|Living Colour - Collideoscope|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Monday, 26 January 2004|
Living Colour was one of the bands that saved the late 1980s from being totally worthless. Here came this band, without warning, to save us from all the bland hair metal that was permeating the airwaves then. Their Vivid is definitely one the top 10 albums to have come out in the ‘80s, combining the virtuosity of King Crimson with the heart of Led Zeppelin and the political nature of John Lennon with the soul of Sly Stone.
They continued until around 1994, when it was time for a break. Well, the wait is over and Living Colour is back in full force. Collideoscope is the first full-length album from Living Colour in 10 years, so was the wait worth it? The musicianship is still topnotch and, if anything, better than ever. Vernon Reid is still one of the best guitar players in rock ‘n’ roll, Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish still have a funkiness about them that only they can create together and Corey Glover hasn’t lost anything on his vocals.
All that said, you’d think that I should be in love with this DVD-A. For the most part I am, but in this brave new world of multi-channel mixes, I found it to be a little too much. With this type of material, I like multi-channel mixes that aren’t so busy or intense. The first number on the DVD is “Song Without Sin,” and while I like it, the multi-channel mix is very intense, with so much information coming at you from every direction. Music this intense, in my mind, sounds better in a standard two-channel mix. I found myself not listening so to the music, but trying to gather all the information coming at me from every direction. I wanted to be mystified by the melodic and lyrical content of the song, but instead I found myself trying to sort out everything that I was hearing.
One of the other things about Living Colour’s music that I’ve always loved is that they wear their politics on their sleeves. In today’s world, if you’re a thinking person, there is plenty to have an opinion about and Living Colour certainly does. "A ? of When," "Operation Mind Control," "Flyin'" and "In Your Name" are some of the ones that come to mind. I wouldn’t want to hear a Living Colour album without political content, whether or not I agree with them. There are also two cover tunes on this release, “Back in Black” from AC/DC and one of my all-time favorite songs, the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.” The liner notes don’t mention that these are cover tunes. “Back In Black” sounds like Living Colour was having fun in the studio, where “Tomorrow Never Knows” still has the trippy quality of the original Beatles release, with a nice segue into “Nova,” a cool way to end the album.
But my favorite aspect of Living Colour is when they when they get a little progressive and psychedelic. I’ve always felt they did this better than most hard rock bands. The space between the notes is just as important as the notes themselves, and Reid knows this probably more than any other “shredding” guitarist out there, but this album tends to be heavier and less progressive than their earlier releases. This isn’t a bad thing, just an observation. It’s just that in the multi-channel world of DVD-A releases, there isn’t much space left open for my mind to wonder. I know that I need to go back and listen to this album again, though, because while I was listening to it, I was taken aback by its intensity.
There is also some truly exceptional playing on this album. Glover is in top form both vocally and lyrically here. Reid, Calhoun and Wimbish are still some of the best players in their respective instruments. I just wish I could be more enthusiastic about this DVD. In some ways, I am enthusiastic. I think it just goes back to what I wrote earlier about the intensity of the material and the world of multi-channel mixes. While being blown away musically is always a good thing, I need to be able to let my mind wonder a little more than this mix allows. If you’re into musicianship at very high level, then I would recommend this DVD-A, as not many bands can approach Living Colour’s technical virtuosity. It’s just that I found myself being bashed over the head with waves of sound. I don’t know how to describe it any other way.