Record Label: MRI
‘Shade,’ their first album since the critically acclaimed ‘The Chair in the Doorway’ in 2009, is Living Colour at the height of their creative powers, still experimenting as though they were upstarts instead of seasoned veterans. While the blues served as the foundation for the collection, one shouldn’t expect to hear the “down-home” style that was once the soundtrack of sharecroppers and southern juke joints before the music rode the rails north during the Great Migration. Living Colour’s blues incorporate a myriad of influences, while speaking to the politically-charged climate of the times.
“What better way to talk to the world than through the blues?” vocalist Corey Glover asks. “We recorded ‘Preachin’ Blues’ several times to jump start the project and that got everybody fired up. After that, we were ready. ‘Shade,’ in its final outcome, is more of a deconstruction of the blues than an interpretation. It was the idiom that gave us our voice.”
Produced by Andre Betts—who first worked with Living Colour on their album ‘Stain’ in 1993—he would spend five years in the studio with the band perfecting the project. Initially introduced to Living Colour by their bassist Doug Wimbish, Betts was more than ready to face the challenge of working with such perfectionists.
“Making records is an art and a process, and sometimes it can be easier to herd cats,” Wimbish laughs. “But, when it connects and we come together, it’s a beautiful thing. ‘Shade’ is a testimony to who Living Colour is, to our chameleon quality.”
Without a doubt, that quality comes across clearly on the 13-track effort. ‘Shade’ is a sonic journey that careens from the furor of “Blak Out,” an old school thrasher that struts with a gangster boogie to “Program,” a searing, socially-spiked cocktail that nods to the band’s iconic hit “Cult of Personality.” Stand-out tracks such as the acid funk balladry of “Two Sides” (complete with a guest appearance by George Clinton) and the afro-punk fireworks of “Glass Teeth,” prove Corey Glover’s vocals to be stronger than ever, while Vernon Reid, long acknowledged as one of the most creative guitarists in modern rock, lives up to his reputation on album opener “Freedom Of Expression (F.O.X.)” and the soul blues of “Who’s That?” Drummer Will Calhoun points to “Invisible,” which pays homage the late Buddy Miles, among his favorites on the album.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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