In all honesty, I’d probably give this one more like 3.5 stars, but I’m rounding up to 4 instead of down to 3 for two reasons: first, a band this great just deserves it. This is one seriously talented and under-rated band that’s delivered a lot of incredible music over the last 20+ years! And second, I’ve only listened a couple of times, and just like their last two albums (1993’s “Stain” and 2003’s “Collideoscope”) I’m sure this one will grow on me after a few more listens.
Which is not to say it’s not GOOD (it is!), but I still find LC’s first two albums to be unquestionably their best. Vivid (1988) and Time’s Up (1990) had such tremendous variety in sound and style and yet through all of both of them flowed the band’s signature sound while giving us many of their best songwriting efforts. “Stain” in 1993 saw them get mega-heavy and rely on an almost industrial metal sound with mixed results, but it was still a mostly solid effort with some really great tracks (“Nothingness” might be the best thing they’ve ever recorded).
And most people will think that brings us to this new record, but they did put out an album in 2003 when they reformed after temporarily disbanding in 1995. It was called “Collideoscope”, and while the production on that one is questionable, the songs and performances are not (although I could have done without the cover of AC/DC’s “Back In Black”). For any fans of the band that didn’t realize they were back, “Collideoscope” is recommended even though the guys in the band tend to dismiss it in interviews as “rushed” and “un-focused”. I think it might be better than “Stain” and possibly better than their latest release as well…
Which does bring us to “The Chair In The Doorway”. This is a more commercial sounding record than “Stain” and is definitely a better recorded, mixed and produced album than “Collideoscope,” but song-wise, it still falls short of their best work. However, “less-than-their-best” from Living Colour is still pretty damn good. This is a real live rock and roll band not afraid to vary their sound and push some boundaries, and with plenty of musical muscle to pull it off. In this day and age, that is increasingly difficult to find, so on that alone, this cd is worth exploring if you’re into hard rock that’s not afraid to incorporate other styles as well.
“Behind The Sun” takes a great groove and nice repeated guitar lick from Vernon Reid to deliver a song that approaches greatness, but lyrically and melodically, I don’t think the song ever quite fully takes off. “Bless Those” is a song I believe performed in concert going a year or more back and originally sung by bassist Doug Wimbish, but the vocals on the recorded version found here are turned over to lead singer Corey Glover which greatly improves this track.
My personal fave is “Young Man”, which is musically agressive, yet with a groove, and incorporates a brief borrowing from “Cha Cha Slide” by Mr. C! (move to the left… now back to the right!). Interesting choice, but it works to remind us that while Living Colour are incredibly talented musicians who are intelligent and not afraid to write songs with a message, music is also meant to be fun, and this little insertion shows that Living Colour haven’t forgotten that.
I won’t go on with a track-by-track description, but suffice to say if you’re already a Living Colour fan, this is another solid effort you’ll want to add to your collection. If you’re not a fan (or you like them but only know them from their radio hits like “Cult of Personality,” “Glamour Boys,” “Type” or “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”), this album is still recommended, although I would explore “Vivid” or “Time’s Up” first if you don’t already have those. Both are available used for dirt cheap here on Amazon and are among the best albums from ANY band over the last 20 years.
Regardless of which cd’s you do or don’t have, check this band out live if you get the chance. They are on tour in 2009 and they deliver the goods each and every night with a nice cross-section of their best songs from all of their albums.