Retrospective Review: Living Colour - Vivid

For most people, including myself until today, their knowledge of Living Colour begins and ends with their signature and Grammy Award winning hit 'Cult of Personality'. A huge and metallic guitar fest with soaring vocals and unbelievable solos, anyone who has heard this song would naturally and automatically assume that Living Colour are, for all intents and purposes, a metal band. There can be no doubt that it's a metal song, and it just makes sense to assume the same of the rest of the band's material. That's certainly what I was expecting when I pressed play today.

What I actually found was somewhat different. After 'Cult of Personality' ends, there's very, very little metal on the record. Rock, yes, but not metal. But this is no criticism, as Vivid is a fantastic and criminally underrated record. One of the few all-black rock artists out there, Living Colour absolutely storm through this record, delivering great song after great song from minute one throughout.

Indeed, perhaps the greatest factor of this album is its diversity. Whilst it begins with a metal song, its follow-up track 'I Want To Know' is a catchy, radio-friendly track for the masses. Later there is 'Open Letter (To a Landlord)', which even within itself switches from being a ballad to being a fast-paced rock song with more great solos and bass work. Following that is 'Funny Vibe' (whcih featured a nice surprise in Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy), the first proper showcase of Living Colour's funk side, which is then interspersed throughout the rest of the album. Vivid never gets dull because it never gets samey.

Highlights? Plenty. 'Desperate People' has one of the catchiest, most 1980s guitar riffs you'll ever hear, 'Funny Vibe' is a political funk-rock Godsend (a sort-of tone setter for Rage Against The Machine), and the short but sweet 'What's Your Favorite Color' (who knows why they switched spelling) is just a dancey delight for the ears. The entire album is also blessed with magnificent guitar work, and I'd go as far to say that this is one of the best "guitar albums" there is. Hats off to Vernon Reid, then, a real virtuoso and one that has slipped rather under the radar.

As for weak points...'Broken Hearts' outstayed its welcome by about one minute. That's all I can think of.

I've held off actually speaking about it until now, but it's impossible to resist any longer. What. A. SONG. 'Cult of Personality is. The samples, the guitars, the vocals, the bass, the drums, absolutely everything about it is sublime. The song's a perfect 10 and that's just a fact; it's no wonder that it became their calling card. Delivering a powerful message in the most epic way possible, the song is legendary and I can only thank Guitar Hero III for introducing it to me. God, it's good.

As is the whole record, in truth. Whilst I didn't get the metal record I was expecting, I did get a stonking album full of life, diversity and fire. Each and every one of the band members shows off their talents and together, they created one of most consistently brilliant albums of the 1980s. Though it went double platinum in the USA and charted in a couple of other countries, it never got the worldwide recognition it so clearly deserves. Here's hoping this review on small new website gives it a new lease of life, ey?