Living Colour

Vivid Colour - Vivid (Epic) 1988

1.      Cult Of Personality (4:55)
2.      I Want To Know  (4:24)
3.      Middle Man (3:47)
4.      Desperate People
5.      Open Letter (To A Land Lord) (5:36)
6.      Funny Vibe (4:20)
7.      Memories Can't Wait  (4:31)
8.      Broken Hearts (4:50)
9.      Glamour Boys (3:40)
10.     What's Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)  (3:56)
11.     Which Way To America  (3:42)

Living Colour are an American hard rock band from New York. I was in college when this album was released and it was all the rage. Everyone loved them! Living Colour broke down music and racial barriers, as did some of the rappers at the time. They were being billed as a "all black heavy metal band", though that really isn't the case. The band were made up of four black men, who not only played a style that crossed racial barriers, but also was beyond proficient. Vernon Reid could tear up a fret board with the best of them. Their sound was a mixture of Fishbone, Faith No More and the glossy heavy metal coming out of L.A. at the time. At times they remind me of Extreme, though they never really seemed to box themselves in musically. They are probably best described as hard rock, though they mix in elements of jazz, hip-hop and funk as well. A song like "Funny Vibe" can't be described as anything but funk. The song features guest vocals by Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy fame. "Vivid" sports what is probably the band's most well know song, "Cult of Personality". It's an upbeat rocker with an undeniable hook and ton of groove. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1989. However, the album as holds such classics as "Open Letter" and "Glamour Boys", both of which were fairly popular at the time "Vivid" was released. However, it is my opinion that "Vivid" is a solid listen from beginning to end.

From what I have read on-line, "the remastered version of this CD is completely messed up. While the low-end had been enhanced, the album is added to the growing number of remasters in the loudness wars. As such, the low-end is muddy and the high end is irritatingly muffled. Also, the song "What's Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song") has been chopped on the remastered version down to about 1:44 from 3:55." So, I am glad that I have the original mix/master CD.

Time's Up Living Colour - Time's Up (Epic) 1990

1.      Time's Up (3:05)
2.      History Lesson (:52)
3.      Pride (4:55)
4.      Love Rears Its Ugly Head (4:19)
5.      New Jack Theme (3:30)
6.      Someone Like You (3:47)
7.      Elvis Is Dead (3:50)
8.      Type (6:26)
9.      Information Overload (6:11)
10.     Under Cover of Darkness (4:17)
11.     Ology [instrumental] (1:07)
12.     Fight the Figh (4:32)
13.     Tag Team Partners (:48)
14.     Solace of You (3:38)
15.     This Is the Life (6:23)

For Living Colour's sophomore release, the band decided to open their sound up to a wider range of styles and also include an array of guest artists. There are appearances by by Queen Latifah, Little Richard, Doug E. Fresh, Maceo Parker and James Earl Jones. Despite the celebrity list, the music isn't just mainstream pop. The album opens up with a unique blend of funk, punk and speed metal. It's an odd combination that is most likely inspired by Bad Brains and challenges any pre-conceived notions about the band based on their mega-selling debut.

Things aren't quite as frantic with follow-up tracks. "Pride" is straight-up hard rock with that groove that people expect from Living Colour. "Elvis is Dead" is a funk based, hard rocker as well. With "New Jack Theme," "Information Overload" show the band steeping into heavier territory while "Love Rears It's Ugly Head" contrasts with funk-based rhythm and blues. This song was actually quite successful for the band garnering the band a hit single in Europe and Australia. "Solace Of You" mixes African rhythms with an overall jazzy tone. There's also a handful of short 'filler' tracks such as "History Lesson", "Tag Team Partners" and the short instrumental. "Ology". The album ends with a six-minute long moody track.

Overall, "Time"s Up" is a diverse hard rock album. Though the album wasn't as commercially successful as "Vivid",  it did reach gold status, peaked at #13 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy for best hard rock album of the year in 1990.

Stain Living Colour - Stain (Epic) 1993

1.   Go Away (4:03)
2.   Ignorance Is Bliss (3:17)
3.   Leave It Alone (3:29)
4.   Bi (4:46)
5.   Mind Your Own Business (3:17)
6.   Ausländer (2:38)
7.   Never Satisfied (4:06)
8.   Nothingness (3:30)
9.   Postman (3:31)
10. WTFF" (What-The-F**k Factor) [instrumental] (2:15)
11. This Little Pig (3:04)
12. Hemp (1:36)
13. Wall (5:23)

"Stain" is the third full-length studio album by Living Colour and their first to feature bassist Doug Wimbish. The music is much heavier, angrier and more aggressive than anything the band had recorded previously. As a matter of fact, the strong funk-rock fusion is largely absent from this recording, with some exceptions. One of those exceptions is "WTTF", a wonderful instrumental track. As well, "Bi" is a dynamic song that blends pop, R&B and heavy metal. Otherwise "Stain" is filled with bludgeoning hard rock with socially charged lyrics. A song like "Wall" beats the listener over the head with a message against prejudice and pleads for acceptance. "Stain" was the last album from Living Colour for over a decade.

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