71. Living Colour, 'Vivid' (1988)
The double-platinum debut from New York's Living Colour is one of the smartest, heaviest, most uncompromising rock records to hit pop paydirt in the pre-Nevermind Eighties, a psychedelic explosion of downtown art-funk grooves, avant-jazz-trained filigrees, furious thrash shredding and vocalist Corey Glover, who sounded like Otis Redding trying to out-shout Axl Rose. Four African-Americans bumrushing the Aqua-Net age with prog chops, punk cred and pop smarts, there was no place to easily market Living Colour, but their singular sound was so powerful, especially on the breakout hit "Cult of Personality," it ended up everywhere from Headbangers Ball to Arsenio Hall, Art Ensemble of Chicago shows to a Rolling Stones tour, Casey Kasem's American Top 40 to Lollapalooza. Over the effortless, off-kilter riffing of Vernon Reid, the polyglot stew of Vivid gets extra urgency with sociopolitical lyrics about racism, gentrification and consumerism. "They play with feeling and conviction," no less an authority than Little Richard told Rolling Stone in 1990. "The same thing that started in the Fifties with me, they are taking it through the Nineties. And God bless their souls. They are keeping it alive." C.R.W.