Time's Up

Living Colour

Epic Records, 1990


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


I recently heard this tape on the way up to seeing Iggy Pop and The Reverend Horton Heat. A friend of mine popped it in for the ride up. Man, talk about a re-discovery. I played it to death when I was 16; now, a tad more refined in my taste, I gave this another listen. It more than stands the test of time. More importantly, it's a stark reminder that one of the most musically diverse and gifted groups of the late 80s and 90s is no more.

Pay no mind that this group is no more; on Time's Up, Living Colour cover more ground, with more finesse than most groups can even dream of doing with 9 or 10 albums. They make their point evident with the opening track, "Time's Up", A punkish, Bad Brains vibe hits harder than anything off of their last album, Vivid. It also elevates the group to one higher level than on Vivid. While Vivid was a great album, it tended to ground itself in hard rock repetition. With Time's Up, Living Colour do jazz, rap, intense rockers and funk. Some of the experiments fail, but their innovative courage enables you to overlook some flaws.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If one member shines on this album, it's guitar virtuoso Vernon Reid. On tracks like "New Jack Theme", Reid meshes jazzy stacatto playing with heavy Zeppelin like riffs, producing a sound all of his own. The solo intro to "Information Overload" is unlike anything I have ever heard from a guitar.

Vernon Reid isn't the only memeber that stands out though. Drummer William Calhoun and bassist Muzz Skillings gave the best rhythmic performance of the year. Singer Corey Glover even proves to be quite a good rhythm guitarist in the song "Type".

Time's Up is packed with guest appearances, showing the diverseness of the album. Queen Latifah gives a cool, soulful performance in the Prince-like "Under A Cover Of Darkness". Doug E. Fresh gives his mike skills on "Tag Team Partners" and "Solace Of You". The funniest cameo comes from Little Richard, who gives a great over the top vocal performance to "Elvis Is Dead".

The only thing constant on Time's Up is the mood. From the claustrophobic paranoia of "Time's Up" and especially "Information Overload", most of the songs deal with despair. Perhaps the best song "Fight The Fight" sums up what Living Colour accomplishes in Time's Up: they give a realistic view of the world around them, but still have enough faith to move on. "My heart beats just like yours, when I dream my mind soars, but no fantasy can pay my bills, another dream unfufilled", Glover sings on that track. The lyric may be simple, but his vocal delivery makes it sound profounding.

The only block that Living Colour stumbles on is the occasiocal preaching. "Someone Like You", a light revenge tale on an abusing cop, sounds shallow to the damning boasts on the previous track, "New Jack Theme". And, unfortunately, "This Is The Life" ends on a forcable sunny note. "In your real life, treat it like it's special, In your real life, try to be more kind". It's a nice message, but Living Colour are capable of better.

Though Time's Up is an uneven ride, it's an exhilarating one. Even when they overreach to a realm that they are not good in, say rap on "Tag Team Partners", it's great to see a band that has the guts to at least try. Minor griping aside, the album hits far more targets than it misses. Though Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun are in their solo careers, and Corey Glover had a VJ slot on VH-1, they left a great album that will hopefully keep reminding people how great this band was when they were firing on all four pistons.

Rating: B+

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© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.