Friday, May 3, 2013


Living Colour exploded onto the scene with their unique blend of funk, blues, metal, reggae, psychedelia, gospel, and old school R&B.  After years building a reputation as a session guitarist in New York, Vernon Reid recruited the members of his own band.  'Vivid' was recorded at Skyline, Sound On Sound, and Right Track Studios in New York with producer Ed Stasium.  Mick Jagger produced two of the tracks.  The sessions featured Corey Glover on vocals; Vernon Reid on guitar; Muzz Skillings on bass; and Will Calhoun on drums; with Mick Jagger on harmonica and backing vocals; Chuck D doing some rapping; Flavor Flav adding social commentary; Dennis Diamond as the carnival barker; and The Fowler Family providing additional backing vocals.  

Their incendiary political content raised a lot of eyebrows at the time.  Reid considers:   "There’s nothing more dangerous than ideas matched to melody. Songs are very powerful. That’s why so much human emotion is attached to love ballads, and our rituals of mating and rituals of battle or sportsmanship are tied to music. Anthemic songs if you will. Your school fight song, and so on. Music has a strong potential. I am always struck at how we will take an idea, and ideas work in opposition to each other. For example, ‘dog is man’s best friend,’ ‘you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time, you ain’t never caught no rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.’ And it’s funny how that song started out as a black blues number, and became, it was a great song, and great songs transcends whoever did them. You know, songs have a life of their own. This is one of the things that is so funny about taking our music, or stealing our music, that sort of idea. The problem is that one group dominates the other group socially, politically, economically. By that same token, jazz is a combination of African rhythms and European harmony. The giving and taking goes back and forth, and has always gone back and forth. Language is the battleground. We hear it all the time. The writer George Orwell said, it best, 'Political language is not to be trusted.' This hysteria around the music, let’s be frank, was about sex and race. It’s about race, but the hysteria is really about race and sex. And all of those things, you know, political ideas, how are my children going to turn out, who is going to influence my children? Everyone wants their hands on your kids. The government wants their hands on your kids, the churches want their hands on your kids, advertisers want their hands on your kids.  And then here comes rock and roll. And here comes that part of the hysteria around it. Every generation of parents has a terror of what’s going to happen. And I think at that time, the PMRC was just a manifestation in that particular time of parental hysteria. That hysteria is manifested in these are crazy ideas, the idea of transcendence, the idea of the door of perception, the idea of freedom. Freedom is a terrifying thing. Freedom and democracy are not the same thing. We conflate them all the time, and that’s the other part of it.  It’s completely tribal. I think it’s a DNA level. I think racism is also an evolutionary strategy to dominate. You know, like why don’t you like me? You don’t like me because you can clearly see I am other than you. The fact that you can see I am other than you, without hearing my voice, right? The thing is that white men have been killing each other in Europe. We focus on race and racial violence. But the reality of it is that Europeans have been murdering each other for centuries, millennia, in fact. Part of the thing about language is, people listen to accents. Somebody told me that when two Englishmen meet, the first thing they do, is they try to figure out who the other person is pretending not to be, or what neighborhood they’re pretending to not be from. At a certain point, one of the things that a gentleman would do is to master several accents of his own language. So if he’s from a certain area, and he has to speak a courser language, then he could do that. In a way, the fact that race is homogeneous, I think it’s a mistaken idea that people don’t find differences. Race just makes differences obvious. Race is obvious. But when you go to places that are homogenous, you find murder and abuse, and terror all the time. So in a weird way, it actually takes a little bit of heat out of the race, because this is a human problem. It’s a problem between the genders, between lifestyle choices, the conflict. I was struck by how if you go to Germany or Italy, listening to people from the south of Germany, how they talk about the people in the north of Germany, and what they’re focusing on is their accents. They make fun of their accents. The Italians and the French do the same thing."

The band received a lot of press about being an all-black heavy metal band.  Glover says:    "We never believed in labeling.  How do you label something that has so many elements in it? We were really struggling with that concept...We were all pretty green as it pertained to what we were venturing into, new territory, and wondering what was going to happen.  We didn't know how it was going to be perceived (musically). That was going to happen, whether we were trying or not."

'Vivid' went to number seven in Norway, six in New Zealand, and number two in the US.  'Cult of Personality' won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

"Cult of Personality"

"Open Letter (To A Landlord)"

"Glamour Boys"

full album:

01. Cult Of Personality 00:00
02. I Want To Know 04:49
03. Middle Man 09:11
04. Desperate People 13:02
05. Open Letter (To A Landlord) 18:37
06. Funny Vibe 24:08
07. Memories Can't Wait 28:30
08. Broken Hearts 33:00
09. Glamour Boys 37:50
10. What's Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song) 41:29
11. Which Way To America? 45:24

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