Goddammit I love Living Colour’s Stain. When I first got that album (on a see-through orange cassette in a cool orange case, and which some jagoff stole along with my car in 2000), I must have played it constantly for, like, a month. It had everything I was looking for in music: cool grooves, out-there solos, killer vocal performances, thoughtful songwriting, thoughtful lyric writing, and it sounded dirty and angry. These were all very good things. Living Colour eventually went their separate ways, but when they reunited in 2000 and released Collideøscope in 2003, I was pretty freakin’ ecstatic, especially because there were a few key elements to that album which made it sound pretty much like an extension of Stain. Living Colour was back and all was well with the world.
So last week I marched on down to JB Hi Fi in Chapel St (hi, friendly JB staff) and plonked down a fistful of I Heart Guitar Funbucks for the new LC album, The Chair In The Doorway. Throwing the CD into the ‘ol player I was curious to see if the newie continued the Stainalike theme. Nope! The first thing I noticed from opening track ‘Burned Bridges’ was that the mix is much more 3-dimensional, the guitar tones are softer and thicker, the drum sounds are deeper, and the playing is much more groove-oriented and psychedelic. Living Colour were always able to bring on the brutal metal power, but even on the gloriously heavy riffage of track two, ‘The Door’ or track three, the super-riffy ‘DecaDance’ (listen out for some cool Whammy Pedal work in Vernon Reid’s solo), some of the upfront edge and bite is removed from the guitar attack, replaced by sludgy, dull bludgeoning. It’s a different side of Living Colour: while the CD is slightly reminiscent in vibe to some of the non-Stainy bits of Collideøscope and maybe a little bit of Time’s Up, and some of the drum/bass interplay may remind keen listeners of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish’s excellent Jungle Funk work, for the most part Doorway is its own beast.
‘Young Man’ unites a disco beat with some rhythm guitar work that reminds me of King Crimson via a gloriously fuzzed-out guitar tone, while the mid-tempo ‘Method’ is home to some cool synthy textures that remind me a little of David Bowie’s 1.Outside album, overlayed with a restrained vocal performance. It’s one of those songs that rewards repeated listenings by slowly revealing new, deeper layers – one of the many reasons I love this band so much.
‘Behind The Sun’ is another great example of Vernon’s textural approach to overdubs on Doorway. Check out the atmospheric tremoloed and panned single notes in the chorus, over the top of a rhythm guitar figure which singlehandly provides undeniable proof that overwhelming sheets of gain can still be applied musically without sounding like a death metal jamboree.
‘Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayer)’ has some of the most overtly bluesy songwriting and performance of Living Colour’s career, complete with cool slide guitar parts and an up-front bass/guitar unison tagline, but capped off with yet another hugely fuzzed-out rhythm guitar tone for the chorus. Once again, Vernon is giving us a crash course on getting away with fearsome amounts of gain, and once again it sounds pretty freaking cool. The guitar solo represents some of his most Hendrixy playing ever, and stands out all the more by being the sole guitar track – no rhythm overdubbage here – recalling LC’s live sound.
‘Hard Times’ has a great ominous chorus set against an upbeat verse and a solo which really, really reminds me of Mike Keneally. Seriously, it sounds like something Mike might have played in The Mistakes or on something from his Sluggo! album.
‘That’s What You Taught Me’ is a little more straightforward, once again with a more textural guitar approach which kinda reminds me of Jane’s Addiction, and a steady 8th-note bass pulse. Wimbish’s tone on this track in particular is amazing – punchy and throaty yet supportive and ballsy. Awesome. ‘Out Of My Mind’ has a monster stomping riff followed by an intricate verse which almost sounds like a live band taking a run at something from Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP.
‘Not Tomorrow’ opens up with a bit of a Yardbirds vibe, with some serious ‘old tone’ happening. Killer nuanced drum performance by Will Calhoun here, supported by some mixed-back power-chord rhythmic emphasis by Reid. This track is somewhat meditative, droney and psychedelic, and I’m not entirely sure I agree with its placement on the album. I might have put it between ‘Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayer)’ and ‘Hard Times,’ but that’s just me.
