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Reviews » Audio Reviews » Living Colour : Collideoscope
Living Colour : Collideoscope
5.1 Entertainment // DVD Audio // November 18, 2003
List Price: $17.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jason Gann | posted February 5, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Living Colour: CollideØscope (DVD-Audio)

Living Colour…you remember them, right? Sure you do! The, the soaring, ever-so limber vocals of Corey Glover, precision low-end bass of Muzz Skillings, the airtight percussive barrage of Will Calhoun and the incendiary guitar work of Vernon Reid…four brilliant musicians out of New York City playing a genre smashing amalgam of hard rock, punk, funk, jazz, blues and soul long before any of today's chart-topping suburbanites could hold a guitar. Still don't remember, huh? Does the song "Cult of Personality" do anything for you? What about 1988's Grammy-winning, multi-platinum album "Vivid" and the less successful, but equally brilliant, follow up "Time's Up"? Ring any bells? I guess I shouldn't even bother to mention 1993's ultra-dark follow up "Stain", should I? Sugar Hill bassist and all around virtuoso Doug Wimbish replaced Skillings and helped the band deliver an album that would, unquestionably, be their darkest work. The woefully under appreciated record would be there final artistic statement for the decade. Yet, as we entered a new millennium, we entered a new era for Living Colour. The bands 2000 reunion show at New York's C.B.G.B.'s led to Sanctuary records 2003 release "CollideØscope". Let's look at the disc song by song…

The Album:

    1. Song Without Sin – At first listen, you might think the band has not strayed too far from the sonic template for 1993's "Stain"…and you would be right. A hermetically sealed groove pushes the band into a sweeping chorus leading into a slightly middle-eastern tinged, mid-temp break…all of which perfectly sets the stage for what is to come.
    2. A ? of When – A strange spoken word noise collage gives way to what has to be the most laser beam focused slab of metal on the entire record. Distorted vocals and jagged, meticulous instrumentation hammer home the underlying theme of paranoia. The vocals, while a tad reparative, help buttress the emotions brought forth in the song. A solid track.
    3. Operation Mind Control – Here's something you haven't heard from the band…a rather simple, stripped down, garage tune. Some may complain about the blow-out sounding production quality and sing-song quality of the chorus but both lend themselves to the songs central themes of a brainwashed, patriot act filled world rife with security cameras.
    4. Flying – The production and instrumentation are cleaned up for a quiet, nimble meditation on September 11th. Lyrically, the song boils the events down to the most minute, personal level and examines the thoughts of one, lonely person on that fateful day. Intensely moving and somber.
    5. In Your Name – The personal "flying" gives way to the hyper-techno scattershot "In your name". This song has the band reaching for a new level and on some level succeeds. Scathing, damning and just plain strange. Loops on top of loops, smothered ultra-funky dub bass only to be chopped by static-scratched guitar riffs. The end result nearly flies off the tracks into a sonic mess, yet somehow manages to remains cohesive enough to make it's point and then fade out.
    6. Back in Black – That's right, it's a cover of the seminal AC/DC tune. The lyrics have a new level of meaning added to them when sung by Glover and the band, amazingly, remains faithful to the stripped, simple original. I could have done without the ultra-high register wail of Glover's vocals, but in the end, the song delivers an amazingly faithful interpretation of a classic.
    7. Nightmare City – A big fat reggae dub tune smack dab in the center of the record… Collectively, the band puts on a good show but ultimately it just doesn't rise to the fever pitch of the rest of the record. The intensity and passion are maintained but he plodding groove is the records first stumbling point. Skip it.
    8. Lost Halo - A little gem from Vernon Reid's unreleased second studio record "This Little Room". This beautifully stark tune sets forth a smoldering groove and gives Corey Glover a moment to really shine with the exceptionally heartfelt plea "please don't go". Throw in a classic Vernon Reid guitar solo and you have a keeper.
    9. Holy Roller – Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to stumbling block number two – the meandering blues wail of Holy Roller. As with "Nightmare City", even when the song is just "so-so" the band remains on fire. All components are here - Calhoun and Wimbish display their amazingly symbiotic relationship as a rhythm section, Reid delivers a capable solo and Glover wastes no time establishing his unique, guttural howl. Yet, somehow, it all doesn't add up. What should be a blazingly intense blues-jam-to-end-all-blues-jams seems like an exercise in technical and stylistic proficiency.
    10. Great Expectations – Ok, now we're back on track as the band really gels with this song, and when combined with the next two tunes, sets up an incredibly potent triptych of song writing. While "Great Expectations" may seem easily dismissible upon first listen, upon closer inspection the band is really establishing a compelling song craft. A very subdued, yet dissonant jam with a coolly harmonic chorus. Good stuff.
    11. Happy Shopper – Continuing where the previous song ended, "Happy Shopper" is equally unassuming upon first listen. The tune starts off rather slow with an ominous Doug Wimbish bass groove and with the force of an avalanche tumbling down hill, builds into a maelstrom-like condemnation of consumer culture. The band is focused as a unit and with zero grand standing brings the tune to a terrific boil. Excellent.
    12. Pocket of Tears – An extremely heavy song that has none of the tell-tale signs of being "heavy"? How can this be? Simple, start with a tight, thudding Doug Wimbish foundation, add in the light, dub-tinged percussive work of Will Calhoun, throw in a bit of the ghostly agile guitar work by Vernon Reid and wrap it all up in the hushed, ruminations of a world that doesn't care, as sung by Corey Glover. The band has mentioned in concert how this song is thematic sequel to the mocking, yuppie anthem "Glamour Boys" from 1988's "Vivid"…and lets just say things didn't end too well for the hollow, trend-hopping, lovers of excess. The song recounts what could be the final thoughts of a "Glamour Boy" as he realizes the world moves on without and he made no mark. Again, there is no show-boating, just a band entirely focused on a theme and mood…the end result is intoxicating.
    13. Sacred Ground – As the group enters the final stretch, the gather up enough steam to launch one more ferocious attack. Sacred Ground achieves where the earlier "In you name" fails by perfectly melding the aural dissonance and sonic chaos with feverish anger and song structure. Powerfully anthem-like in it's presentation, Sacred Ground gives the band members each a brief moment to shine before swirling bedlam fades the song into silence. Also, it bears mentioning that this song on 1995's compilation "Pride". While the "Pride" version is appears to have a tad slower tempo and the demo-like production lends itself to the songs raw anger, the new version is superior with a texturally varied sound pallet and better production helping create a whiling sonic vortex.
    14. Tomorrow Never Knows / Nova – The band succeeds in climbing the tricky, slippery slope of covering a Beatles song. As the culmination of the album, "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a Zen-like sonic stew of Middle Eastern flavored guitar work, propelled by quick, heartbeat skipping percussion and bass. The perfect antidote / bookend to the ambiguous paranoia of "A ? of when". Exceptional, soaring, echo-drenched bliss on every level, perfectly bleeding into the concluding instrumental jam coda of "Nova". A pitch perfect pallet cleanser for the album, leaving the listener serene and contemplative.

