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.