With so much aural greatness flooding the airwaves or running through various electronic devices, it sometimes proves to be difficult to branch out and explore other musicians through their works. Once a month, an album released during that month (from any potential year) is reviewed and given an answer of whether or not it’s worth listening to. For this month, I look at Living Colour’s second full-length album, “Time’s Up”.
Released: August 20, 1990
Genre: Funk Metal/Alternative Rock
Number of Tracks: 15
1984 would prove to be a turning point in the life of guitarist Vernon Reid. Reid, born in London twenty-six years earlier, decided to form a band he would call “Living Colour”. A year later, Reid would help create the “Black Rock Coalition” – a non-profit organization helping black musicians explore and promote their works with the utmost creative freedom – alongside Greg Tate, Dk Dyson and Konda Mason. After many attempts to get a solid footing with a rotating group of musicians, Reid eventually found his trio of black rockers. “Vivid” eventually reached the sixth spot on the Billboard 200 chart before attaining double platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Way too many years would pass before I took the plunge and followed the band’s first album by adding their second LP to my collection. Unlike “Vivid”, the band’s sophomore effort kicks off at a frenetic pace a la a Bad Brains’ album. The punk rock/thrash metal-influenced title track perfectly reflects the times at hand, what’s about to grace the listener’s ears, and even the album’s cover. “Time’s Up” (the song) is frenzied, almost primal in nature – punk rock at its core.
The opening track is a little startling for those unprepared, but segues into one of the album’s biggest singles in “Pride” (following a short “History Lesson” interlude). The song continues the upped ante displayed throughout “Vivid” without some musical experimentation along the way. Reid’s guitar works around Muzz Skillings’ bass and the drumming of William Calhoun like a snake slithering toward its prey – smooth as silk, but containing a sense of unbridled danger the closer it gets. And that’s not even mentioning Corey Glover’s vocals (who somehow outdoes himself compared to “Vivid”). Probably no better song showcases Corey’s vocal abilities on this album than “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”. Glover goes from a smooth singing man to a full-blown metal style screamer without a hint of hesitation (while being perfectly complemented by his fellow band mates). It’s amazing the versatility and different array of styles blended into “Time’s Up”; from jazz to reggae to African rhythms, there’s a little something here for everyone (especially if you like meaningful cameos).
Probably just as important as the music are the topics presented throughout the album. “Pride” focuses on people looking beyond compressed and almost insultingly condensed “history” taught through school and television/racial stereotypes. Drug dealers and their effects on the community make up “New Jack Theme’s” plot. And one can’t forget about “Elvis is Dead” – a call for people to stop blindly worshiping a man who used black musicians’ styles to become the “King of Rock & Roll”; and condemning those benefiting from his name by continuously using his image or claiming he’s still alive. Technophobia, unity, environmental destruction, it all flows through the album.
But no song feels more profound than the closing track, “This is the Life”. Though the meaning behind the lyrics isn’t revolutionary, the content itself and the atmosphere therein captivates the listener. Before the song is over, it’s not hard to believe one would be having an introspective moment; wondering whether or not he/she is appreciating the life they’ve been blessed with. It’s the most reasonable crescendo from not only a aural standpoint, but also topically – with an appreciation for one’s self comes an appreciation for what is or isn’t going on around that person.
But “Time’s Up” isn’t perfect. In a world full of albums that struggle to reach the fifty-minute mark without skits, interludes and lyrical/musical redundancy, “Time’s Up” goes seventy-plus minutes. Having so much content both musically and lyrically, the album’s length can be overwhelming. “Time’s Up” requires the listener to give their undivided attention and take in what Living Colour is offering. Tying hand-in-hand with the aforementioned “flaw” is a lack of radio hits this type of album provides. More than likely, anyone who knows about Living Colour first heard their music via “Vivid’s” “Cult of Personality”. Though “Time’s Up” is full of excellent tracks, there isn’t that radio/pop hit that could reach the heights of their most commercially accepted song.
The rocking quartet looked to evolve, not stagnate with “Time’s Up”. What they created was a conglomerate of genres that still stands the test of time till this day. No matter what genre of music you’re primarily into, it’s hard not to find something to enjoy during this album – giving it strong recommendation.
Standout Tracks: “Time’s Up”, “Pride”, “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”, “Someone Like You”, “Elvis is Dead”, “Fight the Fight”, “Solace of You”, “This is the Life”.