Each time an Incognito album comes out, it’s almost similar to the same kind of joy any kid gets when Christmas morning arrives and the presents are ready to be opened. In 27 years of what has been a 30-year lifespan, Incognito has released albums and had countless lineup changes possibly more than Imelda Marcos’ infamous shoe collection. And yet the continuing constant in Incognito remains its founder and instrumentalist/songwriter Jean-Paul Maunick. Without him, his mix of soul, jazz and world music would not stand out in a rapidly diminishing music scene.
With his latest release Tales From The Beach, Maunick or "Bluey" as known by his fans, relies on his childhood memories living in his native island Mauritius (off the coast of Madagascar) to enhance his signature sound. His inspiration, partly, came from watching live musicians playing on various beaches around Mauritius during his youth. Another part came from various changes in Bluey’s personal life as well as the lives of various members of his band. Songs about love, loss and hope reflect in the lyrics.
Starting with "Step Aside," sung by Joy Rose, the familiar horn riffs and background vocals never disappoint on this strong percussive track. "When the Sun Comes Down" is seductive and yet atmospheric. Tony Momrelle guides his seductive vocals through this track as to anticipate a memorable night of romance. Another vocalist, Imani, can throw down on optimistic tracks such as "Love Joy Understanding" and yet come so strong in admonishing a cheating lover on "N.O.T.."
But if Bluey is the heart and soul of Incognito, Maysa Leak still remains the true voice as she has been on and off since the early 90s. And on such tracks as "Never Look Back" and "I’ve Been Waiting," the U.S.-born vocalist hardly disappoints. Especially with "I Remember A Time," a dark and moody ballad that opens with a beautiful piano intro by Matt Cooper, Maysa’s husky vocals is complemented with stellar support for the horn section reminding any fan of what made Incognito great in the first place.
While "Freedom To Love" and "It May Rain Sometime" is best left alone, Tales From The Beach is as always classic Incognito without sounding too trendy.