Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Living Colour - Time's Up
I'm just going to get right to the point. This is my favorite album, ever. Out of all the albums I've ever listened to and could choose from, this is it. I'm not saying this is the best album of all time or making any grand declaration like that. Just that if you want to make me really happy, put this album on. It will do the trick, no matter the mood, no matter the occasion.
This was probably Living Colour at their absolute commercial peak. Their first album had the crushing hit “Cult of Personality”, and they never wrote another song that captured the public like that one. But that first album wasn't that great. Good enough to get people's attention, but nothing compared to this one. And let's just address the elephant in the room. This band got a lot of attention and press because they were an all black band playing music that was not traditionally played by an all black band. I think this also caused a lot of problems for them, because the music industry, in the late 80's and early 90's, with MTV in full flight, HAD to have a way to pigeon hole a band and make them fit into nice, neat categories. This is a band of amazing jazz musicians who came together to play this amazing blend of rock, funk, soul, jazz, pretty much anything they wanted to throw into the mix, because that's how good they are.
There is some absolutely mind blowing music on this album. “Love Rears Its Ugly Head” is a love song, but not in the usual sense. It's probably the best summation of what it feels like to be a guy when you find that first woman that you really fall for as an adult. No mushy high school romance, but as a young adult and you find that woman that really makes you ponder what it could be like to spend the rest of your life with someone. The fact that its a funky little jam with a nice sense of humor makes it all the better.
“Elvis Is Dead” is my favorite track on this album. The song is a little dated, but if you were alive in 1990 when this album was released, there was almost a hysteria among Elvis fans that he just couldn't be dead, and the tabloids had a field day with reports of Elvis sightings, theories on how he was still alive and hiding out, etc. I have to honest. I have always despised Elvis. I have never found any redeeming qualities in his music. I have never understood the hype. And if today, you despise the Justin Biebers of the world, you can thank Elvis. He was the first manufactured pop idol. All manner of pop culture was “borrowed” from to create the Elvis persona. A lot of his moves, style of singing, and stage manner was taken from black artists. To have a black band write a song like this, taking back their own, stating openly that they were fed up with the Elvis worship, was an awesome thing. This song captures it all and tells it like it is. Also, it might be another thing that kept this band from being as big as they should have been.
There is a ton of great music on this album. The other song I will mention specifically is “Solace of You”. It's a beautiful song, a meditation almost on how we can have a person in our lives who is our home, in whom we can find solace no matter what else is going on in our lives or in the world around us. It is a wonderful dialing back of the power of this band, which has blazed on through track after track for about 45 minutes at this point. It's a great opportunity to catch your breath and to see another side of a band that just could do no wrong on this album.
You've probably gotten the point that to me this is a monster of an album. This is a fantastic concoction of 4 musicians who are masters of their instruments, who are at the height of their powers as a band, and who just open up and let it roar. They tackle social issues of the time and if you really care about what is going on in society it is not an easy listen. As powerful as the music itself is, the lyrics are just as powerful and they are worth a listen. It's worth it to sit down with this CD booklet and follow along with the lyrics. Corey Glover is a gifted singer and lyricist and he has a lot to say.
If you heard these guys back in the day but just thought of them as some novelty act, you really need to listen to this again. If you were a fan but haven't heard this music in a long time, you need to listen to this again. And if you've never heard this band, you need to listen to this. This is what music should be about. No easy genre definitions, no fear as to topics being addressed, 4 guys letting it absolutely rip and daring us all to keep up. Grab on and hold on tight. It's well worth it. Start with this album and check out the rest of their catalog. You will be much better for it.