Artist: Living Colour
Release: Time’s Up
Overall Rating: 71
I bought my first CD player in 1990. I was really excited about this because CD! You could skip from one song to the next….or even from song 3 to song 8! And the disc! It was so shiny and modern looking and compact!
But I also had no CDs. I lived in Washington DC at the time. DC is an expensive place to live and I made little money. So a $12-$15 purchase for a CD was a bit of a splurge. But I didn’t debate long on whether to pick up Living Colour’s sophomore effort Time’s Up. The band’s debut album Vivid was a soaring, eclectic mix of hip-hop, rap, heavy metal and jazz. It was very innovative at the time, I enjoyed it immensely and when I saw a new album by the band I knew I wanted it.
Thus Time’s Up became one of my first CD purchases. And I played that CD a LOT in the summer of 1990. Commercially the release did okay but failed to live up to the lofty expectations generated by the band’s first album. In my opinion, however, TU is superior in almost every way.
First off….like Vivid it’s a lengthy release clocking in at almost 60 minutes. Second, the variety of songs is….ambitious. Everything from hardcore heavy metal (title track) to rap (Under Cover of Darkness) to funk (Elvis is Dead) to jazz (Solace of You) and several other genres can be found among the disc’s 15 songs. (The eclecticism is captured by the range of guest artists: Queen Latifah, Little Richard, James Earl Jones, Maceo Parker and Doug E. Fresh). There’s short pleasant instrumentals, noisy art-rock guitar work, silly one-off rap pieces.
All of this wrapped in a social consciousness that permeated through virtually every song and was THE POINT in many (such as Pride, New Jack Theme and This Is The Life). Finally, Time’s Up was one of the first releases to embrace the new CD medium: rock bands were no longer constrained by the 40-45 minutes or two sides of an LP; this was instead a single 60-minute musical effort.
I have to admit…my memory of the album is greater than its reality. My memory is that Time’s Up was an awesome albutm. And yet it rates only a 70 overall based on my scoring system. There are a number of great 4 and 5 star songs; the 5-star songs are songs I will enjoy the rest of my life (Fight The Fight, especially). But there’s also a lot of filler. Specifically the short connecting pieces (History Lesson, Ology and Tag Team Partners) are all throw-aways; all served to distract from the rest of the album rather than enhance. In addition the album’s closer, This Is The Life, is a lengthy, droning, one-dimensional affair that completely saps all the energy built up in the albums first 50+ minutes.
Still, I’ll always think fondly of Time’s Up. I saw the band play at the Smith Center in support of the album and they blew the lid off the place. I bought the band’s next release Stain the day it came out but it was a major disappointment, embracing the monotonous, 1-dimensional sound found on This Is The Life and void of the flair, innovation….color, if you will, of the band’s first two releases. And that was it. Living Colour was pretty much done (though they have made a few albums and toured here and there since). No, 1990 was the band’s highpoint. And Time’s Up represents both the band at its best and a particular time in my life.