Sunday Old School: Living Colour
The great thing about alternative metal is there's such a wide variety of bands in the one genre, some of whom retained a constant signature sound, while others such as Faith No More experimented continuously to create a brand of rock music which painted with every colour from the palette. Faith No More weren't the only band to do this, a band from New York named Living Colour combined everything from funk to electronic in their attempt to produce hard rocking, but interesting music. Living Colour was formed in 1984 by Vernon Reid, an English born guitarist that grew up in New York who was also one of the founders of the Black Rock Coalition, an organisation which sought to encourage black musicians with an interest in rock music. He performed with a large number of musicians under the Living Colour moniker before eventually finding a stable lineup in 1986 which featured bassist Muzz Skillings, drummer Will Calhoun and vocalist Corey Glover, who up to that point had been an actor and had appeared in the Oliver Stone movie, Platoon amongst other things.
They performed regularly at the legendary club, CBGBs and it was whilst playing there that they caught the attention of iconic Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. They soon signed a deal with Epic Records and got to work on their debut album, "Vivid," which was released in May of 1988. The album featured guest appearances from Mick Jagger, who performed harmonica and backing vocals, as well as Chuck D and Flava Flav from Public Enemy, and became one of the most acclaimed records of the year. Though sales were initially rather slow, its momentum was boosted immensely when MTV began playing the video for the albums opening track, "Cult Of Personality," helping the album to reach as high as number 6 on the Billboard Album Charts and eventually achieve Double Platinum status. Their profile increased greater still when they performed on the legendary TV show, Saturday Night Live, before joining Guns N Roses to open for the Rolling Stones.
Faced with the task of following up a massively successful debut album, the band wrote and released their sophomore effort, "Time’s Up" in 1990. Like their previous effort, the record contained notable guest appearances from the likes of Little Richard, Queen Latifah, Doug E. Fresh and legendary actor, James Earl Jones. The album peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Charts and soon went Gold, before earning the band a victory at the Grammy Awards when they won the award for Best Hard Rock Album of the Year. Musically, it saw the band experiment a great deal more, incorporating thrash metal, hip-hop, jazz fusion, electronica and much more into their alternative metal style. They then took part in the first Lollapalooza tour along with such acts as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Body Count and headliners, Jane’s Addiction, during which time they released an EP entitled, "Biscuits," which was mostly comprised of outtakes.
Despite the success and acclaim, Skillings decided to leave the band after the release of "Biscuits" and was replaced by Doug Wimbush, who had previously played for such big artists as Madonna, Joe Satriani, Seal and long time Living Colour supporter, Mick Jagger. With Wimbush in tow, the band released their third album, "Stain" in 1993, which was seen as a much darker output, focusing more on thrash metal and industrial music and, most likely down to its heavier tone, was only able to reach number 26 on the Billboard album charts. Although the band attempted to write a fourth album in the nineties, they were unable to envision a sound shared by all four members and decided to call it a day in 1995, leaving the quartet to explore other musical outlets.
On December 21st 2000, Head>>Fake, the drum and bass project featuring Wimbush and Calhoun performed a show at CBGBs where they advertised that they would be joined by special guests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the guests turned out to be Glover and Reid, who performed a few songs together before deciding to bring the band back. They eventually released their reunion album, "Collideøscope" in 2003, which was universally praised but failed to chart. The band continued to tour after its release and in 2005, Sony Records released a live album named, "Live from CBGBs," as well as a compilation album entitled, "Everything Is Possible." After performing as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar, Glover and the rest of the band recorded their first live DVD, "On Stage At World Café Live," before releasing a second live DVD in 2008 named, "The Paris Concert." In 2009, the band released their first new album for six years, entitled, "The Chair In The Doorway," which saw them make a return to the Billboard Charts, entering at Number 159. Living Colour are now working on their sixth album, which will mostly likely be released next year. In a recent interview with Billboard.com, Reid claims that the band are looking to reconnect the relationship between metal and blues, giving fans a pretty big clue as to what to expect from their new material.
Living Colour - "Cult Of Personality"
Living Colour - "Pride"
Living Colour - "Nothingness"
Living Colour - "Song Without Sin"
Living Colour - "The Chair"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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