Dan Reed / Dan Reed Network

Dan Reed Network

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Although Living Color's debut, released the same year, got much more attention, the first album from this Pacific Northwest quintet also made a strong effort at breaking down pop music's racial barriers. The multi-ethnic group had its roots deep in traditional AOR, but the songs on Dan Reed Network get their freshness from the swinging R&B grooves underneath the big guitars and Bic-flicking anthems. It's an approach that worked well a decade earlier for Mothers Finest; Reed and Co. go a step further, dressing their funk-rock up for chart consumption with help from producer Bruce Fairbairn. Although Fairbairn's touch was golden on Aerosmith's brilliant 1987 comeback album, Permanent Vacation, it's occasionally too heavy-handed here; chattering synths mar "I'm So Sorry," and he unwisely indulges the band in an old-fashioned, overblown (though admittedly catchy) power ballad, "Tamin' the Wild Nights." Still, producer and band mesh with exciting results on the tribal-flavored single "Ritual" and the locomotive rock-disco of "Human." And on "Forgot to Make Her Mine" and "Baby Don't Fade," the shuffling beats, gritty guitars, and Reed's charismatic vocals get even closer to wiping out musical color lines. Dan Reed Network never quite obliterates those lines completely, but listening to the group try is entertaining, at least.

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