Vernon Reid & Masque

Other True Self

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It's hard to say exactly what was missing from Vernon Reid's last album, Known Unknown. He had basically the same players and seemingly the same basic elements as on Mistaken Identity, but it somehow didn't add up to the same thrilling experience (despite being a fine album). Maybe it was the difference in production teams; maybe the songs weren't quite there -- who knows? Well, that certain something seems to be back with Other True Self. Longtime bandmates Leon Gruenbaum and Hank Schroy are still on board with Don McKenzie in the drummer chair, and Reid assumes sole producer duties for the first time this time out. This is probably the most diverse set of tunes to land on a Masque album, too. "Game Is Rigged" starts things out with some of the hard rock flourishes you might expect from Vernon Reid, but "Flatbush and Church Revisited" is a straight-up reggae number and "Prof. Bebey" is African highlife, Vernon Reid style. Leon Gruenbaum offers up a great hard rocker with "Whiteface" and drummer Don McKenzie wrote the atmospheric "Kizzy." Hank Schroy didn't actually write anything, but did a nice, spacy arrangement for the traditional Brazilian tune "Oxossi." There are a handful of covers as well, with great versions of Radiohead's "National Anthem" and Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence"(!). No matter what the setting, Reid's deranged soloing and unbelievably wonderful, sick tones underscore why he's one of the most instantly recognizable guitarists there is. Leon Gruenbaum is a close second when it comes to wild solos, many of them on his own Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeeepee (search for it to see exactly what it is). There are some truly wild sounds here, and careful listening (try headphones) reveals even more interesting details under the surface. Vernon Reid is probably best known in guitar circles, but this is his most eclectic solo effort to this point and goes way beyond the typical shredder mentality. It's got about as much gonzo guitar as you could ask for, but with none of the macho posturing so prevalent on so many "guitar" albums. It's a well-crafted album, not just a platform for a series of solos. Other True Self is a great band effort led by one of guitar's unique voices, and quite an exciting musical ride.

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