By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Where have all the real rock-and-rollers gone? When Living Colour broke, in the late '80s, that question was briefly answered: They'd gone black. With its renegade, freewheeling mix of funk/metal thrash and sociopolitical angst, Living Colour looked, felt and sounded like rock's last great salvation. On their brilliant debut CD Vivid, and the even more brilliant single "Cult of Personality," they showed that rock with a purpose didn't have to wither and die.
But after three full-length releases, Living Colour itself withered and died in 1995. While other band members either went on to solo efforts or were absorbed by other projects, charismatic lead singer Corey Glover went on a sabbatical from music and pursued other interests. A sometime actor, perhaps best known for his role in Platoon, Glover even endured a stint as a VJ on VH-1.
Now, his trademark dreadlocks neatly shorn, Glover has resurfaced from the small-screen abyss with his solo debut, Hymns, and he fares surprisingly well without the powerful support of guitar hero Vernon Reid and the rest of the Colour guard. Working with the writer/producer team of Peter Lord and V. Jeffrey Smith -- better known as part of the neo-soul outfit the Family Stand -- the singer reinvents himself as a troubadour of Southern-influenced soul. (Even if he was actually born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.)
A down-home feel pervades Hymns, whether it emerges in the velvety guitars and pleasing organ-fills of "Hot Buttered Soul" or the aggressive brass and Wilson Pickett vibe of "Things Are Getting in the Way." String sections also play a part in the proceedings, adding texture and emotion to the predictable but penetrating ballads "April Rain" and "Little Girl." Then there's the album's best track, "One," in which Glover layers on enough vessel-popping vocal potency to make his overblown sentiments sound like the gospel truth.
Hymns loses its sparkle when Glover attempts to resuscitate the legacy of his previous band with the heavy-handed "Sermon" and "Do You First, Then Do Myself," the latter of which includes the rather racy lyrical turn, "Daddy loves your sweet perfume / Not the kind you bought in France / Daddy loves to smell your sex / Makes him wants to scream and dance." Word of advice, Corey: save the hard-rock histrionics for the Living Colour reunion. (***)
-- Craig D. Lindsey
Corey Glover performs Friday, July 31, at Instant Karma.
Two years ago, Patty Griffin turned quite a few heads with her debut release, Living with Ghosts, a collection of sparse but intense glimpses into her nutty little world. But those who see Griffin as the quaint, brainy folk artist of Ghosts are in for a shock when they hear Flaming Red. On first listen, some may even think A&M put the wrong disc in the jewel case.
Opening with a jarring, raw title track that recalls Patti Smith at her raging best, Griffin loudly and abruptly breaks new ground in what is, for her, uncharted territory. She hasn't completely turned her back on passionate introspection, she's simply applied it to settings vastly different from those in her previous work.
Producer/guitarist Jay Joyce deserves credit for fashioning Flaming Red's decidedly modern and rocking atmosphere. Electronically enhanced looping effects provide a dense backdrop on "Carry Me"and "Mary," while Hendrix-like riffs bristle through "Wiggley Fingers" and "Blue Sky."
But in no way does that emphasis on production and song craft overwhelm Griffin's deceptively candid storytelling. Flaming Red is rife with tragic figures -- a suicidal gay teen, a desperate woman clinging to a fading romance, a deeply troubled celebrity. Griffin briefly revisits her old ways on the album-closing "Peter Pan," an enchanting dream sequence that wouldn't have been out of place on Living with Ghosts. In the end, though, Flaming Red burns most intensely when Griffin is left to her own devices, calling upon her expansive vocals and winning way with an alluring melody. (*** 1/2)