Living Colour
Vivid


5.0
classic

Review

by DaveyBoy STAFF
January 24th, 2009 | 310 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Impressive songwriting, musical talent & original fusions of sound result in one of the greatest albums of all time!

"And during the few moments that we have left, we want to talk right down to Earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand". With this edited snippet of Malcolm X's famous 'Message to the Grass Roots' speech, so begins not only one of the greatest debut singles of all time, but one of the greatest albums full stop! Of course, the choice of Malcolm X is more relevant here since New York City quartet Living Colour are in fact all African-American, a rarity in their chosen genre of hard-rock/metal.

The band are not so narrow-minded however, with the same track - Grammy Award winning lead single 'Cult Of Personality' - later containing excerpts from JFK & Franklin Roosevelt, in examining the two-edged sword concerning life as a world-famous politician or social figure. Amongst this reviewer's greatest ten songs of all time, the aforementioned cut is memorable from the get-go with a thick crunching riff courtesy of founding member Vernon Reid and the driving rhythm section of Muzz Skillings & William Calhoun. Extroverted lead vocalist Corey Glover then provides the perfect blend of intensity and cynicism that the track requires, before it is all topped off by an orgasmic solo which is too often forgotten when "Best Solo" lists are compiled.

Following such a tremendous hard-rocking opener, the last thing one would expect to hear from the remainder of the album is diversity. Yet, that is exactly what is served up and makes 'Vivid' such an impressive debut. Providing a fusion of rock ('Middle Man'), funk ('Theme Song'), pop ('I Want To Know'), metal ('Desperate People'), jazz ('Broken Hearts'), punk ('Which Way To America"'), reggae ('Glamour Boys') and even hip-hop ('Funny Vibe'), each member prove their talent in being able to adapt to the needs of each particular piece.

Whether they are straight-forward or extravagant, Living Colour find a way to make their songs both meaningful and hooky. Highlight 'Open Letter (To A Landlord)' is a touching power-ballad with a twist, as it takes to task money hungry slumlords with one-part poignant and one-part biting lyrics. "Now you can tear a building down, but you can't erase a memory" sings the soulful Glover, before snarling "Last month there was a fire, I saw several children die. You sent flowers to their family, but your sympathy's a lie".

The other end of the spectrum sees a funky almost hip-hop like cut in 'Funny Vibe' always stay on the correct side of both cheesiness and seriousness. Featuring Chuck D & Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, the words here are super simplistic, yet hit home as hard as any other to effectively get its anti-racism message across; "No I'm not gonna rob you... No I'm not gonna beat you... No I'm not gonna rape you... So why you wanna give me that funny vibe""

The quality of songwriting evident on 'Vivid' is akin to that of a veteran band, not one making their debut. On top of the cuts already mentioned, 'Middle Man' uses another crunching riff to back its simple and to-the-point lyrics which the mass populous can easily relate to. Glover is phenomenal vocally here, as he is on the ravaging and intense 'Desperate People'. Then, just to show their ability to take another artist's track and make it their own, Living Colour perform an inspired version of Talking Heads' 'Memories Can't Wait'.

In truth, there is hardly a flaw on 'Vivid'. Sure, it is a touch front-loaded with most of the highlight tracks coming prior to track 7, but that does not mean that the latter half offers little. 2nd single 'Glamour Boys' (which was produced by Mick Jagger) adds a poppy reggae-like feel to proceedings and even gets a laugh as it takes aim at the silver spoon brigade. Like 'Funny Vibe' before it and 'Whats Your Favorite Color" (Theme Song)' after it, the line of silliness is almost crossed, yet there is a pop sensibility which makes each track difficult to dislike. 'Theme Song' especially, is almost annoyingly catchy in its funky simplicity.

As all great albums should do, 'Vivid' also ends with an absolute corker of a song in 'Which Way To America"'. The second track to be produced by Jagger, Muzz Skillings (who is astronomically good throughout this LP) provides excellent bass-work to this almost punk-like cut that is altogether fantastic musically. Corey Glover delivers impassioned lyrics here concerning the gulf between the different socio-economic classes in America; "I look at the T.V, your America's doing well. I look out the window, my America's catching hell... I just wanna know which way do I go to get to your America""

If I may repeat what I stated earlier on in this review, Living Colour's 'Vivid' contains one of the greatest individual songs of all time. Yet, when all is said and done, it is a combination of the musical talent on hand and the original fusions of sound which makes the entire release a truly great album. Meshing the super-tight rhythm section with Reid's thrilling guitar-work (there is almost a solo in every song, no matter what its leanings) and Glover's striking vocals, 'Vivid' is not only an even and consistently impressive album that should appeal to a wide audience, but it is one which has stood the test of time. In fact, it sounds just as fresh now as it did when it was released 20 years ago!

