Monday, December 06, 2004

Live From CBGB's review

Living Colour Live from CBGBs (click to purchase online) from LiveFromTheVaults.com

Choice Cuts: "Fight the Fight," "Funny Vibe," "Little Lies"

***

Living Colour's legacy as one of the finest rock bands of the 1980s has been sadly fading, and each year more people know them as the guys who did that "cola personality" song instead of the genuinely singular juggernaut they really were.

This becomes increasingly confounding considering that the band was more approachable than Bad Brains, less intense than Public Enemy and less ridiculous than Fishbone. One could argue that the American public looks at its black rock acts like some sardonic minstrel show, but this becomes a moot point by the time Live from CBGBs reaches "Pride" and you start rocking too hard to give a flying fuck.

Live albums tend to be the stuff completists are made of, and this one is no exception. While smartly configured as a greatest-hits romp with a few unreleased tracks, the takes are far from definitive. They sound like a lot of fun to have lived through, but listening back through a stereo, Vernon Reid's overzealous guitar sounds just a shade on this side of empty shredding while Corey Glover's heavy-handed caterwauling does just as much to discourage repeated listens.

That doesn't mean the album is without its merits. More so than any of their contemporaries, Living Colour made seamless and straight-faced jumps between genres. Whether it was punk, metal, R&B, soul, funk, blues or reggae, they did it with equal parts grace and skill. This album captures the magic spontaneity they often brought to the music.

If nothing else, it serves as a reminder to the world of a great band that has been unjustly forgotten.

- Justyn Lopaczynski

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