Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Metal Band Living Colour Ignores Color Barriers

By Chris Regal
Published: Saturday, December 4, 2004

Living Colour was one of the most cutting edge bands of the late 1980s, especially within the metal scene. While their music was not particularly unique, the band itself broke stereotypes and racial walls all over the country by being one of the earliest all African-American heavy metal bands.

Sony Legacy has released a live concert recording from the band, titled "Live from CBGB." The album, which is currently available only for online purchase but has a retail release date in January, is a recording taken from one of Living Colour's performances at the famed CBGB club in New York, the group offers many different styles. The album was recorded in 1989, at the peak of Living Colour's popularity. They delivered a blistering hour-long set for, as described in the liner notes, a predominantly black crowd, despite the "white" nature of the club or the band itself.

Regardless of racial boundaries, Living Colour brought a big helping of rock and roll to the club that night 15 years ago. The set opened with the Top 20 single "Cult of Personality," in which the band played one of its more "metal" sounding songs. From there, the band ventured into an array of songs with heavy influences ranging from blues to punk rock, jazz and metal. The band showcased its diversity, jumping from the funky "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" right into a blues track, "Soldier's Blues" at one point in the set. "Solace of You" sounds as if it would better fit a beach setting, complete with Hawaiian shirts and frozen drinks with little umbrellas in them. "Sailin' On," is a great cover from fellow black rockers Bad Brains. The song is located almost exactly in the middle of the set and is a barrage of old-school hardcore beats with lightning quick soloing from guitarist Vernon Reid.

Living Colour was a very well-rounded band, something which was seldom seen in rock bands of the 1980s. Diversity among songs showcases the band's song-writing talents, while vocalist Corey Glover is the perfect match for every style they offer. Vernon Reid may be one of the most under-rated guitarists of all time, as he can easily switch gears from producing Jimi Hendrix-style sounds to rapid-fire metal solos a la Kerry King of Slayer and then move to B.B. King-style blues.

The only criticism of this record is not of the band itself or songs on it but, rather, of the sound quality. Like any live recording, instruments are not always in perfect proportion with one another. On many tracks, the drums are far too loud, drowning out the rest of the band, and Reid's guitar just is not loud enough for a guitar-based band.

Still, the band's talents shine through, as the band plays a very tight set and Glover's vocals never fall flat. This disk is highly recommended to fans of metal, blues, and even pop, as it incorporates a little bit of everything

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