Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Skinny's Music - Collideoscope Review

Along with the likes of fellow black-American acts Fishbone, Bad Brains and Body Count, Living Colour helped crash-tackle the rock scene of white America in the 1980s and early 90s, with seminal tunes such as "Love Rears Its Ugly Head," "Bi," "Leave It Alone" and "Cult Of Personality." So when I heard there was a new Living Colour CD being released, I assumed it would another posthumous greatest hits package. But "Collideoscope" is actually a new studio album, the band's first in a decade since 1993's "Stain." It only takes about ten seconds of opening track "Song Without Sin" to realise Living Colour are back, thanks to the distinctive mix of Glover's vocals and the chunky guitar riffs of Vernon Reid. But Living Colour have diversified their hard rock sound for this new decade by adding fresh elements to the mix. Electronic beats and sampling are the backbone of "In Your Name" (with a lyrical structure reminiscent of The Beatles classic "Come Together"), reggae and dub permeate the excellent "Nightmare City," while there's plenty of funk in "Holy Roller." And they've cleverly spliced elements of Public Image Ltd's "The Order Of Death" with the mantra-like refrain of 'The customer is always right' to come up with the rock/techno hybrid "Choices Mash Up/Happy Shopper." As with the band's past work, there is a decidedly social and political bent to many of these songs, such as on "Sacred Ground," with references to Chico Mendez and the Rainbow Warrior, and the dirty lo-fi grunge of "Operation Mind Control." But whereas on previous albums Living Colour mastered a fun and surreptitious way of delivering their social commentary, they seem more overtly serious on "Collideoscope." It shouldn't come as any great surprise that Living Colour have covered two songs here, given their last decent output was a cover of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" for the movie soundtrack of Arnie's (sorry, Governor Schwarzenegger's) "True Lies" in 1994. The choice of the first cover song might startle some however - an electro-laced take on The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows." And while Glover's attempt at emulating Brian Johnson during their faithful rendition of the AC/DC classic "Back In Black" is substandard (and almost comical), Reid's sensational guitar solos more than compensate. Metallica take note - guitar solos still have a place in heavy rock music today! You'll find more examples of Reid's outstanding craft on "Lost Halo" and "Great Expectations." Another string in the band's bow is the ability of its rhythm section (bassist Doug Wimbash and drummer Will Calhoun) to maintain the volume and momentum while Reid takes off on his flamboyant guitar excursions. Other highlights on "Collideoscope" include "A ? Of When," with its surreal and twisted sampled introduction, the sublime "Flying," sounding like a long-lost Ben Harper gem, and the laid-back groove of "Pocket Of Tears." Living Colour could easily have played it safe by reverting back to the straight-up rock sound of their early "Time's Up" and "Vivid" albums with this comeback release, but kudos to the band for their willingness to further expand their sound.
Lee Oliver

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When Living Colour burst onto the scene in with their debut album ‘Vivid’ in 1988, the world praise the hard rock acts amazing mix of jazz, funk and metal. Their follow up, 1990’s ‘Time’s Up’ proved the band’s incredible musicianship growth, and a strengthening political consciousness, while 1991’s ‘Biscuits’ and 1993’s ‘Stain’ maintain the high the band had achieved. Then, without warning, they split. Apart from a best of release a couple of years later (1995's ‘Pride’), little has been heard from Living Colour as a collective unit...that is until now! After an eight-year absence from the scene, the members (Guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Will Calhoun, vocalist Corey Glover and bassist Doug Wimbish) have regrouped for their first recording in ten years. As expected, ‘Collideoscope’ is true to Living Colour’s original design, and essentially picks up from where ‘Stain’ left us all those years ago. The opener ‘Song Without Sin’ is without doubt one of the thickest and heaviest tracks the four piece have laid down to date, but still retains Glover’s gloriously soulful vocal tapestry amongst the din. ‘A? Of When’ could well have been lifted from ‘Time’s Up’ with Reid’s trademark looped riff, while the deliberate muddiness within ‘Operation Mind Control’ and ‘Choices Mash Up/Happy Shopper’ show the experimentation with sound has not been diminished over time within the groups collective thinking. There’s a slight eighties Bowie feel (‘Ashes To Ashes’) to the soulful laid back groove of ‘Flying’, but the opposite extreme is presented soon after with the sample laden industrial crunching anti-war sentiment of ‘In Your Name’. Living Colour is determined not to stay within the singular framework of hard rock for any length of time, and to prove the fact, there’s shades of metal/reggae in ‘Nightmare City’, blues influences in ‘Holy Roller’ and heavy handed rock on ‘Sacred Ground’ (Which has been reworked and re-recorded from ‘Pride’). There are some moments of commercial appeal though. Both ‘Pocket Of Tears’ and ‘Lost Halo’ are mid paced rockers with an easy feel, while ‘Great Expectations’ explores some remote funk angles. Perhaps two of the albums surprising moments are the covers of AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ (The albums lead off single) and The Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. Glover’s performance of ‘Back In Black’ is especially noteworthy, with his execution of all the high notes hitting the mark every time. ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ on the other hand is obviously a chance for the band to stretch out their musical expertise with an unbridled jam beyond the scope of the average musician (As the instrumental sequel ‘Nova’ proves). While many will hail the comeback of the New Jersey foursome, there’s also a word of caution the precipitates ‘Collideoscope’. This is no ‘Vivid’, but more an extension of ‘Stain’, with little regard of current trends or commercial expectations. Having said that, for fans of this groundbreaking act, this is perhaps one of the true success stories of a return to form, especially after a hiatus that lasted far too long for my liking.

For more information on Living Colour, check out - http://www.livingcolournet.com/

Justin Donnelly

Living Colour CollideoScope DVD audio
For the most part, you can purchase the Dolby 5.1 Surround sound DVD-audio from Amazon.com, CDUniverse.com and at some of your local BestBuys.

excerpt from amazon re: dvd-audio :
DVD-A is the latest way to hear multichannel, audiophile-quality albums in your home, using your DVD or DVD-Audio player. A DVD-A can hold up to seven times the data of a normal CD, which results in added features and better sound. Also, with its sampling rate higher than that of average CDs (up to 192 kHz, whereas most CDs get 44.1 kHz), you may hear a lot of details in music on a DVD-A that you'd never discover on an average CD. And, since nearly all DVD-As are engineered for multichannel/surround-sound listening (using five or six speakers), with the right equipment, you'll be able to hear your favorite music in breathtaking surround sound.

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