First Listen: Diplomats Of Soul feat. Incognito & Vanessa Hayes – Sweet Power Your Embrace (Original) (Expansion House)
“Tout ce qui est rare est cher”, says a famous French expression. Something one could turn into something like “Everything that’s scarce is expensive.” With “cher” also happening to mean “Dear” on occasions.. And God knows how Diplomats Of Soul made themselves quite rare. Hardly totalizing more than handful of releases to their credit. With the exquisite ‘Sweet Power Your Embrace’ being their third release this year after a 9 years hiatus. And what a definitive masterpiece they come to deliver as a matter of fact.
Together with Vanessa Hayes, they take on where James Mason left back in 1977 with their rendition of the classic ‘Sweet Power Your Embrace’. This under the form of a brilliant Acid Jazz funktified tribute. Meanwhile Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick, in charge of the production, adds a so to say Incognito cinematic feel to it. Also worth the mention is the presence of some Atjazzalternative remixes givin’ it a futuristic funk stellar vein…
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The first traces of Diplomats Of Soul (Ralph Tee and Mike Allin) bring us back to 2006 with the release of ‘Someday’. Meanwhile sharing the bill with Noel McKoy in charge of the vocals duties. With production work courtesy of Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick of the Incognito fame. Then nothing until 2015 apart from a furtive appearance on the ‘The Beach Club’ compilation back in Summer 2013. Why then? Well, probably because of Ralph Tee‘s activities as Expansion Records label manager, I would say…
Diplomats Of Soul nevertheless returned after a 9 years hiatus. Not only with one but 3 singles in 2015. Beginning with their cover version of Mystic Merlin‘s ‘Just Can’t Give You Up’ featuring Noel McKoy. Then teamin’ up with Imaani and Incognito on their cover version of Tom Browne‘s ‘Brighter Tomorrow’. And, last but not least givin’ their own rendition of James Mason‘s ‘Sweet Power Your Embrace’ along with Vanessa Hayes and Incognito.
– Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick and Paul ‘Tubbs’ Williams gave birth to Incognito as an offshot from Light Of The World back in 1979. From then, the group has collaborated with la crème de la crème of an ever boiling British groove scene.
Strangely enough, it took them 10 years to deliver the follow-up to their debut-album – ‘Jazz Funk’ – released back in 1981. But their recognition would be instant with the release of ‘Inside Life’. An album which featured the memorable ‘Always There’, ‘Crazy For You’ and ‘Can You Feel It’. But also marked the start of a long relationship with Gilles Peterson‘s label. The latter eventually bringing Incognito‘s repertoire to new audiences with the help of remixers such as Masters At Work, Roger S and Carl Craig among others. This resulting in the rework of gems such as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, ‘Givin’ It Up’ and ‘Out Of The Storm’.
How to not remember neither of their brilliant participation to the 1994 ‘Stolen moments: Red Hot + Cool’ album issued on GRP? And more precisely of ‘Trouble Don’t Last Always’??? One of the best British Jazz/Funk compositions of all time which saw them jamming along with Carleen Anderson and Ramsey Lewis…
Meanwhile, the beginning of the Millenium would mark a turning point for Incognito. The band switching from Talkin’ Loud to Döme Records with the release of their 2002 ‘Who Needs Love’ album. Extra gems following from then. From ‘Morning Sun’, as beautifully edited by Danny Krivit. To ‘Step Aside’ with remixing work courtesy of Dimitri from Paris and DJ Mémé. But also ‘We Got Music’ as remixed by Matt Cooper. This in addition to ‘Freedom To Love’ which eventually got a release on Reel People with Atjazz in charge of the remixing duties. Or their cover version of Ned Doheny‘s ‘To Prove My Love’ to name but a few.
Under his own banner, Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick delivered his debut-album – ‘Leap Of Faith’ – in March 2013. There, he brilliantly made the demonstration of his skills as a singer. Meanwhile as a producer, he has collaborated with artists such as Paul Weller and George Benson. Not to mention Terry Callier and, more recently, Diplomats Of Soul (‘Brighter Tomorrow’ and ‘Sweet Power Your Embrace’). Then Russian singer Olga Makovetskaya.