Friday, December 19, 2003

First CD in a decade showcases many shades of Living Colour

Times Correspondent
NorthWest Indiana news

It took Japanese food and an old band locker to help bring Living Colour out of retirement in late 1999.

"We had to resolve this space, and in doing that it made us have some conversations," bassist Doug Wimbish said. "We went out for Japanese, and ... we just started talking as friends, and parked everything else on the side. We had a nice evening ... it's amazing what Japanese food will do you."

Scheduled to perform an all-ages show Tuesday at Chicago's Park West in support of "Collideoscope," their first new album of new material in a decade, the New York City-bred hard-rockers first assaulted the airwaves in 1987 with "Cult of Personality," from their debut album "Vivid." They found continued success with "Vivid's" 1990 follow-up "Time's Up," performed in the first Lollapalooza tour, and showed staying power in the grunge era while keeping true to themselves with 1993's "Stain."

But in 1995, cults of musical personalities within the band clashed, and they called it a day. At least for the time being.

"When the band hit the shank, it happened abruptly," Wimbish said. "The ball just got dropped, (but) there was always this question of what and when could possibly something happen again."

Frontman Corey Glover released a solo set in 1998, "Hymns," and served briefly as a VJ on cable music station VH1. Guitarist Vernon Reid also released a solo album, "Mistaken Identity," in 1996, performed with his new band, Masque, and performed on and/or produced recordings by everyone from blues guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer to Cream bassist Jack Bruce to funnyman Chris Rock.

Wimbish, a long in-demand bassist who has performed on record and stage with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Madonna to Annie Lennox, released his solo set, "Trippy Notes for Bass," in 1999, and formed a pair of bands with drummer Will Calhoun, Headfake and Jungle Funk.

While still apart in name, Glover and Reid made selected appearances with Wimbish and Calhoun in the late 1990s. The above-mentioned Japanese dinner resulted in a Living Colour gig at CBGB's, the legendary New York City venue where the band got their start more than a dozen years earlier.

"But we all still had other things happening," Wimbish said. "It wasn't like we said ‘Yeah! We're going to stop everything else we're doing and jump back into (the band).' We slowly took our time to let it mean something for us to get to this point."

The band returned to the road for a successful tour in 2001 and convened at Wimbish's Massachusetts home base to record what would become "Collideoscope." Released Oct. 7, Living Colour effortlessly picks up where they left off on "Stain," with covers of AC/DC's hard-rock anthem "Back in Black" and the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" alongside more than a dozen originals.

"I'm so thankful that we were given the opportunity to park our indifferences, whatever they may be, and what really isn't anything now, and to just be able and enjoy the music," he said. "A lot of real good music out there today, to me, is rare. So you have to love it while you can. And to be a part of it is just so beautiful."

The band kicked off their current tour opening for pioneering prog-rockers King Crimson before venturing out on their own. Their current tour is scheduled to conclude in New Haven, Conn., on Dec. 7, but Wimbish says the band doesn't plan to stay dormant for another near-decade.

"Right now, there's a few things we have in the works," Wimbish said. "The album just came out (re-released) in 5.1 digital sound, and maybe we'll do an acoustic record of some kind. We've got a lot of great songs, and they sound really good not (performed) heavy -- we really have something timeless and special right now."

Chicago InnerView Preview : Living Colour @ Park West

Living Colour Returns
with Fresh Hybrid Sound, Serious Political Messages
story by Matt Meisinger

Living Colour synthesized metal and psychedelia to perfection with the acclaimed Vivid in 1988 and the overlooked Times Up in 1990. Their unique sound was a breath of fresh air amongst the high grunge concentration of the early '90s, and it sounds even fresher today amidst the current slate of homogenized rock acts - now that they are back in action after disbanding in 1995.

The band's meteoric rise on the strength of Vivid's powerful hit single "Cult of Personality" came sooner than vocalist Corey Glover had expected, but the band took it in stride. "Our kind of instant fame was a slight downfall," Glover told Chicago Innerview. "We would have preferred a slow burn, but success is what it is, you can't control it. If it happened after our second or third album, then people would be asking what took so long."

