I posted this picture as a Throwback Thursday but Will Calhoun was much more than a post on my Twitter feed. I was heavily into Will's playing at that time and Living Colour and absorbed everything about them.
I don't believe any rock band could touch them at that point. Yeah, I said it!
I had a lot of pre-internet bootlegs of the band and read everything about Will from Modern Drummer to the drum issue of Musician Magazine. A friend and I would drive 2 hours to Houston (sometimes getting REALLY lost) to visit a number of record conventions. That's where I would find the wild and weird recordings that are now just a click away.
Originally, the Influences posts would talk about one drummer and the particular albums that made an impact on me. In Will's case, I was only going to talk about the first three CD's and some supplemental tracks but there's so much to say just about their debut release. So now... Influences will differ from drummer to drummer and jump around in order of how I discovered them.
To get the most out of the rest of the blog, you should have the Vivid tracks pulled up.
So let's start at the beginning... Vivid.
The first song is "Cult of Personality"... I mean, WTF! It's like Zeppelin (but funky) cause it kicks the door in with no pity. Even has the 6-against-4 Zeppelin odd-vs-even dance move in the turnaround (1:07). This particular section is even better in the live versions where Will double times the second time around. Another Will-ism is the ride/open hi-hat sneak (originally a Peart-ism for me) during the solo (3:26). This would be one that would pop up from time to time. Of course, that video is still burned in most people's mind.
Track 2 turns the faux-Zep to something that should've been on the That Thing You Do! sound. "I Want To Know" is cute although I love the simple eighth note snare/bass drum fill at the end (3:00). Plug in some handclaps on '2and 3' and it a spontaneous sock hop may start around you.
"Middle Man" brings back the ride/open hi-hat sneak but this is just the blueprint to what the adventurous live version will be. "Should I Stay..." is really how fast most bands play this but it's fun to hear their take on it. The mini-instrumental in "Desperate People" brings back the sledgehammer with some drum/guitar unison runs and fills before settling into a Bonham-esque groove.
Another video song was "Open Letter..." and has all of the Will-isms, fat beats, syncopated treats, and hi-hats sneaks. For some reason, I always hear the line "There used to be when kids could play. Without the scourge of drug's decay." as "... without the scourge of tooth decay." which still kind of makes sense.
"Funny Vibe". Great song. Great video. A serious message wrapped up with some imagery that could never be made today. The crazy fill at 1:37... the power clap on beat 4... drop-in by Flav and Chuck D... the crazier fill at 2:47... after the last vocal you still have a 1:17 of rock with a fake fade-out. When I think about some of the Will-isms that stayed with me... #1 is definitely the ride bell pattern in the song. You can bet that whenever I get to the solo section of a train beat song, that 'ding-ding-dinga-da-ding' is coming out at some point.
The fill at 0:18 on "Memories Can Wait" is one of my Panic Fills... whenever I need a fill that makes a statement and isn't like a Pat-Boone-Debbie-Boone. The Level 127 Dynamic Range of the snare on "Broken Hearts" makes the loop factor ok. The subtle substitution from hi-hat to the ride cymbal on the outro is genius.
"Glamour Boys" is another fun one with a great opening groove... try this at your next soundcheck, kids. "What's You Favorite Color?" channels James Brown with syncopated snare/horn hits but the extended live version is more of a ride. The last track gets back to the social conscious side of the band with "Which Way To America?"... a fun closer.
Will had a massive Pearl CZX Series power tom kit, sky-high ride cymbal, and was firing off samples (a relatively new thing then) throughout the set... he was a forward thinking drummer. The whole band had a take-no-prisoners attitude and played like it was their last time.... every time! I discovered the Black Rock Coalition through them and that led to following other BRC artists like Eye & I, 24-7 Spyz, Follow For Now, DJ Logic, Steve Coleman, Screaming Headless Torsos, Fishbone, and Meshell Ndegeocello.
To really understand how tight the Living Colour was in that period, check out their CD, Live From CBGB's. It's a live recording made after the band returned for the successful Vivid worldwide tour. Attendees at the show heard a huge preview of what was to come on their next release.
Whenever you listen to their live recordings, it seems like they're always trying new things to keep it fresh. It's raw and feels like sometimes the music may fall off of the edge.
I've gone through many many more influences/changes since 1988 but Living Colour is still a favorite to check out and their live show always entertains. In fact, they're currently on the Vivid 25th Anniversary tour.
Vivid covered rock, punk, pop, and funk... and they were just getting started.
Next time: Time's Up