1988, Music

Vivid (1988) by Living Colour

This is a pretty great, albeit over-produced, fusion of funk and soul music with mainstream metal, with some extremely political lyrics.

The band manages to find plenty of middle ground between funk and ’80s R&B on the one hand, and a loud enough rock edge that could at times be called “metal.” Others have described the music and it’s true, as this skews more towards ’80s R&B in its production than it does more traditional hard rock, or early heavy metal, production. But the mainstream hard rock and “metal” bands of the era were this polished too. Given the relative novelty of this fusion – they are considerably funkier than Faith No More, for example – I’m willing to forgive them for never having listened to Thrash.

But I think the thing that makes the record work more than it should – as the production is indeed dated, wo we blame Jagger? – is the lyrics. Reid and his cowriters (Glover but also a poet and presumably Chuck D and Flavor Flav on the song they appear on) have created a searing depiction of what life is like when you’re poor and black in ’80s America. It’s unfortunate that some of these songs feel as though they could be speaking about things in this century, but that’s a testament to the lyrics, which manage to convey specific realities while remaining universal enough. It’s just really surprising to listen to a funk metal record and come out thinking the lyrics are the best part.

Also, Reid is a pretty good guitar player, so there’s that oo.


All tracks written by Vernon Reid, except where noted.

  1. “Cult of Personality” (Reid, Muzz Skillings, Corey Glover, Will Calhoun) 4:54
  2. “I Want to Know” 4:24
  3. “Middle Man” (Glover, Reid) 3:47
  4. “Desperate People” (Calhoun, Reid, Glover, Skillings) 5:36
  5. “Open Letter (To a Landlord)” (Reid, Tracie Morris) 5:32
  6. “Funny Vibe” 4:20
  7. “Memories Can’t Wait” (David Byrne, Jerry Harrison) 4:30
  8. “Broken Hearts” 4:50
  9. “Glamour Boys” 3:39
  10. “What’s Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)” (Reid, Glover) 3:56
  11. “Which Way to America” 3:41
  • Corey Glover – vocals
  • Vernon Reid – guitar
  • Muzz Skillings – bass
  • Will Calhoun – drums

Additional personnel

  • Mick Jagger – harmonica (8), backing vocals (9)
  • Chuck D – rapping (6)
  • Flavor Flav – social commentary (6)
  • The Fowler Family – additional backing vocals (2 and 5)
  • Dennis Diamond – carnival barker (8)

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