1. #1
    JarredMcAdams's Avatar Ubisoft SF Game Designer
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    BackTrack Spotlight: "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour



    Each week we showcase an existing song from our extensive Rocksmith song library on the weekly Twitch stream, in addition to the current week's offerings. We’ll announce the BackTrack here each Wednesday and offer some thoughts about the featured song.

    This week's BackTrack Spotlight comes from our newest full-time notetracker, Brian Poedy! (Welcome aboard!)

    Living Colour -- “Cult of Personality”
    Originally released as Rocksmith 1 DLC on March 3, 2013
    Notetracked by Jason Kocol
    All arrangements in E Standard Tuning


    “Cult of Personality”—the breakout hit from Living Colour’s 1988 debut album, Vivid—won the band a Grammy award for "Best Hard Rock Performance" and reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The driving force behind this song is Vernon Reid’s searing guitar playing, with blazing solos and a fast, complex riff that that still manages to get stuck in your head.

    Vernon Reid was not your average 80’s shredder. While his lightning fast solos were consistent with the virtuosic lead guitar style that dominated 80s rock, Reid himself did not come from a strictly rock or metal background. Instead, he built his reputation in New York’s avant-garde jazz scene as a member of drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson’s group The Decoding Society. Their influential mixture of jazz, rock, funk, and ethnic music can be heard in both Living Colour’s work and in Reid’s later projects.

    “Cult of Personality” is both fast and technical. The main riff is iconic, and its catchiness belies the rhythmic sophistication and the technical ability required to play it correctly. The solo follows a predictable musical arc, which allows a player to make solo sound familiar, even when it’s being made up on the spot. Live performance footage of “Cult of Personality” shows that Reid’s solo was never quite the same twice, but that it was always built on a similar underlying structure.

    Reid’s solo begins anchored at the 15th fret and stays largely within a G minor pentatonic pattern, with the notable addition of the major sixth (the 17th fret of the B string). This is also a prominent note in the song’s main riff, helping to create some thematic consistency between the solo and the rest of the song. The specific notes vary from performance to performance, but Reid consistently begins with blazing fast repeated patterns in this position, setting the tone for what is to follow.

    From here Reid works his way down the neck to play the same G minor pentatonic scale pattern, anchored an octave lower at the third fret. This is where the solo’s arc really starts to take shape. Reid doesn’t linger long in this lower position, and he begins a slow climb, eventually slowing down a bit and incorporating more direct reference to the song’s vocal melody.

    From here he builds up the intensity, climbing up into the higher register and again ramping up the speed, with another flurry before settling into a chugging, riffy motif that leads out of the solo and back in to the verse. As the solo progresses, the listener is never any sort of feeling of rest, but in the end there is a sense of closure—Reid sets out from one point, takes us on a journey, and returns us home again.

    Reid’s jazz background likely had a great deal to do with his ability to phrase improvised solos in a way that makes the listener feel like they are being going somewhere. His solo has a musical purpose, rather than simply throwing together a bunch of fast patterns. It’s as if he’s telling a story, but using slightly different words and different phrasing each time he tells it. It’s not always about which notes he plays—it’s about what he’s saying with them.


    What else is awesome about "Cult of Personality?" What are some other songs with solos that really take you on a journey? Let us know!!!
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  2. #2
    Oh boy, let me tell you that Mastodon's Oblivion solo takes you on a journey, ya know.

    I still remember watching Cult of Personality from GH3. The notes were so beautiful. I still have a playthrough on my youtube channel where I managed to get 15k views cuz I was one of the first ones to post GH3 PC videos. Ahhh makes me wanna crush the song on real guitar.
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  3. #3
    Uncle Dead1y's Avatar Member
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    I love this song, I love the band (I've requested more from them, they really need a full pack). It's bloody hard to play though! I usually play it on bass, although I play it differently to how it's tracked, I use the open D instead of the 5th fret on the A for the main riff, it's just much easier that way. One of my favourites. Vernon Reid is amazing.
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    JarredMcAdams's Avatar Ubisoft SF Game Designer
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    Originally Posted by DangerousPersn Go to original post
    I love this song, I love the band (I've requested more from them, they really need a full pack). It's bloody hard to play though! I usually play it on bass, although I play it differently to how it's tracked, I use the open D instead of the 5th fret on the A for the main riff, it's just much easier that way. One of my favourites. Vernon Reid is amazing.
    A lot of people do it that way, and if that's what works for you, keep doing it. But, for what it's worth, we're pretty confident that it was originally played as tracked in the game. Here's a video of Vernon Reid himself breaking down the riff:



    Lots of interesting stuff in this video, but the breakdown of the riff itself start at about 3:02: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gxr2zINiH3c#t=3m2s
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    thequickmind's Avatar Senior Member
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    I love this track. I've mastered the opening riff, but the SECOND riff is the one that always kills me, no matter how many times I slow it down, I just can't seem to master the right position or fingering. But its still one of my favorites to play.
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    MAng0r3's Avatar Senior Member
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    What was even more impressive at the time the band was touring with this album was how Vernon was such a beast on stage. Dancing and jumping around like crazy while playing all that cray stuff!

    Can't seem to find those footage tough.....i know i saw it but it was 30 years ago.
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    elemenohpenc's Avatar Senior Member
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    Originally Posted by DangerousPersn Go to original post
    I usually play it on bass, although I play it differently to how it's tracked, I use the open D instead of the 5th fret on the A for the main riff, it's just much easier that way.
    Same here. Then I get all mixed up when the pre-chorus riff starts and mess up. This is one of those songs I've really wanted to work on more but i always put it off because the sol-oh-my-god that's hard!
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    stray75's Avatar Senior Member
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    Just noticed from watching a live video that Vernon straps his guitar up nice & high. Looks like Tom Morello may have taken a page out of his book? What do you think???



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    DanAmrich's Avatar Rocksmith Dev Team
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    I would like to recommend Vernon Reid's solo album "Mistaken Identity" -- very accessible to Living Colour fans.

    Also Corey Glover is my vocal spirit animal.
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    DanAmrich's Avatar Rocksmith Dev Team
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    I would like to recommend Vernon Reid's solo album "Mistaken Identity" -- very accessible to Living Colour fans.

    Also Corey Glover is my vocal spirit animal.
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    DanAmrich's Avatar Rocksmith Dev Team
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    Originally Posted by stray75 Go to original post
    Just noticed from watching a live video that Vernon straps his guitar up nice & high. Looks like Tom Morello may have taken a page out of his book? What do you think???

    I generally like my guitars high too. Lennon did as well. All personal preference, but I find fret access easier and I like the angle of my wrist more when ithe guitar is up.
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  12. #12
    DanAmrich's Avatar Rocksmith Dev Team
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    Originally Posted by stray75 Go to original post
    Just noticed from watching a live video that Vernon straps his guitar up nice & high. Looks like Tom Morello may have taken a page out of his book? What do you think???

    I generally like my guitars high too. Lennon did as well. All personal preference, but I find fret access easier and I like the angle of my wrist more when ithe guitar is up.
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