Color Me Badd (Giant 24429)
At first hearing, what seems to make Color Me Badd so good is its singing. From the lustrous, dreamy "I Adore Mi Amore" to the lusty, languorous "I Wanna Sex You Up," seldom have soul harmonies sounded so sweet. Wonderful as it is, though, that singing is only half of what makes the quartet's debut, "C.M.B.," shine; just as important is the way those smooth harmonies are powered by pumping hip-hop rhythms. It hardly matters whether the groove is synth-pop slick, like the high-tech "Slow Motion," or retro-soul, as with the Motown-flavored "All 4 Love" -- the Badd boys are at home with both. Which is why soul fans should color this great.
Living Colour (Epic 47988)
Hits may be what make a reputation, but the truest test of a band's greatness is its leftovers -- the songs that normally fill out B-sides and obscure imports. Which is why Living Colour's new EP, "Biscuits," is a far more revealing work than either of the band's two albums. Sure, it has much of the fire that burns through those releases; in fact, the live rendition of "Desperate People" actually upstages the studio version on "Vivid." But the tracks that ultimately show the band's mettle are those which go beyond metal -- whether through the reggae psychedelia of "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" or the brutal groove of "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing" -- to demonstrate just how wide-ranging this band's sound can be.
Kraftwerk (Elektra 60869)
More often than not, buying a remix album is like settling for a new coat of paint after asking for a complete remodeling. That's not the case with Kraftwerk's "The Mix," however, for on it the legendary synth group offers entirely new recordings of such classics as "Autobahn," "Trans Europe Express" and "Pocket Calculator." This is Kraftwerk's first digital recording -- hard to believe, given the group's early embrace of computer music -- yet much of the music actually sounds warmer and more human than it did originally. Could it be that all those years spent wishing they were robots ultimately made these guys more human?
BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY
Music from the motion picture
As anyone who has seen their movies knows, what makes Bill and Ted so likable is that they are wonderfully stupid, denser than any heavy metal (nuclearly speaking, anyway). So you'd think the soundtrack to "Bill &Ted;'s Bogus Journey" would be equally cool -- and boy, would you be wrong. Even though there are moments of greatness here, like "Junior's Gone Wild" by King's X or Kiss' stunningly Gothic "God Gave Rock and Roll to You II," much of the music here is more bogus than anything dreamed up by the evil DeNomolos. No battle-of-the-band winners here, dude.