Friday, July 31, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 152 - Living Colour - Vivid

By: March

Album - Vivid
Artist - Living Colour
Key Players - Vernon Reid - Guitar. Muzz Skillings - bass. Will Calhoun - drums. Corey Glover - vocals.
Produced By - Ed Stasium and Mick Jagger on "Glamour Boys"

Release Date - May 3, 1988

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- Blame Guitar Hero honestly. Granted you can still hear Cult of Personality from time to time on rock radio, me trying to played "Cult" on medium has proved taxing enough!

Overview - Formed in New York City in 1983, Living Colour ran over rock radio with their funk metal that was popular at the time. What made the band stand out to middle America (for better or worse) was the fact the band was made up of all African Americans. In the very early years they'd have a fan in Mick Jagger who had Reid and Calhoun play on his solo record "Primitive Cool". With a strong demo the band would get singed and released this record. It would peak at #6 on the Billboard charts, they'd play Saturday Night Live and share a bill with Guns and Roses opening for the Rolling Stones. They'd cap off the albums success with a Grammy Award for "Best Metal Performance" for "Cult of Personality".

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- After a spoken word intro ( "And in the few moments we have left, we want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand."This is Malcolm X, from his "Message To The Grass-Roots" speech in 1963.) the buzzy guitar from Reid opens "Cult of Personality". Quickly you realize this is one solid band. Calhoun and Skillings offer great bottom to the track and Glover has more of a soaring vocal style than you'd expect. Reid could be gruff, but sings in varying octaves and the band really excels. Reid gets a flashy guitar solo early before they return to the verse again but gets a longer and flashier solo later. Calhoun and Skillings get to show off a little as well with their tight rhythm. John F. Kennedy says "Ask not what your country can do for you" and the band fires back off for one more round. The famous lines "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" taken from Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first inaugural address in 1933 wraps up the track. The up tempo rock feel continues on "I Want to Know". Reid is more choppy on guitar at the outset, but you hear Skillings pop off the bass a little more. Glover and the rest of the guys have some good harmonies on the chorus. The song is tight, and "clean" you can hear each guy and the vocals are mixed just right.

the band would share a live bill withGuns and Roses andthe Rolling Stones

Reid who is a jazz guitar player really has a great solo at the end as well. The choppy guitar opens "Middle Man" and percussion is up in the mix this time. Glover is in fine voice once more. For a band as "heavy" he has a pretty light voice. Don't read this as he is not a powerful singer, because that could not be any further from the truth. The more chaotic "Desperate People" begins and the guitar, bass and drums are all flying. The bass pops, guitar throws down big chords and the drums punch it all up a notch. The vocals come in about the one minute mark and Glover growls a little this time, and the vocals are sung between guitar chords. Glover really pushes himself later vocally and the longest guitar solo on the record is unleashed by Reid on this track. Its a blistering track that has fallen under the radar for sure. Behold its awesomeness in the down load section. A far more laid back intro brings in "Open Letter (To a Landlord)" with just a solo guitar and then Glover singing along. The song picks up in intensity in short order and although not as flashy some of the prior tracks, its no less "rocking". One of the first "guests" on the record appear on "Funny Vibe" , when Public Enemy's Chuck D and Flavor Flav offer some commentary on the track. At the start its a hard rocking affair that is instrumental before switching to a deep funk groove. The lyrics are not really given in rap form, but Glover sings over the top of the verse at times to give it a more melodic touch. Skillings and Calhoun again really anchor this tune. There is a false ending and Reid shreds a great solo to bring it back. The band does a cover next. Talking Heads "Memories Can't Wait" (which was on Talking Heads Fear of Music record) and again Reid wastes little time making this tune his. The chime coming off the ride cymbal is way up in the mix and the bands does a very respectful version, yet making it their own at the same time. Mick Jagger plays harmonica on "Broken Hearts" which opens with the harmonica and a big horn sound. It seems a little out of place, with the band taking a much slower approach, but this might need to be their power ballad moment. Reid has a cool solo, but its not overly interesting as a whole. Jagger returns on "Glamour Boys". He produced this track, and he sings backing vocals. Skillings get to show off his chops on the bass intro and the Reid has a quick wah wah guitar groove he latches on to. Calhoun keeps pretty simple time but the tune has a real fun vibe to it. "What's Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)" is another very funky track. The horn section returns to offer blasts over the top. The lyrics are short and to the point and this is more a showcase for the band. The album closes with "Which Way to America?" another very quick paced tune with Reid playing short choppy notes and Calhoun and Skillings each getting turns to really throw down. About 2:50 in Glover goes crazy and the band erupts around him.

Where are they now? - The band disbanded in 1995 after some creative differences. In 1992 Skillings had left the band and was replaced with Doug Wimbish on bass. After a few years the band reformed in December of 2000 at CBGB's in New York. Since then they have released a studio record, and a few live records and DVD have come out. The band is currently working in a new album (their fifth) and it is due out in the US in September 2009.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- The only time I saw the band was August 8, 1991 as part of the first Lollapalooza. Living Colour was one of the later in the day bands to have a set, but I recall most folks were sort of passive about the whole thing. I recall the drum set being under a pyramid but that is largely it sadly.

FDF Overall Take - There is little doubt the band is/was very strong. Calhoun, Skillings and Reid really need to be mentioned more often when it comes to strong and skilled players. Glover is no slouch either with some great pipes. The band might have fallen off your radar after their second cd "Time's Up" but upon a re-listen they do warrant more of their time. Curious to hear what the new cd shall bring. Grab this, a best of, or both for that matter, and talk up the band with the respect they have earned.

The band on myspace

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The mp3's have been removed.
Desperate People
Funny Vibe
Glamour Boys

You can get a re mastered and expanded version of the cd here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

I saw them at Bowdoin College in '89 or '90. I like this album a lot, but like Time's Up even better. Very under-rated band!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger dalyj13 said...

Saw them at the same place but i want to know what happened to the band that opened up for them at Bowdion College. They were a very heavy all black band. And i mean haevy. For the time Like thrash metal.


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