New Album Review – Living Colour ‘Shade’

It’s been eight years since Living Colour have graced the masses with new material.  And the wait was worth it.  Afterall,the record took 2 years to record.  Actually, it took like three months, but those times were sporadically spread out over two years.  Now, finally, ‘Shade’ is available in full.  And it’s another Living Colour Classic.

The album opens with ‘Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)’ which has a churning, loose, heavy blues riff.  Vernon Reid did say that the record was blues done Living Colour Style.  And on ‘F.O.X.’ it really shows.  It’s perfect modern blues song with the classic Living Colour hints of industrial metal and funk.  The blues really turn up on the next track ‘Preachin’ Blues’.  It’s another knock out.  Of course, it’s a blues base.  But really it sounds like another Living Colour song.  I think the band did a really good job of hinting at the blues, but they certainly didn’t change their signature sound for it.  The next track is the first single ‘Come On’.  And frankly, it’s catchy, but it’s not something special.  I think that it’s a good song to release a single because it’s simple.  And for people who may not really know who the band is, it’s a good jumping off point.  But the title is too simple for me.  And the music is a little basic.  I expect a little more.  Song’s like ‘Information Overload’, ‘Never Satisfied’, ‘Desperate People’.  That’s the Living Colour standard of excellence.

And that standard of excellence is very much held up with the next song ‘Program’.  This song is more Living Colour than Living Colour.  The riff is classic, amazing Vernon Reid.  And the subject matter is that relevant political matter that’s occurring in our society.   Living Colour are their best when going political on the lyrical subject matter.  Which is most of the time.  I love the audio bits at the end with Hillary Clinton talking about the information war that’s occurring.  The politics keep up with the band’s rendition of Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Who Shot Ya’.  And it actually really works.  Cory Glover isn’t a rapper and has admitted as such.  But he handles the song perfectly, giving the verses a little pinch of melody without sacrificing the hip hop elements of the original song.  The next song is one of my personal favorites on the album.  ‘Always Wrong’ is classic melodic Living Colour.  They combine the amniotic nature of ‘Nothingness’ and the funk metal nature of ‘Ignorance is Bliss’.  And it works really really well.  Another great Vernon Reid riff during the verses that leads into this excellent melodic chorus.  Great Stuff.

‘Blak Out’ is Colour at their funkiest.  The funkometer explodes times a million with it.  Then it’s back to that the heavy ass Living Colour sound with ‘Pattern in Time’.  It’s an aggressive metal track that recalls ‘Time’s Up’.  A real circle pit starter.  Then it’s back to the blues times a million with ‘Who’s That’.  What a fun song.  A great blues metal riff with horns and that classic Living Colour rhythmic foundation.  It’s a stand out track and one of the most original that Living Colour has done.  The horns really add a new and welcome dimension to their sound.  And that kind of experimentation keeps up with ‘Glass Teeth’.  Of course, it’s a classic hard rocker based in the blues.  Reid’s guitar tone is simply bone crushing at times.  There’s also a bouncy feel to it that makes the track particularly catchy.  I think the addition of the soul, female voices on the chorus really add a classy element.

‘Invisible’ is another groovy, heavy, bluesy one.  A solid song for sure.  Really makes your head bob.  With Vernon Reid providing a killer slide, blues solo in the introduction.  ‘Inner City Blues’ almost has a disco vibe in the intro before slamming into one of the heaviest toned rockers the band has done.  I love the back and fourth between the disco and metal sound.  It’s soft, then heavy as hell.  And Living Colour really pulls it off.  Showing that they’re a band who knows what the hell they’re doing.  It’s also got one hell of a solo.  Then the album finishes off with ‘Two Sides’.  It’s a Living Colour ballad.  And really the only one on the album.  But it’s a great way to finish the record.  There’s a progressive element to the song as well.  Which keeps the album fresh from start to bottom.

And that’s what this album is.  It’s fresh.  Living Colour have maintained that sound.  Even if the record starts out a little predictable in places, Living Colour still finds a way to pleasantly surprise the audience.  And the record does that from top to bottom.  Making ‘Shade’ one of the great releases of 2017.

Classic, catchy, addictive riffage.

Love the mixture of the rock riff and the melodic amniotic balladry.

Who’s got some glass teeth?

 

 

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