Recommended Tracks: Cult Of Personality, Open Letter (To A Landlord), Desperate People, Middle Man & Which Way To America"



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Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Voila!

Willie
Moderator
January 24th 2009


17610 Comments


This album crossed my mind, but I dismissed it for some reason. Happy 100th.

Edit: Oh yeah, the solos on Cult of Personality are awesome... especially for the time period.This Message Edited On 01.24.09

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Trey.

You probably dismissed it because you don't think it's anywhere near a 5?

Was the "later work being a touch industrial" clue not too misleading?

Willie
Moderator
January 24th 2009


17610 Comments


I wouldn't have really called it "industrial". Minor electronics does not an industrial influence make.
I also don't think it is near a 5 simply because nothing is nearly as good as the opening track.

Vooligan
January 24th 2009


3541 Comments


*Richie Benaud voice* "And Davey brings up the ton with another cracking review, marvellous knock that."
Yep never heard of these guys.

Willie
Moderator
January 24th 2009


17610 Comments


Yep never heard of these guys
Go listen to the song "Cult of Personality" right now!

http://www.last.fm/music/Living+Colour

Edit: And let the whole song finish... god help you if you stop it early!This Message Edited On 01.24.09

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Fair enough on the 'industrial' subject Trey. I was referring to songs like 'Auslander' off of 'Stain' if you wanted specifics.

As for nothing else on the album approaching 'Cult Of Personality', you are not wrong there, but then again I am uncertain it is even realistically possible. It was the diversity of the album after such a strong cut that won me over right from the very first time I heard 'Vivid'.

Thanks Richie... I mean Billy. And yeah, do whatever you have to in order to listen to 'Cult Of Personality' and then find someone with Guitar Hero 3 so you can jump around your living room pretending to be Vernon Reid playing it!

Vooligan
January 24th 2009


3541 Comments


I cant stream any songs on the internet atm as i have dial up speed so it will take forever (i downloaded a little too much this month so the internet got slowed) but as soon as it returns i shall.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

No downloading self-control Billy!? It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Let us know what you think when you give it a listen... Of course, I already know. ;-)

Vooligan
January 24th 2009


3541 Comments


None what so ever.
You'll need to remind me, cos the internet doesnt return from the dead until the 4th.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Man, that's like 2 weeks away. So you're like one of those guys that sprints out at the start of a marathon with a superman costume on & then just walks off after getting their face on camera! ;-)

Vooligan
January 24th 2009


3541 Comments


Man, that's like 2 weeks away. So you're like one of those guys that sprints out at the start of a marathon with a superman costume on & then just walks off after getting their face on camera! ;-)
Dude i hate all forms of competitive running. Cricket and AFL ftw. But nah just cos its holidays i downloaded a heap of stuff early.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

You must have had an off day Chan. Head up bro.

Spamue1G
January 24th 2009


1291 Comments


Unsurprisingly great review, Davey. I've never heard of this, but you made me wanna listen (which I'll go do right now).
On that note, I finally got round to listening to the Best of House of Pain. I actually liked Everlast's solo stuff more than the House of Pain tracks, but my favourite out of the House of Pain was (only just, I liked most of it a lot) mostly off the self-titled.This Message Edited On 01.24.09

Douchebag
January 24th 2009


3626 Comments


HOLY SHIT!

YOU ARE NOT GONNA BELIEVE THIS!

I was actually at work, and cult of personality came in my head and I thought that maybe your review would be that band (because they were similar to extreme), however I didn't know any of the bands albums so I dismissed the idea.

I know your not gonna believe me, but that was real freaky. Looks like I better give this album a listen.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Spamue1. Obviously, it would be interesting to know what you think of this.

For whatever reason, I never really got around to giving Everlast's solo stuff a good listen. It's definiotely different to House Of Pain, but his really good tracks are definitely of high quality. It was the remainder of his solo albums that concerned me.

Hey Croc, guess what... I don't believe you! LOL! I'm not sure I'd call them too similar to Extreme either. The lyrical content is especially miles apart. I mean, you are comparing "now look what you've done, stuck in your thumb & pulled out a plum" to "I sell the things you need to be, I'm the smiling face on your tv. I exploit you, still you love me.... I'm the cult of personality".

bastard
January 24th 2009


3432 Comments


man i wasn't expecting this. I mean, I guess it makes sense to expect something of this sort, but still.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

What were you expecting Maxy?

And I can't quite make out your new avatar picture/photo... Care to fill us in?

bastard
January 24th 2009


3432 Comments


i really don't know

my avatar is from internet commenter business meeting from College Humor.


DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2009


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"my avatar is from internet commenter business meeting from College Humor."

I've just had a couple of really strong drinks, but even if I was 100% sober, I'm unsure I would have any idea what you are going on about.



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