[Review] Living Colour: Time’s Up (1990)

The band cashes their debut’s blank check with a socially-charged second album that sounds like Lenny Kravitz meets Rage Against the Machine.

Kronomyth 2.0: Everything that goes around, comes around.

The band hit the ground running, crazy fast, on their first album, and Time’s Up doesn’t break their previous land-speed record, no matter what you read. Nothing on here is as shocking as hearing “What’s Your Favorite Colour?” or “Cult of Personality” for the first time, and how could it be? Time’s Up simply tightens the focus. Vivid was a funk/metal/R&B/pop album; a forty-dollar buffet of the senses. Time’s Up is a black metal album; no more experience needed, no apology necessary.

By better defining their music, Living Colour becomes easier to pin down: Anthrax, King’s X, Galactic Cowboys. Really smart metal with some pleasant surprises. The Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix parallels still hold some of the time, but Living Colour’s is a systemic absorption of influences that renders the origin almost irrelevant. To say that “Love Rears Its Ugly Head” sounds like Hendrix or “This Is The Life” borrows from Black Sabbath ignores the fact that very little music is created in a vacuum.

Time’s Up is unmistakably the work of Living Colour. And the voice of Living Colour is now unmistakably black. For whatever reason, Vivid danced around the issue of identity by making light of its message: “Funny Vibe,” “What’s Your Favorite Color?” But no one is laughing now. “Pride,” “Elvis Is Dead,” “Someone Like You,” dead serious stuff. Even the likeable “Type” delivers a dark message in the small print. Thus I’m more inclined to see this as the humorless second album than a promise fulfilled.

Maybe critics equated less clowning around with maturity. The jazz guitar solo on “Under Cover of Darkness,” the unexpected “Ology,” the opening call to arms and highbrow history lesson, all of it pointed to a band that had put away its toys. In a sense, they paid their dues with Vivid, and Time’s Up was their payback.

Read more Living Colour reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Time’s Up (William Calhoun/Corey Glover/Vernon Reid/Muzz Skillings)
A2. History Lesson (Vernon Reid)
A3. Pride (William Calhoun)
A4. Love Rears Its Ugly Head (Vernon Reid)
A5. New Jack Theme (Vernon Reid)
A6. Someone Like You (Muzz Skillings)
A7. Elvis Is Dead (Vernon Reid)
A8. Type (Vernon Reid)
B1. Information Overload (Vernon Reid)
B2. Under Cover of Darkness (Corey Glover)
B3. Ology (Muzz Skillings)
B4. Fight the Fight (William Calhoun/Corey Glover/Vernon Reid/Muzz Skillings)
B5. Tag Team Partners (Corey Glover)
B6. Solace of You (Corey Glover/Vernon Reid)
B7. This Is The Life (Vernon Reid)

The Players

William Calhoun (drums, percussion, vocals), Corey Glover (lead vocals, rhythm guitar on A8), Vernon Reid (guitars, vocals), Muzz Skillings (bass, vocals) with Black Swan String Quartet: Akbar Ali, Charles Burhnham, Eileen Folson, Reggie Workman (strings on B2), Don Byron (clarinet & baritone sax on B2), Annette Daniels (background vocals on A3/B7), D.K. Dyson (background vocals on A3/B7), Doug E. Fresh (vocals on B5, mouth percussion on B6), Alan Friedman (programming on A5), Mick Jagger (guest at the wake on A7), Toshi Kubota (guest at the wake on A7), Little Richard (guest at the wake on A7), Yubie Navas (guest at the wake on A7), Maceo Parker (saxophone on A7), Queen Latifah (vocals on B2), Alva Rogers (guest at the wake on A7), Rosa Russ (background vocals on A3/B7), Francine Stasium (guest at the wake on A7), Derin Young (background vocals on A3/B7, vocals on B6). Produced by Ed Stasium; engineered by Ed Stasium, Paul Hamingson; mixed by Ed Stasium, Ron St. Germain; mixing assisted by Paul Hamingson.

The Pictures

Icon photography by Lex Van Pieterson. Portrait photography by Michael Lavine. Art direction/design by Thunderjockeys + Bryam.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on August 28, 1990 in the US (Epic, E/EK/ET-46202) and the UK (Epic, 466920-1/4/2); reached #13 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #20 on the UK charts. Also released as promotional CD in 1990 in the US (Epic, ESK-2151).

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