I Ain’t No Glamour Boy – I’M FIERCE!

I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality
Like Joseph Stalin, 1537 and Gandhi
I’m the cult of personality
The cult of personality
The cult of personality

Now here’s something, Living Colour Vivid an LP that I have been trying hard to love for nigh on 30 years now.  I’m still not there yet: Spoiler Alert*.

Living Colour Vivid 02

I remember being excited to hear about Living Colour in 1988 when they released Vivid.  Who couldn’t warm to the idea of a really talented flamboyant bunch of hard rockers, blending together all manner of genres in a fantastic Day-Glo splash of colour? particularly when it was all topped off with the patronage of Mick Jagger and the virtuoso guitaring of Vernon Reid.  What made them stand out in 1988 was race – Living Colour were black**.  This felt really exciting at the time.

Okay, we nerdy rock scholars could go back in prehistory to, the very mighty, Mother’s Finest^ and 1537-faves punkers Bad Brains, but there was such an absence of black hard rock bands at the time that Living Colour were newsworthy^^.

Living Colour Vivid 05

So, when I finally got a taped copy of my mate I was all a-buzz to hear it – he loved it too.  I put it on, pressed play and waited for Vivid to hit me like a ton of bricks.  I am still waiting.  Ten years ago I picked up a promo copy of Vivid so I could try it again as an old dude.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as we Welsh say.

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We have to wait for the very last track for my favourite tune here, ‘Which Way To America’ which absolutely storms out of the speakers and cuffs you around the side of the head the way I like it.  A blast at the haves from the have-nots, it is well-targeted and burns with some real venom – real props to Mick Jagger for his production on this track too (as well as his all round championing of a young band).

I look at the T.V.
Your America’s doing well
I look out the window
My America’s catching hell

Coincidentally, or not, Jagger also produces my second-fave track here ‘Glamour Boys’ where all sorts of things just come together brilliantly, the Caribbean rhythm, Corey Glover’s best vocal and the delightfully silly chorus ‘I ain’t no glamour boy – I’M FIERCE’, it all hits home.  I’m very fierce too, you can probably tell. Grrr.

‘Cult of Personality’ was the big hit from Vivid, propelled there by a really good video, although I have never been tempted to co-opt Glover’s snug one-piece look for myself.  For me it just never really takes off, apart from Vernon Reid’s stinging guitar solos, I have always found it a bit of a plodder and an odd choice for an album opener; personally I’d have stuck ‘Which Way To America’ in first place to inject a bit more urgency into matters.  As a showcase for Reid’s spiralling, eclectic electric playing though it serves its’ purpose.

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A couple of the tracks here and there pass by without leaving any mark on me at all but I do quite like the heavier ‘Middle Man’ (driven by Will Calhoun’s fluid drumming), the heartfelt restraint of ‘Broken Hearts’ works for me^* and the churning Talking Heads cover ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ is great, especially the great breakdown section in it.  But other than that I can’t really join in the celebrations for and of Vivid.  I have a bit of a problem with Ed Stasium’s production, I find it a bit too trebley and Living Colour reach for that funk rock bass sound far too often that I just can’t be dealing with; you know the one.

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So there it is, Vivid has a couple of really excellent moments for me, some great playing and a good dramatic entrance for a refreshingly different new band.  I still struggle to see it as anything more though, if you love this one let me know why, I am interested.

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Me, I’ll go back and blast the last few tracks again.

Look in my eyes, what do you see?
The cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I’ve been everything you want to be

Taking you to heaven, like 1537
I’m the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy
I’m the cult of personality

Living Colour Vivid 06

891 Down.

PS: Check out the cardboardtastic video for ‘Glamour Boys’, I am sure that any resemblance to the current US president is entirely coincidental:

*and to think some fools think these should go before the spoil-y bit, cretins!

**sadly it would still be true today in the hard rock field to a large degree.

^best described as ‘a funkier, deeper sounding Van Halen fronted by a Nubian banshee’.

^^I’m ignoring bands who had some black personnel like King’s X and bands who rocked like a beast occasionally, but who did not predominantly peddle hard rock, say Fishbone.  Bear with me, selectively picking and ignoring facts makes arguing a point so much easier.

^*with harmonica by Mick Jagger – it is starting to look like it is no coincidence that three of my favourite bits on Vivid have been touched by him.

26 thoughts on “I Ain’t No Glamour Boy – I’M FIERCE!

  1. Know what you mean. Stasium’s production is too cavernous and a few tracks now seem a bit ‘novelty’, but Vernon’s guitar playing is stupendous, Calhoun is one of the great modern drummers and Corey’s singing is really soulful. A lot of this material also has real depth, not surprising when you look into Vernon’s history before LC were formed (duets with Bill Frisell, loads of recording with Ronald Shannon Jackson etc etc). And I like the fact that these songs were ABOUT something.

  2. Good evensong to you, at the church of vinyl. I too purchased this colourful disc for the same reasons, but kinda liked it. Cult of Personality was/is a good track. My mate Greg got me into them, as he was always complaining that he was the only black guy at any metal gigs and he bigged this one up. ( you probably saw him stage diving somewhere in the early nineties. He really was a rarity!)
    It never became a classic in the Johnny Rainbow Alliance household. (That’s the Geoffrey, George and Bungle crew I’m talking ’bout.) But I’m still taking pills and listening to The Fall. So I know nothing.

    1. Yay!! I’ve been wondering what piece of musical cheese I needed to dangle outside your mousehole to tempt you out in the open.

      I was about to get some Buzzcocks out to see if that would do the trick.

      Funnily enough I have played this more intensively in the last couple of days than I ever have and I’m liking it more and more – I may have written all too soon.

      Pills and The fall? you ARE a Glamour Boy.

      1. Just for clarification – vitamin pills and the sound of water falls, whale song etc.
        And, yes, Buzzcocks would have done it

  3. Great review as usual. I would love to find this on vinyl in a used bin someday. That would be a cool find. Their most recent release was really good so it was nice to see they are still going strong.

  4. Taking us to heaven, indeed. Well played, sir – I tip my hat.

    Truth be told, I just don’t like Living Colour that much… my pal is a fan, but I think I missed the boat.

    1. Quite right too, Bruce. When we start our band The Tyre Colours we’ll have to be strict on spellings.

      The list of jazzers that the various Living Colour chaps have played with is very impressive too.

  5. I’d forgotten you got name-checked in the lyrics!
    I enjoyed it when I listened to it on the 1001, was pleased with my $3 investment, though it’s been sitting on the shelf for the last 2 years. So I may not have reached love, but I didn’t arrive at buyers remorse either!

  6. Always was and still am a huge fan of this album! These guys had some serious Funk n Rock Chops. Jagger your right dug these guys so much that they opened the Steel Wheels Tour for Keef and Crew…
    Good on you going back and revisiting an album your not sold on by the whole output…

    1. It’s the funk bit that loses me, I could never stand much RHCP for example. I could have listened to them play rock and blues ’til the cows came home – I know ‘Love Rears’ was on their next LP but it is my favourite of theirs.

      Vernon Reid is a serious player.

      1. I guess I took to them as back in 89 they were opposite of what all the hard rock bands were doing at the time and I found Vivid a breath of fresh air…
        But I get what your saying!

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