Vernon Reid, “Mistaken Identity,” Sony/550. (***)
Reid’s previous outfit, Living Colour, was not only ambitious but blessed with more than enough chops to realize Reid’s thrashy, funky, jazz-inflected hard-rock vision. Ironically, it was the sheer force of the group’s musical will that was perhaps its greatest shortcoming; there was so much going on with such intensity that it was often hard to connect with the human beings behind it. Though this solo outing is loaded with many of the same stylistic components, the results are more personable. Instead of compressing the elements into a rock construct, they’re allowed to glide and collide in varying configurations.
Much of the album is instrumental, and the tracks that do feature vocals (from rappers Chubb Rock and Lady Apache, poet Sekou Sundiata and actor Laurence Fishburne) tend to emphasize vocal texture over words, with the exception of humorous interludes such as “Call Waiting to Exhale” (a collage of phone conversations) and “Important Safety Instructions! (Mutation 2),” which outlines the proper care and use of your karma. Don Byron’s fluid clarinet flutters and squeals, meshing nicely with Reid’s trebly spitfire guitar, while bassist Fred Hopkins, drummer Curtis Watts and turntable impresario DJ Logic generate a spate of rhythms from the percolating to the pendulous. Happily, it seems Reid has found himself with “Mistaken Identity.”
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).