Vernon Reid was the lead guitarist of Living Colour and is known for breaking the mold of what is typically expected of black artists in music. This is the kind of artist I love - he's worked across the genres: hard rock, punk, funk, R&B, avant-guard jazz, and more. His solos have become stuff of legend. He made his solo debut in 1996 with this one. In the meantime, he's also been working with several groups, bringing his unique style to several different groups and albums. He's been a session guitarist and producer all over the place.
So there's the quick version of his bio, just to provide some background. Let's do this, shall we?
"Cp Time" kicks things off with this entirely funky rock beat and sound that's completely entrancing this first time around. It's repetitive as hell for the first minute, don't get me wrong, but when it breaks into a little more and different noise, it stays so damn interesting and fun. There's a sort of rap that eventually comes in, but it fits and rocks things along. There's even some kind of electronic flute sound thing going on. Ahhhh such a good opener!
The next one continues on a cool DJ beat, but brings this guitar skill we've heard of to an extreme level. In "Mistaken Identity," the guitar spends so much time doing its own thing, while everything else is keeping to a general planned pattern. The guitar provides that melody we might normally be craving throughout from words, but in its own, crazy, unique way. There's beauty to it, without being sing-songy - there's still some grit and most definitely power behind every single note.
Now, warning, just... brace yourself for this video.
Next up is a shorter little diddy, with, I'm sure, some sort of political message, "Who Are You? (Mutation 1)." Don't quote me on that political message part, because there's also talk about boogers. Maybe it's something a little more on the human race. Whatever the idea may be, it's a mix of these different spoken word elements from totally different places. Kind of makes me think of the TV show "Boondocks" from late nights on Cartoon Network. This is totally the kind of thing that would play during that.
"Lightnin'" starts off pretty funk with no speaking voices to well, speak of. It's interesting - so many of these songs have a very similar feel throughout, but they don't get boring as I would expect. They also provide a really welcome distraction from your own thoughts when you realize your next two weeks are going to see you not seeing a lot of people. Eh, sorry, that was a weird side note, but hell, it's my blog, so deal with it. Anywhos, the music. The guitar's definitely at the front of the band here, even with that bass trying play loud and clear behind it. It's sort of like a jam session, but for once not everyone's trying to do their own thing at the same time.
These songs flow too well into each other. "The Projects" picked up without me noticing at all. It's a lot more of the same as the last song, which by now has gotten a little old. The only reason I even clicked over the check was that the consistent sound was getting on my nerves. Then I realized it was not just on one song, which is why it must have seemed like it went on forever...
"Uptown Drifter" is downright groovy. There's this awesome reserve to it that none of the other songs have had so far - I guess you could call this the slow song on the album. Everyone kicks back just a little bit to let us relax as the song goes on. It's freakin' perfect in so many ways that I can't put my finger on. I'm just in love wit the sound entirely.
Can anyone else out there not help but think of Kurt when you see the title "Saint Cobain"? I'm almost positive that with this grungy sound, that's exactly what Vernon was going for. There may be loopings into this that include his music or words, but I'm not looking it up right now (notice that the nighttime reviews are so much more just about listening intently). It's a pretty interesting twist for the album and if it means what I think it does, it's also a fascinating tribute.
"Important Safety Instructions (Mutation 2)" is LITERALLY that - instructions, from an Indian man's lips, on how to use karma safely. It is fantastic and funny and fascinating (like that alliteration? Bam.). There's a backing music in a Bollywood style that keeps the beat working, but man, those words are where it's at.
The next one was deceptive. I thought it was going to be incredibly drum-driven, but turned out to have a slightly annoying high-toned guitar line... which may be a horn, now that I'm listening to it a little more closely. "What's My Name" doesn't ask a question, other than me going "when is this ending?" I have never totally loved shredding guitar all that much, and it's certainly not sitting right on whatever notes are trying to be played here.
"Signed Fictitious" brings things back to a hip-hop feel, which is certainly welcome after that mess. It's not bad. I should have paid closer attention to the words to know what the hell was being talked about, but give me a break - I'm recovering understanding after that last go-around.
We get one more quick little interlude-type track with "Call Waiting To Exhale (Mutation 3)." It's some random-ish conversation over the phone about something or other. I mean, lordy... I have no idea what's going on, and then there's a click.
"My Last Nerve" brings on the saxophone as the primary instrument of choice this time... wait, that may be a clarinet. See, this is why I need to incorporate more research into my reviews. There are just not enough hours in the day people!! If someone wants to pay me to make this my primary job, then damn it, y'all would get so much more info. And probably less personal tangents - right, we were writing about a song here. It's cool. It's got a little more big-band feel than the previous tracks, but there's still something odd and interesting going on in the background. Sort of a funky-oddity.
I sort of love the melodies playing into "Freshwater Coconut." It's just weird enough to be interesting. I think the sampled vocal sections are what might be killing it for me, but I guess otherwise this really would just be an organized jam session. The DJ definitely spins in this whole different pacing and feel to the song throughout that defies a genre explanation. Then there's a reggae lady that shows up... man, I want to know if she's mixed in or live on stage. Such an odd mixture of sounds all mashed into one track!!
"Mysterious Power" continues the horn/woodwinds kick we seem to be on, but never fear - there are still some odd little vocal tracks mixed in from time to time. This is definitely more of a kick-back and relax sort of track. The guitar is even telling us so. It's probably still an electric, but with far less pedal usage to affect its sound. There's more pure strings going on, really making for a great number as a whole.
And then there's one final complete twist in the game - "Unborne Embrace." This is... wow. Okay, so you know how the rest of the album's been mostly about this funk feel, using the guitar in completely different ways, and almost paying homage to several types of music? I could maybe see this being a Hendrix tribute, the way the guitar is so left to just sing out, but it's placed over this string backing that's beautifully mind-blowing. Then, at about the two minute mark, everything stops. The track keeps going, but I'm not hearing a blessed thing. Oh WAIT - three minute mark, we get a fake TV add for "Who Invited You?" This is so... odd. But I'm not terribly surprised.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Cp Time"
- "Mistaken Identity"
- "Uptown Drifter"
- "Important Safety Instructions (Mutation 2)"
- "Mysterious Power"
Final verdict? You never know what you're going to get on this one, apparently. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. This was quite the adventure. There was a lot to take in here, and lots to enjoy. This was, by far, one of the most interesting listening sessions I've ever been though, specifically because I never knew what was coming. Some was hard on the ears, and some was amongst the best damn stuff I've heard in a while.
Oh, and why not? BONUS VIDEO!! All my love to CM Punk.