Collideoscope, the new album from Living Colour, begins with an aural assault of riffage and searing solos from guitarist Vernon Reid, one of today's truly visionary guitarists on "Song Without Sin". Their sonorous return to form begins with a theme evident throughout the record, commenting on dark times of the present, but brightly looking ahead. Collideoscope rolls on with the rumbling ferocity of Living Colour's rhythm section and Glover's soulful howling.

The new album title is a nod to the synergy that occurs when the right pieces come together. "Everything is the result of collision of something else. If it weren't for your parents colliding, you wouldn't be here. It's a play on words. Collision brings change, which we need today," Glover said.

It is not by coincidence that the band sounds as fresh as ever - they have been collaborating on each other's solo projects in between Living Colour projects. "We all worked on each other's solo albums," said Glover. "Will [Calhoun] worked on mine and I worked with Will and Doug [Wimbish]. We would always keep track of what the others were up to, helping out where we could."

Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish make up the relentless rhythm section that drives Living Colour's more balanced new sound. Elements of drum'n'bass and ambient jungle are interspersed throughout Collideoscope. The two played together as Headfake before being joined by Glover and Reid onstage at CBGB, planting the seed for a reunion. "The idea of getting back together was always around in conversation. We really had to do it. It felt like there was unfinished business," Glover said.

This album sounds like no other by Living Colour. The result of all their solo projects and experimentation has come together seamlessly on their latest effort. Besides guitar effects, looping machines and a slew of percussion instruments, they also used "different sequences, stuff we did in the past, but we really went full hog and took time to make use of new technology," Glover said.

Collideoscope took over a year to finish, and it sounds like their best ever. "We took the time to find our common focus, we wanted to have something to say with all that's happening in the world today," Glover noted. The song "Operation Mind Control" has a droning, raw sound and relates Glover's feelings about a fear-inducing media. "We are constantly told something is going to happen, hearing there is an orange alert. This causes chaos, which is a great motivator for some. But people can also be immobilized by fear."

Glover is fed up with the barrage of fear conveyed by the media, as his lyrics reflect: "Damn the repetition in this shadow factory / It doesn't look much like freedom to me…Just try on this straight jacket of conformity / While we force feed you propaganda / On the state TV." Another aspect of the media that he disagrees with is their questionable focus on celebrity. "How many people died in Turkey and Afghanistan today?," he asked. "It is hard to tell because every news channel is too worried about Michael Jackson riding around in some van."

Glover also keeps tabs on the government's dealings beyond what the media is feeding the masses. "In the time they are saying some terrorism is going to happen, they pass the Patriot Act, and people don't even realize it," he said. "They are too busy buying plastic sheets and duct tape." The war itself has also been on his mind. "I'm against any war, fighting never solves anything. It is always just taking something by force." Indecision and worry are prominent in "A ? of When," a new song that dissects fears of imminent war with the chorus "Not a question of if / But a question of when."

For all the songs with dark subject matter, there is an equal amount of joy expressed, as in the blazing cover of AC/DC's "Back in Black" and a transcendental version of The Beatles' Revolver-closing "Tomorrow Never Knows". Glover notes the contrast: "It's the two sides of same coin, talk about 'A ? of When', the flipside is 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. Tomorrow can be whatever you make it. It is not promised."

So what bands impress him today? "I love P.O.D.," he said. "I'm also into Sevendust, Linkin Park." This is so ironic since they are borrowing more than a little bit from Living Colour's sound, but they are an understanding bunch of guys - who waited for the perfect time to return.

This is like hearing that Eddie Vedder listens to Creed. Hopefully followers of nu-metal will hear this album and realize they are empty from years of a water-and-milquetoast diet. What to expect from their upcoming Chicago show? "It's going to be loud, fun and everyone will know we're back. Expect to be there for a while."

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