Muzz Skillings / Living Colour

(Muzz is on the far right)

oh My GOD LIVING COLOUR ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read the wiki at the link, it’ll do a better job than I could of the history of the group.

(Notice the English / real spelling of Colour – stick that in yer pipe Webster!!)

Funk, rawk, metal, free jazz, humor, insane chops, great writing combined with backflips and outlandish garb.  Pimpin hair naturally.  Four guys that could play their asses off and meant every note.  That transcends race and culture, you can just feel it, I was 15 when I first started hearing this stuff and I completely got it.

Their first record was called ‘Vivid’,  I got a bootleg tape of a gig at Brixton Academy that was just slamming.  It’s hard to find early video but this one is a treat. Listen to the crowd at 3:43.  Real heartfelt, amazing music about something real.  In my own way I could completely relate to their feelings about where they grew up.

This version of Broken Hearts is also great.  Killer groove, a great pop song, strong performances including an interesting bass solo (check out the Jaco influence?) and some interesting volume pedal skullduggery at the very end.

Here’s a live version of the first hit – Cult of Personality on Arsenio.  Corey Glover takes it out into the crowd and the host loses his sh@t at the end.  Watching Vernon Reid play that insane static solo reminds of the sound of my old ZX Spectrum loading games from tape…

The rest of the record is a smorgasbord of funk metal, dashes of electronica, caribbean sounds…. it’s just a giant mash-up of everything they felt and thought expressed with incredible articulation.  It works.  As I write this I realise there’s really inventive ideas from everybody, not just Muzz, and that I was influenced as much by their willingness to embrace and combine concepts and styles.  Perhaps even more so than the licks I stole 😉

(While on the subject of stolen licks, apart from all the chords, harmonics, slapping and all that the main thing that blew away about that live tape was how many different ways the bass could move in half steps from the major 3rd of the chord to the 5th. Every bass player knows this as meat and potatoes bass but this was the first time I really heard it clearly and with so much variation.  All of a sudden the bass wove in, and out, of the chord – there was a new freedom in the notes that could work – and the rhythms fitted with how Will Calhoun was improvising in that bar.  We’ll thank James Jamerson another day though…)

The next record, “Times Up”, was unfortunately Muzz’s last (Internet rumors suggest that he trained to be a fire fighter in New York) before Doug Wimbish (Sugarhill Gang) took up the slack.  The hit from this record was “Love Rears it’s Ugly Head”. (There are a lot of videos of them looking really ‘not into it’ playing this live).  I spent 9 hours in one sitting figuring out how to play this song.  While rewinding and rewinding the tape to pick out the notes the sun had gone down and my room was completely dark.

Times Up will F you up but the uber creative Ology is my favourite cut of Muzz’s – and a nice way to end a night’s trawling and writing.

I look forward to your comments and thoughts, if you got something from this, drop me a line and let me know.



3 responses to “Muzz Skillings / Living Colour

  1. What a band, and still going strong. Time’s Up remains my favourite album because it was my first. But the variety of music and ideas on that one disc is immense. It was sad to see Muzz go. Last I heard he was in Medicine Stick.

  2. In 1992, I had the priviledge to host Vernon Reid in Rio, when the Living Collors performed at the Hollywood Rock. I was thrilled to watch the show virtually onstage! The song “Elvis is dead” impressed me a lot. And the effort they would make to say it in Portuguese “ELVIS ESTÁ MORTO”, was quite funny, I may (now) confess. At first Vernon was on his own, him and the band. So me and my former husband brought him to our home, near the Sugar Loaf, and then took him out to a sushi dinner nearby. When my husband picked him up at the hotel in Copacabana, our old chevy was crushed by fans in frenzy!

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