How Living Colour Continued to Shake Things Up on ‘Time’s Up’
By the time Living Colour released their sophomore record, Time's Up, on Aug. 20, 1990, expectations were lofty. The band, conceived in New York City in 1984, broke down racial and musical barriers with Vivid, their debut record released two years earlier that boasted a compelling mixture of heavy metal and hard rock that also bore characteristics of funk, punk, hip-hop, jazz and more.
It had been a dizzying couple of years in the time leading up to the release of Time's Up. Vivid achieved double-platinum sales on the strength of the hits "Cult of Personality" and "Glamour Boys," and the group found themselves opening for the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger produced some of their demos) and Guns N' Roses. Vernon Reid, who co-founded the Black Rock Coalition to help eradicate stereotypes about what did and what didn't constitute rock music, was suddenly hailed as one of the most innovative guitarists around, and Corey Glover's powerful voice was praised for its melding of heavy rock and soul.
Undoubtedly determined to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, Living Colour intelligently flew their varying musical flags with pride on Time's Up. Kicking off with the title track, other songs like first single "Type," "New Jack Theme," "Information Overload" and "Pride" showed off individual members' virtuosity with guitar-driven hard rock.
Time's Up was an album that saw Living Colour dig deeper than rock, however. In addition to the introduction of a trio of musical interludes -- "History Lesson," "Ology" and "Tag Team Partners" -- spread throughout the record, the band showed a more reflective side on tracks such as "Solace of You," a gorgeous tune reminiscent of Paul Simon's excursions into African music at the time. "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" showcased their remarkable ability to incorporate a distinct soul sound to their work, while Queen Latifah brings a muted energy to "Under Cover of Darkness."
But its centerpiece was "Elvis Is Dead." A tirade against those who were profiting from Elvis Presley's 1977 death, especially the supermarket tabloids, the song gave lyrical nods to William Shakespeare, Paul Simon, Public Enemy and the Dead Kennedys and featured a cameo rap from Little Richard.
Not surprisingly, success found its way to Living Colour with the release of Time's Up. The album peaked at the No. 13 spot on the Billboard 200, while "Type" ascended to the Top Five of the Mainstream Rock chart. It was certified gold two months after release, and would go on to earn the band a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy Award for the album's title track. Living Colour also had the distinction of being included on the inaugural Lollapalooza concert tour, alongside Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction and more.
Success doesn't always equal stability, however. Bassist Muzz Skillings would depart the group's lineup prior to the 1993 release of Stain, and be replaced by Doug Wimbish. By 1995, Living Colour had broken up, with Reid and Glover pursuing solo careers and drummer Will Calhoun forming a short-lived group with Herb Alpert and Wimbish. The band reunited in late 2000 and have recorded and toured intermittently ever since.
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