.

With grooves as smooth and authentic as this, the group began to make headway in the US, and the release led to Maunick working with artists such as Stevie Wonder, George Benson and Terry Callier. Positivity remains one of Incognito’s biggest-selling albums, and is arguably their most consistent release overall.

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