LIVING COLOUR: Vivid [Tape cassette] 1988 hard rock, modern jazz, funk, soul. #64 in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums! Check videos “Middle Man”, “Cult of Personality”, Talking Heads’ “Memories Can’t Wait”, “Glamour Boys”, “Open Letter (To a Landlord)”, “Funny Vibe”

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At a time when rock was increasingly looking beyond its own frontiers for inspiration, Vivid was a genre-mashing stake in the ground, taking in hard rock, modern jazz, funk and soul and more and binding them together with an incisive political spirit. Blistering opener Cult Of Personality is an powerful and eloquent statement of intent, and this is a seminal album.

Track listing
1. Cult of Personality
2. I Want to Know
3. Middle Man
4. Desperate People
5. Open Letter (To a Land Lord)
6. Funny Vibe
7. Memories Can’t Wait
8. Broken Hearts
9. Glamour Boys
10. What Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)
11. Which Way to America

Vivid is the debut studio album by the American rock band Living Colour, released on May 3, 1988, through Epic Records. It was one of the most popular albums of 1988, peaking at #6 on the US Billboard 200 chart and certified double platinum by the RIAA.

Singles from Vivid
  1. “Middle Man”
    Released: 1988 
  2. Cult of Personality
    Released: July 14, 1988
  3. Glamour Boys
    Released: 1988
  4. Open Letter (To a Landlord)
    Released: 1988
  5. Funny Vibe
    Released: 1988

Playing time: 49 min.
Contributing artists: Bernard Fowler, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Mick Jagger
Producer: Ed Stasium, Mick Jagger
Living Colour: Vernon Reid (vocals, guitar); Muzz Skillings (vocals, bass); William Calhoun (vocals, drums, percussion); Corey Glover (vocals).
Additional personnel: Mick Jagger, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Dennis Diamond (vocals); Bernard Fowler, Muriel Fowler, Wilfred Fowler (background vocals).

Living Colour

Additional personnel

  • Mick Jagger – harmonica on track 8, backing vocals on track 9
  • Chuck D – rapping on track 6
  • Flavor Flav – social commentary on track 6
  • The Fowler Family – additional backing vocals on tracks 2 and 5
  • Dennis Diamond – carnival barker on track 8

Amid the deluge of glam metal that ruled the charts and airwaves in the late-1980s, NYC Living Colour issued its debut, 1988 VIVID. The album proved to be a much-needed breath of fresh air at the time, as the band was not just limited to hard rock–Living Colour sound contained punk, funk, reggae, soul, and freeform jazz. And while most other rock bands at the time were obsessed with partying and fast cars, Living Colour added thought-provoking lyrics to the mix (especially on such selections as “”Open Letter to a Landlord””).
The album-opening “”Cult of Personality”” remains an ’80s hard-rock classic, while such other cuts as the rocking “”Middle Man”” and “”Desperate People,”” a remake of the Talking Heads’ ‘Memories Can’t Wait,”” the downhearted “”Broken Hearts,”” the reggae-tinged “”Glamour Boys,”” and the instrumental “”Funny Vibe”” are all standouts. All the genre-jumping alternative-metal bands of the late-’90s owed a great deal to Living Colour and this classic debut.

Editorial reviews:
Included in Vibe Essential Black Rock Recordings.
Vibe (02/01/2002)


…A headbanger delight…Rolling Stone (09/19/2002)


…Even the likes of Eddie Van Halen might lose some sleep over this stuff. But if you’ve heard Reid, you expected that. The surprise is the songs…
Spin (06/01/1988)


Ranked # 64 in Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s survey.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Stonking,
When soul met rock with blues, rap and funk thrown in for good measure Living Colour was the end result. These fellas could write, play and sing and they are one of the best live bands I have seen. This album kicked it all off and it sounds as good now as is did then. If you like the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they were good then you should already know about these, if not, shame on you.