Finally after a blank track there’s ‘Asshole,’ a straight four-on-the-floor, poppy track with some great dirty guitar tones, soul-influenced sing-along melodies and some coffee-spittingly hilarious lyrics. I won’t give any of it away but seriously dude, you’ve really gotta hear this song. It’s especially funny because the music is quite upbeat. It’s such a great way to wrap up the album,
Alright, so where do I stand on The Chair In The Doorway? Well it doesn’t replace Stain as my favourite. The guitar work is less heroic and more atmospheric, but I kind of get the feeling Vernon Reid is becoming so comfortable with his various other musical guises that he’s happier playing for the song in Living Colour now. Where before he may have packed a fluttering spree of notes into a bar of an LC song, perhaps his musical soul is now being nourished in that way by his solo output instead. The result is a more laid-back Living Colour with deeper grooves and more space and texture, and although there are less killer riffs per square inch, the ones that are there more than earn their space. This is the first Living Colour album that I’ve been happy to let play in the background to appreciate its wholeness at least as often as I’ve found myself devoting my entire attention to its details, my head sandwiched between the headphones.
Man 2009 is shaping up to be an awesome year for bands I like. Killer new CDs by Queensryche, Heaven & Hell, Devin Townsend, Dream Theater, not to mention the monstrous debut of Chickenfoot. But aside from the new Alice In Chains, the one I’m most looking forward to is the new Living Colour CD, The Chair In The Doorway. You can download ‘Behind The Sun,’ a new track from the album, at iLike for free right now.
“Behind The Sun”, a new song from LIVING COLOUR, is available for free download at this location. The track comes off the band’s first new studio album in five years, entitled “The Chair In The Doorway”, which is due on September 15 via Megaforce Records.
“The Chair In The Doorway” was written and recorded at Sono Studios outside of Prague in the Czech Republic during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009. The results stretch from the modern soul anthem “Behind The Sun” to the politically-charged, heavy rock of “DecaDance” to the sacred steel blues of “Bless Those”.
“We feel like this is the best record we’ve made yet and we couldn’t be more excited to be releasing it with the legendary Megaforce Records,” says guitarist Vernon Reid. “Some of our favorite bands were or are Megaforce artists — METALLICA, BAD BRAINS, ANTHRAX, BLACK CROWES — so it’s an honor to be part of a label with a great legacy.”
Having helped to pave the way for a number of contemporary African-American artists to follow in their wake, ranging from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE to LENNY KRAVITZ to BEN HARPER, with a multi-dimensional sound that drew equally from JIMI HENDRIX, BAD BRAINS, TALKING HEADS and ORNETTE COLEMAN, the success of LIVING COLOUR broke down the color barriers in rock music. Guitarist and founding member Vernon Reid also founded the Black Rock Coalition to use his influence to further this cause.
Discovered by Mick Jagger who produced their first demo and later offered them an opening slot with THE ROLLING STONES, LIVING COLOUR would go on to create a repertoire that includes a multitude of classic songs, including “Cult Of Personality”, “Elvis Is Dead”, “Open Letter To A Landlord”, “Glamour Boys” and “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”. With “The Chair In The Doorway”, the fifth album of the band’s storied career, LIVING COLOUR expands the scope of its timeless body of work and, in the process, proves vital as ever.
“The Chair In The Doorway” track listing:
01. Burned Bridges
02. The Chair
04. Young Man
06. Behind The Sun
07. Bless Those
08. Hard Times
09. Taught Me
10. Out Of Mind
11. Not Tomorrow
It’s a big year for Living Colour fans, with the release of the new album The Chair In The Door on September 15 (more info here, or keep reading to see video of one of the tracks performed live) and the new Parker DF824VR Dragon Fly. Can’t wait to try this one out!
Here are excerpts from the press release:
The DF824VR from Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid
Vernon Reid is best known for his role in Living Colour, which he founded in 1984. The DF824VR was crafted in his honor.
The DF842AD from Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz
Grammy-nominated heavy metal group Killswitch Engage has become one of the hottest touring bands since they hit the charts in 2004 thanks to influential guitarist, Adam Dutkiewicz. Parker teamed up with Dutkiewicz to create a guitar that reflects his extremely articulate yet wild and unpredicatable style.
