With rap so pervasive in todayís pop market, itís hard to believe that Living Coloürís rap-metal fusion was still a striking departure in 1988, when the groupís debut, Vivid, was first released. But the roots of Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park are right here, tangled up in the knotty guitar blasts of Vernon Reed, whoís now delving further into rap-rock fusions with DJ Logic, Prince Paul, Slick Rick, and various members of Living Coloür as Yohimbe Brothers. (Their debut, Front End Lifter, recently came out on Rope-A-Dope.) Although the rhythm section were hard as titanium, Reed and singer Corey Glover were the bandís political and artistic brain trust. (In the reunited version of the group playing today, new bassist Doug Wimbush takes on a bigger creative role.) Sampling Malcolm X and singing about the corporate takeover of urban residences, Living Coloür bare their worried heart on track after track here. The issues of racism and inequity are chewed like bones, with Gloverís steely, soaring voice and Reedís gnashing, unpredictable guitar licks providing the teeth. To this day, nobody has mixed raw power, social issues, and jagged virtuoso playing with the same intensity and musicality. This reissue is augmented by five remixes, live tracks (including ripping takes on "Cult of Personality" and "Middle Man"), and a brass-knuckled cover of the Clashís "Should I Stay or Should I Go" that illustrates Living Coloürís poised balance of muscle and melody at every turn.
(Vernon Reed and DJ Logic perform a Yohimbe Brothers show next Friday, November 1, at the Paradise. Call 617-423-NEXT.)