H.R.

Out of Bounds

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As lead singer of the mold-breaking Washington, D.C., reggae/punk quartet Bad Brains, H.R. (born Paul Hudson) presided over some of the most tightly constructed, structurally complex, and ferociously intense rock & roll ever made. As a solo artist, his output has been more mystical, more explicitly reggae-based, and, frankly, pretty uneven -- brilliant moments on Human Rights gave way to incoherent self-indulgence on some of his later solo work and collaborations. Out of Bounds was originally recorded around 1990, but wasn't commercially released until about ten years later. It finds H.R. in dub mode -- the throat-shredding falsetto he employed with Bad Brains is gone, replaced by a crooning baritone, and his backing band lays down track after track of deep, slow one-drop grooves in an ambience dripping with reverb and throbbing with echo. Sometimes it sounds as if H.R. is making it up as he goes along ("Look What Love Has Done" and "Enjoy tha Book" sound particularly extemporaneous), but the combination of his winning voice and the minimalist muscularity of his band make it all worthwhile. A must for fans.

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