12 October 2017

Living Colour - Shade


Living Colour are a band I have long admired, the first I heard of them was during their first run in 1990, with the album Time Up!  It is a record that still stands in 2017, containing their biggest hits.  They split up originally in 1995, but got back together in 2000.  For a band that has been going since the 80's and even if you factor in their break up, they are never a band to be hurried in the studio.  It has been eight years since their last record The Chair in the Doorway, with work on Shade beginning in 2010.  There are plenty of reasons why Shade was delayed - their own standards, issues with their management, their label, schedules, you name it, it happend.  So has the wait been worth while, have all those issues influenced and changed the outcome of Shade?

01 – Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)

They are not starting the album meekly on “Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)”, a song about standing up yourself, making yourself and how certain organisations are trying to play everyone against each other in the name of profit and their own fame.  It is a brilliant opening, the chorus, the solo, the unbridled sound of a band on fire is just phenomenal!  It is such a joy to have them back and sounding so strong, it is a great opening bravado to this album.

02 – Preachin’ Blues

Living Colour want to tell a tale of the blues on "Preachin' Blues", they want to explain how it has changed a life for better (or possibly for the worse).  They are destined to travel the world, following their mistress as they serenade the people of this sphere heading through space.  It sounds like a harsh life in places, but when the music sounds so good, it is hard not to fall under the charms of the blues and desire to become another willing victim.  The music is hard hitting, no-filler or wasted energy and performed with pure passion from beginning to end. 

03 – Come On

With the use of effects peddles and loops "Come On" has an electronic influence, but this is not a sign that the band are changing direction.  It is just added to complement their sound and to show how they can make their instruments sound fantastic with ease.  I love this one, it is a strong song and it continues the fantastic work of the opening two tracks of the album.

04 – Program

"Program" starts with a sample of a man trying to remember Living Colour, trying to think of the name of another black rock band.  But the song is a different beast, one with a specific agenda.  It is illustrating how people are being taught to accept only what is presented to them and never question anything, TV is good and everything is bad and you should never leave your box.  It is a hard-hitting rock number, one that hits out at a truth which we might not want to admit to.  It is one of my favourite on this album, just for the message alone.

05 – Who Shot Ya

"Who Shot Ya" is a song about an event than happens with depressing regularity in the USA, where you are more likely to be shot if you are a Black man than any other ethnicity.   As a piece of music it is a brilliant song with a powerful political message, one that will have some people living in fear as it is so hard hitting.  Others will sadly be all too familiar with its message, which will bring an understandable feeling of anger.  Surely it should not be this way in this day and age, you would hope that it would be different and yet here we are.  The fact that this song is required in 2017 that makes me ashamed to be human being, hopefully humanity will move on and learn there is nothing to fear.  A powerful message in a powerful song!

06 – Always Wrong

"Always Wrong" is a song about the end of everything, when people are not admitting that they are wrong and how it can be seen as repression.  The riff  of this song seems to be purposely designed to be sampled on a rap song in years to come, it is truly catchy and it gives me shivers just thinking about it.  The song just builds on such a simple pattern, it is fantastic and it never stops giving.  It is another tune I love, everything about this is great, but I also acknowledge that it is another song with a damning message on this album. 

07 – Blak Out

One of the shortest pieces on the album, “Blak Out” is a song that has an apprehensive edge to the words, with great sounding music.  I love the way they keep everything simple, but you also know that this number is complex as hell as well.  After all, this is a Living Colour song.  I do wish "Blak Out" was slightly longer, but it is still a brilliant little number.

08 – Pattern in Time

“Pattern in Time” is a straight out of the blocks, rock number that speeds away from you at a frantic speed.  It has a heavy little riff, one that is infectious to all who hear it.  The notes that Corey Glover hits on this song are insane, a straight to the point song and it is a great addition to this album.

09 – Who’s That

Starting with a blues solo, "Who's That" is steeped in such a rich sound from the very opening, making it hard to ignore (even if you wanted to).  This is a song about feeling nervous in your own home, hounded by creditors, repo men and being unable to keep your head above water with a great of stress about the situation.  This song will be one to rock out to and it also has a serious message, how can this band keep producing so many brilliant tracks on this album?  It almost seems unfair, but then again – it is Living Colour.

10 – Glass Teeth

Glass Teeth” is the first song on the album which sadly does not to reach the same peaks as the other songs on the record, which is sort of impressive when you think about it.  When the tenth track on an album is one that you could either give or take, a lot of bands cannot make it past track one or two!  It is a decent rock number, but it does not play to the band strengths for my money.  But a below average Living Colour track is still one you do not mind hearing, even if it is not quite at the same level as other songs on this record.

11 – Invisible

The need to find sanctuary and a place to hide from the powers that be is the theme of “Invisible”, which contains a massive blues riff that matches the powerful message of the lyrics beat for beat.  The band seem to be taking everything in its stride, sounding as if they own everything in the room  with a number that has a huge sound and up there with the best of this album.  If it was not for “Program”, it would have been the song of the album.

12 – Inner City Blues

A cover of the Marvin Gaye classic, “Inner City Blues” could have truly been an original track for Living Colour.  It is in keeping with the record, it sounds so powerful and they truly make it their own.  A song that is as powerful in the hands of Living Colour as it was with Marvin Gaye, with a message that is sadly as relevant now as it was back then.  It is one that I would recommend everyone to check out, it is brilliant!

13 – Two Sides

Ending the album is “Two Sides”, the band showing us how humanity is pretty fucked up at this point in time, as we sadly repeat the same history that our forefathers did in the past.  They deliver a towering ending to Shade with this song, one that is created in passion, anger, determination and from the prospective of someone who knows the truth.  It ends the album with a huge moment, one that lives with you long after the song has finished, what an ending to this great album.

There is so much to love on this album, musically this is a good as any other Living Colour release that you care to mention.  It is an album that they laboured over for so long that you knew that it was going to be fantastic, they could not help but deliver the goods as Shade sound spectacular.  It has some moments that are uncomfortable to listen to and that is by design, I think those moments are some of the best on this album as it is messages that sadly still require to be said in this day and age.  Over time, I think this will take its rightful place as a great album in their back catalogue, hopefully they will release their next one a lot sooner.


9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…..

Top track – Program

You can purchase Shade on Amazon here.


You can visit the Living Colour website here.

You can follow the activities of Living Colour on Facebook here.

You can stream Shade on Spotify here.

You can stream Shade on Deezer here.

You can stream Shade on Tidal here.

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