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June 2006

Vernon Reid Masque
Other True Self
Favored Nations

How can music so bombastic be so boring? How can a musician so gifted give us a collection of recordings so unoriginal? Other True Self is the third instrumental album from Vernon Reid, the immeasurably talented guitarist who rose to fame in the late ’80s with the rock band Living Colour, and unfortunately it trades soul and emotion for volume and gimmicks. There’s a lot of prog rock, hard rock and heavy metal going on here, a good dose of the blues and a little bit of reggae and African influence. Sometimes it works; mostly it’s a mess.

Reid’s band Masque—which includes keyboardist Leon Gruenbaum, bassist Hank Schroy and drummer Don McKenzie—begins on a high note with “Game Is Rigged,” and Reid dives in headfirst with complex, searing melodies. Then it’s all downhill. The band turns in a faithful, harder version of Radiohead’s “National Anthem” that gets repetitive and a slow, dry take on Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” that finds Reid resorting to cheap tricks (somebody take away his whammy bar before he hits it again!).

Even the quieter moments fall flat; Gruenbaum’s New Age synth voice on the Afro-Brazilian “Oxossi” only serves to irritate. And several songs toward the end of the disc can be charitably described as “filler.” Reid’s own “Mind of My Mind” and “Prof. Bebey” are a lot of fun—upbeat and full of life—but by then it’s too late.

Originally published in June 2006
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