How could I possibly review the album of a band I am so fond of? Yet, I absolutely want to tell you about The Chair in the Doorway which is the latest Living Colour album released several weeks ago. I am a long time fan of Living Colour since the early 90s when I first encountered their debut album Vivid. During their 20 years long album career (with a split from the mid 90s to 2000), they recorded a unique brand of music made of cool funky grooves, powerful heavy riffs, avant-garde soloing, and lots of socially conscious lyrics well served by killer vocals.
20 years exploring their multifaceted music, and each new album sounds nothing like the previous one. To be more accurate, each album sounds like Living Colour but Living Colour always sounds different. Don’t know if my point is clear enough, and to make it totally clear I think Living Colour is one of these bands that always improved… They got better overtime. So, I was really anxious to listen to The Chair in the Doorway, and the reason why it took me so long to publish this review is that I wanted to be sure to think what I’m about to say (if I’m not clear, don’t blame me, blame the band!)
The Chair in the Doorway
I’ve always thought of Living Colour as a homogeneous band, but to me this new release is their most consistent album to date. The band’s stylistic versatility is much controlled than in Vivid and Time’s Up, and as for the overwhelming darkness of Stain (I took me many years to like this album as the darkness was too much for me back in the days) and Collideøscope it is now a much more subtle dark atmosphere on a couple of songs.
First thing that occurred to me is that the mix of the record is much more clearer than the previous album Collideøscope (though I was totally hooked by this album). The songwriting is more and more subtle as the multiple influences of the band are colliding to produce some kind of songs I’ve never heard before in their discography. Living Colour has one of the best rhythm section in activity though it is restrictive to limit their skills to this aspect. Doug Wimbish (bass) and Will Calhoun (drums) are able to make the heaviest grooves such as DecaDance, and then move to the dancing upbeat in Young Man. Perfect highways opened to Vernon Reid (aka the world’s best guitarist, period!) to deliver his skillful unique approach of guitar playing. Method and Behind The Sun are perfect examples of his science of ambient and textural guitar work created by overdubs and effects. Obviously, heavy and angry riffs are still a major component of Reid’s style as you will hear it in The Chair, DecaDance or Out Of Mind. Vernon Reid is still an unlimited shredder/improviser. But it seems like he now doesn’t feel the urge of high flow solos, and he prefers to let express the other facets of his art.
On top of these 12 awesome instrumentals served by these crème de la crème musicians, Corey Glover let his stunning vocals run and catch the ear. I’ve always been amazed by his rocker with a soulman voice performances… Or the other way around? Who cares? His voice is powerful, and after several CD runs I finally figured out some slight texture changes. I might be mistaken but his vocals sound much deeper than previously which is something I like very much.
A mature album?
I know it sounds so cliché to say that The Chair In The Doorway is a mature album, and even more considering that Living Colour have always been a mature and solid band since Vivid. Yet, I insist to say so because I think this album is there most consistent record to date. Everything fits well, and this is a perfect synthesis of a genre they’ve widely contributed to create. Even better, as a privilege of a long career and experience (I guess) they now seem so comfortable with their music skills and feelings that they still can incorporate some new influences. Well at least, I don’t know if these are new influences or if they were not that obvious previously.
Anyway, check Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayer) which is the most bluesy song of Living Colour’s discography… Actually, I would even say that it’s a real blues song combining the roots of authentic blues with the modern approach of these top level musicians. Maybe it’s a reminiscence of Vernon Reid’s activity as a producer for James Blood Ulmer? Reid’s slide work on this tune is awesome and just as you would expected it to be… Wild! Pop elements are also invited in this enjoyable album via tunes like That’s What You Taught Me, Not Tomorrow, Asshole (hidden track) or Behind The Sun. Speaking of this tune I think it was a rather good choice to be the first single (if the word still means something in the digital era)… If Living Colour doesn’t go mainstream with such a tune, I think I’ll definitely loose faith in human tastes.
To me The Chair In The Doorway is essential. Of course, it won’t replace the 3 essential albums before the split (Vivid, Time’s Up and Stain) but it perfectly fits in the Living Colour flawless discography. This album is an evolution rather logic and pleasant… Living Colour still has a lot of things to say and teach about rock music… And I hope they still will for the next decades!
Can’t wait to see them live in Paris soon… Let’s have some bits of the album.
Bless Those live (Doug Wimbish singing)
Behind The Sun radio session
All the news from Living Colour on http://www.livingcolourmusic.com/