Incognito - 100 Degrees and Rising

In 1995 a bit of an earthquake occurred in the world of Incognito fans: the band's fourth album, "100 Degrees and Rising," was released...and Maysa Leak was nowhere to be found! As it turned out, Leak -the distinctive voice behind Incognito hits "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing" and "Deep Waters"- was off making her solo debut. But considering the group's artistic ascent began with Maysa's arrival, where would this leave Incognito? And would Maysa fare as well on her own? Luckily for fans, both projects panned out: Maysa's self-titled album was a gorgeously-crafted work of art that both capitalized on and branched out from the musical styles Incognito fans were accustomed to, and Bluey had enough top-notch songs onhand to make a fantastic Incognito record even in Leak's absence.

The most noticeable change is the arrangment style. While there are still horns aplenty, strings take more precedence on "100 Degrees," creating a lush and warmer sound than the group's previous work while still maintaining their authentic 70's sensibilities. A Stevie Wonder influence can be heard fairly clearly on the record, especially in the hardcore funk of "Roots (Back to a Way of Life)" and on the richly-chorded ballad "Too Far Gone." "Good Love" and "Spellbound and Speechless" offer up classic Cog grooves, while the disco-happy "I Hear Your Name" and the club-ready "Everyday" (the latter of which ended up being the album's significant hit) rank among Incognito's best dance numbers. We're also treated to four exceptionally strong instrumental cuts: the breezy, lite jazz "After the Fall"; the frenzied flamenco number "Jacob's Ladder"; the grooving and futuristic "Millenium," and the stunningly gorgeous Bossa Nova excursion "Barumba."

So how do the replacement vocalists measure up? Frankly, Pam Anderson does a respectable job of trying to fit into Maysa Leak's shoes; her fiery and soulful vibrato, sounding like energy itself, is a sharp contrast to Maysa's smoother stylings, so her presence on "Good Love," "Roots," and "Everyday" marks a bold new sound for Incognito. Unfortunately, a lesser vocalist by the name of Joy Malcolm is given more chances in the spotlight...and while she's a technically adept vocalist, hitting every note she goes for on the lush ballad "Where Did We Go Wrong" and creating pleasant enough moods on "Spellbound and Speechless" and the title track, her voice is lacking in color and individuality. Luckily, Incognito's always-superior production and arrangements manage to create memorable moments where her mediocre vocals couldn't.

In the end, the only shortcoming to be found with the record is the absence of Maysa Leak, something no one can be held responsible for from an artistic standpoint. That said, the warm and infectious "100 Degrees and Rising" showcases one of today's strongest jazz/soul outfits in top form.

1. Where Did We Go Wrong
2. Good Love
3. One Hundred and Rising
4. Roots (Back to a Way of Life)
5. Everyday
6. Too Far Gone
7. After the Fall [Instrumental]
8. Spellbound and Speechless
9. I Hear Your Name
10. Barumba [Tribute to Luiz Eça)
11. Millennium [Instrumental]
12. Time Has Come
13. Jacob's Ladder [Instrumental]

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1 comment:

Joshua said...

What is Acid Jazz?

Acid jazz (also known as club jazz) is a musical genre that combines elements of soul music, funk, disco, particularly looping beats and modal harmony. It developed over the 1980s and 1990s and could be seen as tacking the sound of jazz-funk onto electronic dance/pop music.

The compositions of groups such as The Brand New Heavies and Incognito often feature chord structures usually associated with Jazz music. The Heavies in particular were known in their early years for beginning their songs as catchy pop and rapidly steering them into jazz territory before "resolving" the composition and thus not losing any pop listeners but successfully "exposing" them to jazz elements in "baby steps".

The acid jazz "movement" is also seen as a "revival" of jazz-funk or jazz fusion or soul jazz by leading DJs such as Norman Jay or Gilles Peterson or Patrick Forge, also known as "rare groove crate diggers".