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Living Solo

[whitespace] Corey Glover of Living Colour delivers 'Hymns' on his own

By Nicky Baxter

Probably not many people were waiting with bated breath for vocalist Corey Glover to come out of the hole into which he apparently vanished after the unfortunate breakup of black-rock troupe Living Colour.

Try as he might, Glover could only be perceived as a bit player next to group leader and guitarist Vernon Reid. And, truth be told, at times, it seemed as if Glover tried too hard to make his presence felt in the group; however, his vocal histrionics only served to distract from Living Colour's sound. With Hymns (LaFace), Glover's affinity for over-the-top melodrama crops up on occasion, but for the most part, his solo debut is a remarkably tasteful effort.

Still, the faux poetics of the opening track, "Hymn #1017," leave one with the disturbing feeling that Glover is straddling a load of syrup. (In all fairness, "Hymn" utilizes a female speaker to do the dirty work; Deatra Haime's sultry delivery softens the impact of Corey the poetaster.) Thankfully, that feeling soon gives way to the sonic wallop of "Do You First, Then Do Myself."

For all it's slamming musical power, "Do You First" is downright disturbing. On one level, it appears to be about a miscreant possessed by perverse sexual desires--a real creep.

On closer inspection, he is aware of his obsession and seeks redemption in religion. The instrumentation is unrelenting. Michael Ciro's guitar--propelled by vicious wah-wah pedal work and bolstered by Nathaniel Townsley's churning, chaotic stickwork--assaults the listener, forcibly making us feel the perversion of a sick soul.

Regrettably for those in need of a further rock fix, that song is only one of a couple of genuine headbangers. This is not surprising considering the session was done under the auspices of Baby Face and L. A. Reid's soft and warm R&B label. Thus, Hymns is heavy on mid-tempo numbers. Within this framework, however, Glover shines more often than not.

"April Rain" begins with Glover going a cappella for a verse before he is joined by strummed acoustic guitar and a glorious chorus. Glover could never be adjudged a truly funky singer; his strong suit seems to be a cross between power balladry and post-classic soul crooning.

It wouldn't be surprising if Glover had deliberately modeled "April Rain" on Prince's "Purple Rain"--the song boasts similar anthemic power. All that is lacking is the former's musical prowess.

Glover delivers on the promise of "Hot Buttered Soul"; the tune is a tip of the hat to Al Green's salad days as the last true soul man. From the flawless replication of Al Jackson's deceptively relaxed drum pulse to the vocalist's sky-gliding falsetto to the soaring strings, this one has Hi Records written all over it. Remarkably, "Hot Buttered Soul" doesn't come off as a by-the-numbers rip; there's real feeling in Glover's soul.

There are a few miscues, however. "Things Getting In the Way," another Al Green/Hi Records tribute, finds the singer engaging in the sort of vocal theatrics that made his contribution to Living Colour a mixed blessing. The problem is Glover can sound too mannered for his own good, gratuitously stretching notes where a succinct, incisive approach would be more appropriate. Thankfully, the melodrama is restricted to just a couple of tracks.

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Web extra to the June 25-July 1, 1998 issue of Metro.

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