Jean-Paul Maunick – Bluey to you and me – is a UK soul veteran. Not only has he issued some 15 long players with his Incognito team, he’s worked with countless other soul and jazz folk, remixing and producing work for them (check out his latest collaboration with Mario Biondi, by the way). Over the last 12 months our man says he’s had a “compelling desire” to bare his soul in his own way; to create, if you would, his “musical autobiography”. A leap of faith indeed…. and here is that soul baring, autobiography…. Bluey’s first solo album.
Some critics, however, might claim that each and every Incognito album was a Bluey solo set. Most of the song writing, much of the playing, the production and the arranging were all down to him. They’d add that the musicians and singers he used were little more than puppets under his strict control – fleshing out his ideas. Maybe there’s some truth in that stance, but if you’re close to Bluey (either personally or through his music) you’ll know that he’s no martinet and to suggest that he would ever tell someone like Maysa Leak how to voice a lyric is absurd. No, Incognito was a team with Bluey as captain; each player played their part and between them they created a readily identifiable sound… the sound of Incognito… and the big surprise with ‘Leap Of Faith’ is that it doesn’t sound like an Incognito album.
The main reason for that is here Bluey takes all the lead vocals and, you know what, he’s got a great falsetto voice. Indeed on one cut – ‘Keep Myself Together’ – I thought I’d stumbled across a prime time Ron Tyson-led Temptations’ ballad. Therein lies another reason why ‘Leap Of Faith’ is different to any Incognito album. Because Bluey saw the project as a kind of musical autobiography, he constantly references the soul sounds that were his influences. Consciously or subconsciously, ‘Leap Of Faith’ is consistently more properly soulful than any Incognito album.
Highlights abound, but the immediate grabber is the wonderful ‘Got To Let My Feelings Show’. It’s a great modern soul dancer that has all the attractions and qualities of the great 80s Weekender anthems (check the subtle lyrical reference to ‘Strawberry Letter 23’). ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business’ is another great dance tune – a tad faster as is the insistent ‘Why Did I Let You Go’. ‘Take A Chance On Me’ references the best Luther Vandross mid-tempo grooves while ‘Sky’ is a lovely Latin confection with superb harmonies though on ‘If You Really Wanna’ there’s just a hint of the Caribbean. Yep, there’s plenty of variety here and all rounded off perfectly with the semi-spoken title cut. Here, Bluey explains why we need to take “leaps of faith” ; he’s taken a mighty big one… but he’s landed squarely (and hugely successfully) on his feet!