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5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a go ahead for Rage Against the Machine,
Vivid, Living Colour debut album, is a superb album in its own right, and shouldn’t just be remembered for paving the road for more famous acts which followed in their footsteps. The breadth of musical interest is clear, ranging from the hard-hitting but melodic ‘Cult of Personality’ to the laid-back funk approach on ‘I Want to Know’. Those expecting however that just because the band are all Black this album will contain plenty of rap will be surprised by the versatility of singer Corey Glover voice. And the talent of the other band members also shines through, especially the bassist Muzz Skillings who takes a nod from funk bassists like Stanley Clarke as well as the conventional rock approach.
Having said all this it needs to be pointed out that the album does sound slightly dated now. Although the first part of ‘Desperate People’ could almost be a Rage song, ‘Middle Man’ is more like a Spandau Ballet song!
All in all, definitely worth a listen for any hard-rock fan.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Living Colors Still Not Faded…,
Re-hearing some of the riffs on this album, even now, stills gives me the bumps…”

30 years on, it’s difficult to contextualise the shock waves generated by the emergence of Living Colour. The four-piece group were articulate, exceptionally proficient musicians with a fresh sound that struck like a lightning bolt. Avowed to protest the political injustices of the New York City locale in which they’d grown up there was another significant reasons why Living Colour challenged the status quo of hard rock music: they were black.

While musicians like Maiden’s Steve Harris, Lemmy and Anthrax all stood in Living Colour’s corner, others were intimidated. In such less enlightened days the only way the band could disarm the situation was by sending it up. From the stage at London’s Astoria in 1988, frontman Corey Glover announced: “Hi there. I’s your new neighbour.”

Living Colour were, and remain, phenomenal musicians who landed in the funk rock arena by default, simply because their talents were too big for every other idiom. Led by guitarist Vernon Reid, a jazz player, funk giant and shredder, and fronted by Corey Glover, Living Colour made an immediate splash with their debut album Vivid. Part of this was due to their fluorescent trousers, but the rest was down to massive songs such as Cult Of Personality and the pop anthem Glamour Boys.

Background

At a time when rock was increasingly looking beyond its own frontiers for inspiration, Vivid was a genre-mashing stake in the ground, taking in hard rock, modern jazz, funk and soul and more and binding them together with an incisive political spirit.

A smash hit single, Cult Of Personality, plus sampled speeches by John F Kennedy, Malcolm X and Franklin D Roosevelt, helped to fuel two million sales of their debut album, Vivid.

“Metal has always been a very tribal thing,” says guitarist Vernon Reid. “It’s also extremely competitive. I embraced the power of hard rock, but we were unwilling to play by its rules and culture. Some felt we were provocative merely for existing.”

Some of Living Colour’s detractors also objected on the grounds that the group had friends in high places. The patronage of noted writers David Fricke and Kurt Loder had already set wheels rolling. And with a rival label turning them down, the band were signed to Epic Records at the instigation of Mick Jagger, who produced their demo tape, two songs from which appeared on Vivid. Reid and drummer Will Calhoun expressed their gratitude by guesting on Jagger’s Primitive Cool album.

30 years on, things have moved on a little. “At least the definition of rock’n’roll has expanded,” says Reed. “I love the fact that it’s no longer the exclusive domain of the white man.”

What the press said…

“Screaming electric guitar punctuates the raucous melodies and street-smart lyrics on Vivid, an album that not only marked the auspicious debut of the hard-rocking band Living Colour but was also credited with breaking down racial barriers in pop music. The band proved to be the first black rock group to attract a large mainstream audience since Sly and the Family Stone in the early Seventies, and the album’s ascent was accompanied by as much hubbub over the band’s ethnic makeup as its compelling style.” (Rolling Stone)

“The album was also incredibly consistent, as proven by the rocker Middle Man (which contains lyrics from a note penned by Glover, in which he pondered suicide), the funky, anti-racist Funny Vibe, the touching Open Letter (To a Landlord), plus the Caribbean rock of Glamour Boys. Add to it an inspired reading of Talking Heads’ Memories Can’t Wait, the Zeppelin-esque Desperate People, and two complex love songs (I Want to Know and Broken Hearts), and you have one of the finest hard rock albums of the ’80s — and for that matter, all time. (AllMusic)

