Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick and the crew from Incognito brought in Chaka Khan and Mario Biondi on vocals, not once, but twice on the new Incognito album Transatlantic R.P.M. The first song the two appear on is a duet, a remake of the classic 1976 Boz Scaggs' hit "Lowdown." Keeping the funk and the groove of the original, the song does what a great remake should do--not embarrass the original. Need I say more? That alone should make you want to cop Transatlantic R.P.M., but, wait, there is more.
This album has the feel of the 1970s, but Incognito stays true to the acid jazz nature of their sound. This CD revisits the sunny, optimistic and hopeful energy of that decade while bringing back some of our favorite Incognito vocalists with a few surprises.
One such surprise is hearing Bluey sing lead vocals on the track "Tell Me What to Do." It's something we've never heard before, and boy does he sound nice. Very simplistic, yet appropriately restrained for the tune, could this be a new chapter for the Incognito's founder and front instrumentalist? Perhaps, but his turn on one song as a singer doesn't mean he neglected his duty as band leader. Incognito's perfectly blended instrumentation shines as usual.
Another welcome surprise is the return of Maysa to Incognito. For those of you who only heard of her when she teamed with the group on classic tunes like "Deep Waters" and "Shade of Blue," you will enjoy "Your Sun, My Sky" which captures the songstresses comforting vocals elegantly. Tony Momrelle, who also has appeared on past Incognito albums, brings us some male spice with his Stevie Wonder-ish vocals on "Put a Little Lovin' in Your Heart," which is one of my favorite tracks on this meaty 16-track collection. However, one of the most surprising guest vocalists for me was the legendary Leon Ware. For me, Ware resonates powerfully in my musical rolodex as a songwriter, producing hits like Michael Jackson's "I Wanna Be Where You Are" and Marvin Gaye's "I Want You." On Transatlantic R.P.M. he displays his vocal skills on the angst-ridden "Line in the Sand," which allows him shine as a crooner.
As a fan of 1970's Chaka Khan when she headlined the band Rufus, I was particularly thrilled with her solo rendering of the tune "The Song," which took me back to her days of "Everlasting Love" and "Magic in Your Eyes" (songs I still have in heavy rotation to this day). Missing are the high-pitched sky-soaring notes, but plentiful is the earthy goodness she also can deliver.
As a longtime fan of Incognito, I think this album is a sure win for stans like me but is also a great listen for new fans as well who will find familiarity with the guest spots by some of soul music's legendary all-stars.