From 1984-1989, it feels as if all I did was see the band Living Colour play live. From The Kitchen on Broome St. in downtown NYC, when the band was an instrumental trio, to the addition of vocalist Corey Glover and their semi-regular shows at Tramps, to countless sweaty, jam packed nights, sitting on top of amps that were already stacked halfway back towards the bathroom steps in CBGBs with my man Tim Vega, where we witnessed the band become legendary. What a run of mind-blowing live music.
Then the record came out on Columbia and they didn't fuck it up! It was all I wanted and more. It was slick, but not too slick. The material I had become so familiar with over the years was mostly intact. "Vivid" became a huge hit and I played the crap out of it.
I saw lead vocalist Corey Glover recently. He was singing with my buddy Maurice Brown, who was holding court at the Jazz Standard, for a residency of anything goes-type jams. This particular night was all about James Brown. We hadn't seen each other since a Red Hot Chili Peppers/Pearl Jam/Smashing Pumpkins show and after party in 1991, back when I did those things. I was thrilled that he recognized me. We caught up 25 years in 10 minutes and a flood of memories took over.
I am listening to Living Colour's new record, "Shade." It's been out for a week or two, and I admit, I didn't jump at the chance to get this baby on my victrola. I can't say I loved their 1989 follow-up to "Vivid," though "Time's Up" did have a handful of terrific songs. By their third release, "Stain," it felt as if they were no longer sure of who or what they had wanted to be. By the time of their first comeback, 2003's "Colleidsoscope," the sweat stains had finally come out of my CBGB's t-shirts and I didn't bother.
"Shade" is a monster. 30 years later, and I am feeling that thing again. Welcome back, guys!
The formula is the same, only more focused. Heavy riffing, over solid grooves and words that beg to be listened to. Corey Glover voice sounds better now than it did 30 years ago. Vernon Reid can still shred like a motherfucker, but has reeled it in just enough so you can wrap your head around the heart of his soloing. And the rhythm section of Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun remains a machine that should not be operated without supervision. Two covers, an inspired take on Biggie Smalls "Who Shot Ya" and a brilliant reinvention of the Marvin Gaye classic "Inner City Blues" have made me very happy. "Shade" has taken most of my time this weekend. Living Colour's return is a welcome one.