The DF842AD is expertly crafted of a mahogany body and top, mahogany neck with a Parker Finger Joint set neck, and carbon composite fretboard. Additional features include a Parker Tremelo bridge, Sperzel locking tuners, an EMG 85 pickup and an EMG 81 bridge pickup. Available now in black ice and dusty black finish with black hardware.
I’ve been a Living Colour fan ever since about 1990 or so when I saw the video for Type on an Australian show called Countdown Revolution. I’ve played ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’ countless times in various cover bands and bar jams. I’ve shredded my fingers to the bone on licks from ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ and banged my head to ‘This Little Pig.’ I think I listened to Collide-O-Scope for about a month solid. Finally saw them live in 2006 and while I didn’t get to meet them, Vernon gave a few guitar picks to my buddy Steve from Tempus and he gave one to me, so it has pride of place with my Steve Vai and Brian Molko picks. And Vernon Reid is one of the nicest guys on Twitter. Follow him here.
So it should come as no surprise that I’m a little dizzy with excitement about the forthcoming new Living Colour album.
LIVING COLOUR To Release ‘THE CHAIR IN THE DOORWAY’
World Tour To Commence Fall 2009
New York/London — Living Colour will release their first new studio album in five years entitled The Chair In The Doorway on September 15 via Megaforce Records. The legendary downtown NYC rock band, who exploded out of CBGB’s in the late ’80s, landing all over MTV, the cover of Rolling Stone and stadium stages around the world with their Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum debut album Vivid, are back and “fierce” as ever.
Original members Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Will Calhoun and (since 1993) Doug Wimbish gathered at Sono Studios outside of Prague in The Czech Republic during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 to write and record what would become The Chair In The Doorway. The results stretch from the modern soul anthem “Behind The Sun” to the politically-charged, heavy rock of “DecaDance” to the sacred steel blues of “Bless Those.” The artwork for The Chair In The Doorway was compiled from thousands of contest entries by fans from around the world.
“We feel like this is the best record we’ve made yet and we couldn’t be more excited to be releasing it with the legendary Megaforce Records,” says guitarist Vernon Reid. “Some of our favorite bands were or are Megaforce artists, Metallica, Bad Brains, Anthrax, Black Crowes, so it’s an honor to be part of a label with a great legacy.”
Living Colour will announce plans for a world tour shortly. With dates set to begin in September, it will include their first North American tour in four years along with performances in South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Having helped to pave the way for a number of contemporary African-American artists to follow in their wake, ranging from Rage Against The Machine to Lenny Kravitz to Ben Harper, with a multi-dimensional sound that drew equally from Jimi Hendrix, Bad Brains, Talking Heads and Ornette Coleman, the success of Living Colour broke down the color barriers in rock music. Guitarist and founding member Vernon Reid also founded the Black Rock Coalition to use his influence to further this cause.
Discovered by Mick Jagger who produced their first demo and later offered them an opening slot with The Rolling Stones, Living Colour would go on to create a repertoire that includes a multitude of classic songs, including “Cult Of Personality,” “Elvis Is Dead,” “Open Letter To A Landlord,” “Glamour Boys” and “Love Rears Its Ugly Head.” With The Chair In The Doorway, the fifth album of their storied career, Living Colour expands the scope of their timeless body of work and, in the process, proves vital as ever.
1. Burned Bridges
2. The Chair
4. Young Man
6. Behind The Sun
7. Bless Those
8. Hard Times
9. Taught Me
10. Out Of Mind
11. Not Tomorrow
Photo by Bill Bernstein
* New body shape
* Floyd Rose bridge, instead of Parker’s usual model
* Synth pickup
* New headstock shape
Looks like it’s shaping up to be a very versatile and innovative guitar. Can’t wait for further updates!
Amit Zoran’s Chameleon guitar uses replaceable soundboards built from various types of wood and other materials to take on different sonic characteristics –
The five electronic pickups on the soundboard provide detailed information about the wood’s acoustic response to the vibration of the strings. This information is then processed by the computer to simulate different shapes and sizes of the resonating chamber. “The original signal is not synthetic, it’s acoustic,” Zoran says. “Then we can simulate different shapes, or a bigger instrument.” The guitar can even be made to simulate shapes that would be impossible to build physically. “We can make a guitar the size of a mountain,” he says. Or the size of a mouse.
