Design By Humans
Published On: Wed, Oct 11th, 2017

Living Colour: Shade

Living Colour
(Sony Music Canada Inc)

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For the better part of thirty years, Vernon Reid’s funk-punk metal pioneers have been raising social awareness with songs like “Open Letter To A Landlord,” “Information Overload,” and “Which Way To America?” With Shade, they’re raising it even higher, offering a brutally real take on today’s political climate with no holds barred.

The first track on the album is “Freedom Of Expression,” abbreviated as “F.O.X.,” in which vocalist Corey Glover reminds us never to be sorry: “You gotta do what you want/you gotta say what you feel/you gotta be who you are/no apologies.” He rails against the system amidst a lurching, relentless churn of guitars and samples from news channels scattered throughout. It becomes clear from this song alone that the album won’t let up or hold back.

“Preachin Blues” is a sludgy take on a Robert Johnson blues song, with Glover at his vocal best. “Program” describes the “program” we’re living in now, but also turns the metaphor into us being programmed, suckered “like TV’s our reality.” Glover practically spits each line, with a rap verse in the middle condemning “millions of smart people walkin around with a dumb phone/dressed like you’re all clones” and urging us to accept ourselves. The sense of desperation as Glover wails, “I can’t wait til it’s over/I can’t take no more” sets the stage for their hard-hitting cover of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?”

The album’s blues influence is undeniable and it works. “Who’s That” starts with a blistering blues guitar riff and then a horn section. It’s simple but strong.  They also do a beautiful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.” It has their stamp on it, but still leaves room for the impact of Gaye’s lyrics.

According to an interview with Corey Glover last year in Livewire magazine, it took them almost four years to make this album between management issues, label issues, and scheduling. At times it feels almost in danger of being overworked, but its message is strong and it stands as a powerful commentary about the times we’re in.

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Living Colour: Shade