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Living Colour ~ Vivid
Living Colour's exceptional debut is strong all the way through; there simply isn't any weak material on this album. Generally classified as hard rock, Vivid also contains touches of funk and even jazz, which keeps things interesting. Living Colour were also one of the few bands to succeed in writing socio-politically conscious songs that never sound preachy; they take on politicians ("Cult of Personality"), slumlords ("Open Letter (To a Landlord)"), modern life ("Desperate People" and "Glamour Boys"), and the gap between rich and poor in America ("Which Way to America?"). Outstanding music, skilled lyric-writing, and Corey Glover's strong singing make these songs entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, something most bands never manage to do. -- Genevieve Williams
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1. Cult of Personality. Unless you were living under a rock in 1989, you know this signature tune and hard rock classic - the powerful vocals of Corey Glover, the metal/jazz guitar explosion, the Zepplenesque drumming.
2. I Want to Know. If there is a single weak track on this record, it is this very simple pop-rock tune.
3. Middle Man. Although often forgotten, this funky rocker was actually the first single and breakthrough to rock radio.
4. Desparate People. A dose of punk, an lyrical omage to Led Zeppelin, and a whole lotta hard rock make this one a live staple.
5. Open Letter (to a Landlord). This was one of their breakthrough hits, a social commentary backed up by simple balladry versus punk sensibilities.
6. Funny Vibe. On comes the tongue-in-cheek funk with "social commentary" by Chuck D and Flava Flav.
7. Memories Can't Wait. The fact that they would cover Talking Heads on their debut is not so suprising given their CBGBs background, but the blistering guitar work is shockingly good.
8. Broken Hearts. With a little help from their friends (Mick Jaggar on harmonica), the band combines the blues with some hip-hop beats.
9. Glamour Boys. As perhaps the most infectious hit from the summer of 1989, on this one, they combine elements of reggae, funk, and metal and a little help from Mick Jaggar (who contributed background vocals and production).
10. What's Your Favorite Colour? Clocking in at under 2 minutes, this is simply the funky theme song for the band and is just fun filler.
11. Which Way to America? A heavy-handed bass line drives the indicting lyrics into your conciousness as a perfect end to the original record.
Although I am not usually a big fan of remixes, the remix of "Funny Vibe" one, accompanied by additional production of Prince Paul and a horn section, is arguably better than the original. Furthermore, having seen them do this metal/punk laden Clash cover tune, "Should I Stay or Should I Go", on their first tour, I was glad to see it on the first single from their second record and it is a welcome addition here. The other bonus tracks (remix of "What's Your Favorite Color" and live versions of "Middle Man" and "Cult of Personality") are disposable.
Overall, this is a great package, and comparing it to the original CD release, benefits from remastering. I just hope Epic sees fit to do the same justice to their second record, 'Time's Up' (1990), which yielded classics "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" and "Solace of You".
The reader below asks "In how many ways do we need to hear how unfair society can be?" What an awfully naive question. Apparently, the answer for Living Colour is "not enough"! Sure, their agenda is clearly social justice and racial equality, but what do you expect coming from an African-American band playing "white" hard rock? In my opinion, Living Colour's message is one that needs to be repeated over and over.
As far as Vernon Reid "going overboard," I don't blame him for wanting to show off his considerable chops on this debut. But don't fail to point out how different he is from mere mindless Van Halen clones. Reid's style is all his own, a strange, broiling brew of influences including funk, jazz, rock, country, and more. He is a sharper, smarter player than just about any of those shredders from the 80's.
I'm not sure why their funky songs sound "contrived" to the reader below, but to me they sound awesome. What is contrived about them? They funk like crazy, and prove that Living Colour are probably the best rock funkers ever (aside from the Red Hot Chili Peppers). If you want contrived, listen to the garbage that's on the radio these days. THAT'S contrived.
All in all, a landmark album from a much-missed group.