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UToledo Scholar Writes Book for 33 1/3, a Series of Short Books About Albums

A scholar of African American literature and American popular music at The University of Toledo is going on tour across the country to promote her new book as part of 33 1/3, a series of short books about individual albums by artists ranging from James Brown to Celine Dion spanning nearly 20 years.

The paperbacks are designed to be short, pocketsize and easily consumed.

Dr. Kimberly Mack, an associate professor of English, is the author of “Living Colour’s Time’s Up,” a 152-page book that will be published Thursday, May 4, by Bloomsbury Academic.

“This is a book about the reclamation of rock music as Black music,” Mack said. “Ever since I heard about the 33 1/3 book series, I wanted to be part of it. Having the opportunity to do a deep dive in print into one of my favorite albums by a band that meant so much to my musical development was a dream come true and a sincere labor of love.”

Her proposal to the publisher was one of 15 accepted out of nearly 400 submissions in 2020. The 33 1/3 catalog is written by a variety of people, including critics, academics, journalists, musicians and poets. One author gets assigned to one record.

Mack focuses on “Time’s Up,” the sophomore album released in 1990 by the Black rock band Living Colour that features collaborations with artists as varied as Little Richard, Queen Latifah, Maceo Parker and Mick Jagger.

“Living Colour is a Black rock band that helped educate audiences in the late 1980s and early 1990s about rock’s Black origins, so it was only fitting that they had a song called ‘Elvis is Dead’ on ‘Time’s Up,’” Mack said. “And in a fun twist, Little Richard, one of rock’s Black originators and Mick Jagger, a white artist whose career owes an eternal debt to Black blues people and early rock and rollers, both contributed their voices to the track.”

She said the album holds great relevance in light of its forward-thinking politics and lyrical engagement with racism, classism, police brutality and other social and political issues.

“Living Colour is the most commercially successful all-Black rock band since Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, and ‘Time’s Up’ is a masterpiece,” Mack said. “‘Times Up’ affirms and amplifies Black participation in, and vital contributions to, rock music.”

“Time’s Up” was recorded in the aftermath of their debut record “Vivid.”

Mack said the group’s first album may have been a more obvious choice given its spectacular critical and commercial success. “Time’s Up” enjoyed even more critical success, though it didn’t do as well commercially.

“But ‘Time’s Up’ is a better album. It’s bolder, more experimental, more confident, and it’s more fearlessly political in a moment that desperately needed that,” Mack said. “And so many of its topics — racism, classism, police brutality and our dire environmental crisis — are still resonant today.”

Mack took one year and nine months to research and write the book. She interviewed all the current members of Living Colour as well as ex-member Muzz Skillings. She also spoke to various members of the record’s production crew, including the producer and engineer, and the late, legendary cultural critic Greg Tate.  

The band’s music is a creative fusion influenced by heavy metal, funk, jazz, hip hop, punk and alternative rock.

Mack’s favorite song on the album is “Time’s Up,” also chosen as the title of the album.

In the book she writes, “When I first heard the apocalyptic alarm clock and the violent snap of [Will] Calhoun’s drum at the beginning of ‘Time’s Up,’ it felt like a hammer hitting me in the head. It was angry. It was violent. It was disturbing. And I fell in love with it immediately.” 

Over the next three months, Mack is holding book events locally, regionally and across the country:

  • Thursday, May 4, in Ann Arbor, Mich. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Literati Bookstore, in conversation with Scott Poulson-Bryant. 124 E. Washington St.
  • Saturday, May 6, in Cleveland, Ohio. From 7 to 8 p.m. Visible Voice Books, in conversation with Jason Hanley. 2258 Professor Ave.
  • Thursday, May 11, in Brooklyn, Y. From 7 to 8 p.m. WORD Bookstore, in conversation with Laina Dawes. 126 Franklin St.
  • Wednesday, May 17, in Perrysburg, Ohio. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. Way Public Library. 101 E. Indiana Ave.
  • Thursday, May 18, in Chicago, Ill. From 7 to 8 p.m. Exile in Bookville, in conversation with Greg Kot. 410 S. Michigan Ave.
  • Tuesday, May 23, in Toledo, Ohio. From 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. University of Toledo Barnes and Noble at The University of Toledo. 1430 Secor Road.
  • Tuesday, May 30, in Detroit, Mich. From 6 to 7 p.m. Pages Bookshop, in conversation with Devon Powers. 19560 Grand River Ave.
  • Friday, June 23, in West Hollywood, California. From 7 to 8 p.m. Book Soup. 8818 W. Sunset Blvd.

“Living Colour’s Time’s Up” can be preordered on Amazon and the publisher’s website.

To learn more about Mack, visit her website.

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