“A few songs–the just-minding-my-own-business-sucker Funny Vibe, the Mick Jagger production/tribute Glamour Boys, and Middle Man if it’s as unironic as I hope–are smart enough, but while it’s momentarily exhilarating to hear this all-black band come power-chording out of the box, after a while the fancy arrangements and strained soul remind me of, I don’t know, Megadeth. Like any New Hendrix, Vernon Reid is only as good as his last context, and I’m not positive crossover metal is a good idea even in theory.” (Robert Christgau)

What the fans said…

Brian Carr: When you listen to the ridiculous variety of music I do, there are a handful of bands/artists that just fall through the cracks. Sadly, Living Colour is one of those bands for me.

I bought Vivid when it was first released and loved it. I bought Time’s Up and Stain as well. Amazing musicianship throughout: Vernon Reid probably plays a little more “outside” than I normally prefer, but he’s still a tremendous player, and the rhythm section of Muzz Skillings and Will Calhoun are slamming. Corey Glover’s voice always impressed me. To me, he’s the glue that holds down the musical variety of the songs.

And how about those songs? Cult of Personality was a perfect debut; I Want to Know has a great singable chorus; nice machine gun riffing on guitar and bass on Middle Man; Will holds down Desperate People so Vernon can slam leads and fills along with that killer riff while Corey wails the perils of addiction.

Open Letter is beautiful (intro and chorus) and angry (verses and solo) in the same song and Muzz really shines. Every song has something tasty for me to gnaw on and listening to Vivid this week makes me question why I don’t treat my eardrums to Living Colour more often. Thanks Classic Rock for reminding me and reviewers for schooling me that the fantastic Memories Can Wait is a Talking Heads cover – I never caught that.

Jacob Tannehill: An absolute classic debut album. Any band that earned the respect of The Rolling Stones, Public Enemy, Anthrax right out of the gate, is a classic band in my book.

These guys wore their influence on their sleeves. From the cover of Talking Heads Memories Can’t Wait to the country honk of The Stones in Broken Hearts to the metal of Cult Of Personality, to straight-up funk rock of Open Letter (To A Landlord). There was not a bad song on the record. Vernon Reid became a guitar hero over night just from Cult Of Personality alone.

The album still holds up today.

Dave Ferris: For me (in 1988 as a midwestern white college kid), this music was incredible to take in. It was heavy and aggressive, yet it was improvisational and inventive. There was a groove to it and it was slamming in the assault. There was also social commentary about the state of race relations in America. There has been a lot written about rap and hip-hop in the 80s and 90s as the voice and commentary of the black community. Well, I didn’t relate to the hip-hop culture. But, I would listen to the music of Living Colour.

I was working in a record store at the time and I remember opening this album for in-store play and it soon became my pet project to promote. But, when I asked the customers who had bought it what they thought, the common answer was “It’s not bad for a black rock band.” That bugged me. It shouldn’t have mattered whether or not what the color of the band members was. This was an awesome debut album.

Ben L. Connor: Amazing album. A band with something to say and an original sound. Riffs and hooks for days, and the incredible guitar work of Vernon Reid.

People lament the hair metal acts that got swamped by the grunge wave, but it’s unclassifiable bands like this that were the true victims of the music industry shifting all its focus to finding the next Nirvana.

Jerry Lantz: What’s not to like about this debut album from one-of-a-kind band. You like old school funk? It’s in there. Is a great guitar riff your thing? They have you covered. Like some social commentary with your music? Here it is. This album has been on my rotation list for three decades…. ’nuff said.

Mike Donnelly: A fantastic rock album. When it was released, I thought this album was really good and then, I saw them live at the smaller venue Riviera in Chicago promoting the album in ’89 or ’90 (?) and was blown away. This album broke so much new ground and is still fantastic to listen to today. It’s funny that Veron Reid was more a jazz guitarist before this, but his background really has an influence on the whole album. Great choice to listen to over and over again. “So why you wanna gimme that… funny vibe

Favorites in order of appearance: Cult, Middle Man, Desperate People, Open Letter, Funny Vibe, Memories Can’t Wait (killer Talkin Heads cover), and the cheesy, Jamaica-jammin’ Glamour Boys.