The DVD:

Video: This DVD-A release doesn't have very much to talk about in this department. With each song the screen displays one static screen. Instead of an image of the band the band uses what seems like random images that fit in with the subject of the particular song. Upon closer inspection, I noticed several of the images are what make up the album's layered cover. Nice touch.

5.1 Mix: The surround mix available on this disc is one that took a few listens to really grab me. Upon the first few listens, the mix seemed too lopsided. Meaning, some songs didn't have much surround content while others were over the top with it. As I listened to it, I began to pick up more and more subtle, but effective uses for the surround in many of the songs. The accents on instrumentation and vocalization for the surround really add to the overall sound and help take a good song up to the next level. The stereo versions are nice, but don't reach the same level these surround mixes do. In Your Name is one of the songs that benefit from this surround mix. The chaos in the stereo version is widened and more focused because of the synth sounds flying around the room instead of left to right.

Extras: Unfortunately, this release doesn't have all that many extras. The only video is a nice collage of footage of the guys playing live in front of various crowds while the studio version of Song Without Sin plays. A small photogallery and the song lyrics are included as well.

Final Thoughts: After listening to this album on the standard stereo release for a while, I thought it was a nice return, but not what it could have been. Upon listening to the entire album with new surround mixes my opinion has changed. This band is one of those bands that benefit from new technology and are one step ahead of the pack on most occasions. This newer format allows for the bands experimentation really shine where the 2 channel stereo is good, the 5.1 mix makes it much, much better. Even though I don't think CollideØscope is the best album Living Colour has done, it is a well made, solid effort with a few songs that are brilliant, some that are really good and a couple that just don't hold up too well. That being said, I have no problem giving this a Recommended rating, maybe they will go back and remix Time's Up and Stained.

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