LIVING COLOUR (1984–95; 2001–PRESENT). Corey Glover (vocals), Vernon Reid (guitar), Muzz Skillings (bass, replaced by Doug Wimbish), Will Calhoun (drums).
Living Colour is a hard rock/metal/punk hybrid band led by guitar hero Vernon Reid, along with lead singer Corey Glover, bassist Muzz Skillings and drummer Will Calhoun, who mostly came from jazz backgrounds but also wanted to prove that an all-African-American group could rock as hard as any white group. This went up against the prejudices of many in the metal community, who regarded black musicians as alien to the hard rock and metal scene. The band started out gigging largely in New York and in particular at CBGB’s, where they were “discovered” by Mick Jagger, who championed them and helped set up a record deal. It was a worthy attempt at education, and the band’s first album is full of guitar pyrotechnics such as the riveting hit single “Cult of Personality” and the Talking Heads cover “Memories Can’t Wait.”
Although Living Colour was an excellent band, they were unfortunately trying to prove a point that had been made with no uncertainty several years before by a band that proved to be the best American punk/hardcore band, the incomparable Bad Brains, who in their prime put any ridiculous prejudices to rest with a stake through the heart of bigots and ignorant idiots back in the early eighties. Another thing stacked up against them in the metal scene is that they were more comfortable doing hard rock with a jazz tinge, a direction that various members of the band would continue in. After their first breakup in 1995, the band reunited for sporadic tours and shows starting in 2001, while guitarist Vernon Reid played out in a variety of jazz groups. They lacked also the cohesive brilliance that many other metal bands possessed, although their main innovation, Reid’s jazz sqwank, was an appealing addition to the played-out metal guitar bag of tricks. Fans who like Living Colour’s discourse on race and overall hardness are urged to check out Bad Brains, a band who broke the color barrier in punk and set new standards for musicianship and power in both punk and metal years before Living Colour.
Discography: Vivid (Epic, 1988); Time’s Up (Epic, 1990); Stain (Epic, 1993); Colledeoscope (Sanctuary, 2003); Live at CBGB’s 12/19/1989 (Sony, 2005); What’s Your Favorite Color: Remixes B-sides and Rarieties (Sony, 2005); The Chair in the Doorway (Megaforce, 2009).