Mike Knoop: A fun and adventurous album that I admit I didn’t listen to the first time around. Maybe Cult Of Personality was too ubiquitous on the radio or maybe there was just too much other stuff to choose from. Having listened to Vivid several times this week, I now feel it’s one of the trailblazing albums that built a bridge from hard rock to the alternative nation on the horizon. See/hear also Faith No More’s The Real Thing, King’s X’s Gretchen Goes To NebraskaJane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking, or Uplift Mofo Party Plan by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Marco LG: The memories: it was 1988, the 14-year old version of me was just discovering hard rock and heavy metal, and to that end he sat watching MTV for hours on end. The video for Cult Of Personality came out, and you can rest assured I was very much hooked! The album was cool, it was heavy but you could also have it on at parties, where friends who were more into pop would compare it to Terence Trent D’Arby and accept it because of that.

The current reality: the album remains a great listen, but some songs have aged more than others. Cult Of Personality remains the best song of the lot, Open Letter (To A Landlord) sounds better today than 30 years ago, while I Want To Know and Funny Vibe make me want to press the skip button.

Overall: a great album which retains all the elements that made it a hit in 1988/89 but showing signs of age here and there. Thank goodness the band is still alive and kicking, and their latest offering is just as good if not better!

Carl Black: As the great Robert Johnson once sang “meet me at the crossroads”. That’s how I’d describe this album. Rock had come to a crossroads, and Living Colour was the ☓ that marks the spot.

They didn’t look, sound or move like rock bands from the previous 20 years, however I hear IMO Kiss, Rush and the Beatles. On the other side of the crossroads I can hear Rage Against The Machine. Influencing rock music for the next 20 or so years.

The trouble with trailblazing bands such as these, Fishbone and Urban Dance Squad, is they fall between the gaps. They should be massive but they don’t appeal to either side of the crossroads divide. Living Colour supported Anthrax and the Rolling Stones around this time. Not thrashy enough for the Anthrax crowd, not traditional enough for the Stones crowd. As an album it’s a fine collection for contemporary, fresh rock’n’roll that will forever be stationary on the crossroads of rock.

also CHECK:

Urban Dance Squad: Deeper shade of soul 12″ Promo. SUPER RARE (25 minutes of music) Fantastic Check video

PUBLIC ENEMY: Bring the Noise + Sophisticated 7″. Anthrax covered this one. Check videos

ANTHRAX: I’m The Man [among the first rap metal songs] + Caught in a mosh (live) 7″ Check videos

FISHBONE: Ma n Pa PROMO Ska pop Punk 1989 CD rare PROMO (exclusive songs) Check VIDEO link.

Iggy POP, FISHBONE, Dan REED NETWORK, BLUE AEROPLANES (Promo 7″ EP 33 ⅓ RPM). Cold Metal Check videos

24-7 Spyz Strength In Numbers. [Tape] 1992 For fans of Living Colour. Check samples + official video.

ELECTRIC LOVE HOGS S.T — Excellent thrash heavy with some funky bass

MORDRED: In This Life LP (1st ever to mix Funk with THRASH Metal). Faith No More on steroids. Check video!

FURILLO: Break the Game CD Best punk ska album ever Check videos

DUB WAR: Pain CD PROMO 13 songs. Different artwork + Bonus track. [G MOSH 121 CD PRO] Ragga metal. Check videos / samples

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: Taste The Pain CD. Rare. Different version / different cover. Check videos

ELECTRIC LOVE HOGS S.T — Excellent thrash heavy with some funky bass. CHECK VIDEOS

DUB WAR + SCORN + JOHNNY VIOLENT. Earache Records / ATOMIC MAGAZINE 7″. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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