The Chameleon seems to offer a unique shortcut for guitarists searching for their signature tone. It’ll be interesting to hear how well the onboard digital processing handles scaling those sounds. Read more on the instrument’s development at MIT News.
Photos © / Webb Chappell Photography 2009
One of the coolest techniques for expanding your guitar style is to copy other instruments – this is why you’ll sometimes find articles on I Heart Guitar about keyboard players, f’rinstance – but there’s probably no more expressive instrument than the human voice. When I was in high school one of my favourite things in the world was to chuck my bag in the corner, crank up my amp and play along with the vocal melody to David Bowie’s ‘A Small Plot Of Land’ from his ‘1.Outside’ album. It’s a pretty obscure track and you’ll probably have to dig pretty deep into iTunes to find it, but it’s well worth it, not only for Bowie’s killer phrasing and some very atmospheric Brian Eno production, but also for Reeves Gabrels’s really out-there guitar playing.
However I think the reason I became so entranced with this particular song as a guitar exercise was because the vocal melody included a lot of sustained notes, as well as a few small phrases with quieter dynamics than the rest, and a few notes that sort of drifted over the bar lines and behind the beat. It taught me a lot about leaving space in a melody, and about applying progressively wide vibrato over the course of a note, instead of the same level of vibrato over the whole thing.
So with this in mind, here’s a countdown of five other songs that I’ve found are good for copying vocal phrasing:
5. Black Sabbath – Changes.
Ozzy’s phrasing is relatively straightforward and is a good starting point for this technique. He tends to stick quite faithfully to the pulse of the song rather than messing about with the rhythm too much, and a lot of his melodies seem to be based on pentatonic scales. In Changes, there’s a lot of space between each phrase, and there are a few notes that he slides, which you can choose to mimic either by sliding from fret to fret or by bending.
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4. Led Zeppelin – We’re Gonna Groove.
This is a good one for trying to get underneath some very staccato rhythms. Plant tends to hold the same note for a steady stream of words at a few points in this song, and it’s a challenge to use different pick attack, vibrato and slide techniques on guitar to make up for the fact that you’re playing the same note over and over again. A vocalist can get away with this a lot easier because they can change the word, but a guitarist has to be a little more resourceful.
3. Alanis Morrissette – You Oughta Know.
I know, I know, this might seem like an odd choice, but y’know that thing Alanis used to do (she seemed to grow out of it after a few years) where she would finish a line and her voice would kind of jump to a high (and sometimes out of key) note? This can translate quite well to guitar, especially if you use it to go to a note that’s actually in the key of the song. You can use various techniques to hit these extra notes: harmonics, tapping, or, under the right circumstances, feedback. Find a spot near your amp where you get the same feedback note whenever you take your hands off the guitar, and soon you’ll be able to conjure that note at will.
2. Living Colour – Ignorance Is Bliss.
While the melody itself isn’t particularly crazy, this one is a little more out-there in terms of phrasing, with Corey Glover often holding a note until the last possible beat before dropping down to another note for the next syllable. There are also some very tricky vocal slides which translate really well to bends. You’ll also have to tackle the same “What the hell do I do when the vocalist sings different words using the same note?” issue as ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ in the ‘Ignorance is no excuse’ section.
1. Devin Townsend Band – Storm.
Devin’s metal screams and growls are some of the best in the biz, but his melodic singing is particularly amazing. This song features some great phrasing where he finishes each line with a note which slides down while he also applies vibrato. This technique is very tricky but for those with whammy bar-equipped guitars there are two ways to accomplish it: either apply the vibrato with your fretting hand and drop the pitch with the whammy bar, or slide the note down the neck with your fretting hand while using the bar to achieve the vibrato. Devin ends the song with an octave-higher, slightly on the edge restatement of the verse melody, and it’s here that the sheer range and emotion of his voice is in full flight. Check out the bit from 3:40 to 3:50. It’s extremely difficult to copy on guitar, as he slides from one note to another, and then to another, all on the same word, but such full-on pitch manipulation is very rewarding when you get it right, and these skills can then be applied to your own material.