THE NEW LIVING COLOUR album, “Stain,” the band’s third for Epic, is nothing if not topical. Songs such as “Mind Your Own Business,””Never Satisfied” and “Ignorance Is Bliss” hold a musical mirror up to the world, and the images certainly aren’t pretty.Helplessness, sexual intolerance, various abuses and vices are the topics on “Stain.” And it’s not the proverbial “other guy” that these songs are talking about. “We feel for these people. We are these people,” lead singer Corey Glover said. “We feel a sense of empathy for the people in these songs, because in one way or another they are us. It’s who we are.” “Stain” is the band’s first full album since 1990’s “Times Up” and the first to use producer Ron St. Germain, a change that’s evident in the harder-edged sound. “It’s a little more visceral with Ron,” Glover said. “His personality is such that he’s very in-your-face, so the music tends to follow that as well.” THE FOURTH ANNUAL Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards were held last Thursday at the Palace, the ceremony’s first time on the West Coast. An audience of industry heavyweights saw more than $ 190,000 granted to the night’s honorees, who included Hadda Brooks, Solomon Burke, Dave Clark, Floyd Dixon, Lowell Fulson, Erskine Hawkins, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas and Jimmy Witherspoon. James Brown received the Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite a number of impressive performances, it was Ruth Brown, a 1989 honoree, who stole the show as mistress of ceremonies, charmingly joking her way through her introductions. Performance highlights included Solomon Burke’s “Got to Get You Off of My Mind,” Martha Reeves’ “Dancing in the Streets,” Hadda Brooks’ “That’s My Desire, ” Little Anthony’s “Goin’ Out of My Head” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” AFTER SIX YEARS of exceptional regional successes, Giant Records’ Big Head Todd is ready to make the move toward being a nationally recognized act, expanding on its strong regional presence. The Colorado-based band, signed by Giant co-owner Irving Azoff, recently released its debut album, “Sister Sweetly,” and the industry buzz suggests the label is putting a special emphasis on breaking what would become its first major rock act. John Brodey, the label’s head of promotion and marketing at Giant, says Big Head Todd is better prepared for the big time than most new groups. “This band had such a clear sense of what they’re all about,” Brodey said. “They had certainly received offers before Giant came along, and had turned them down. The band had always felt that they could go out there and do everything for themselves. They put out two indie records and developed huge areas of support without ever having national distribution.” After building a fan base in the Rockies, the group targeted Minneapolis, San Francisco and Chicago for aggressive touring and promotion. As a result, “they can go to those cities and sell out 1,000-1,500 seat venues,” Brodey said. Giant will hammer Boston and Atlanta next, gradually building the web. FIRST APPEARANCES by Dr. John, Al Jarreau, Charles Lloyd, and the Zawinul Syndicate, and a reunion of Les McCann and Eddie Harris, are among the highlights of the 15th annual Playboy Jazz Festival, set for June 12-13 at Hollywood Bowl. Festival associate producer Darlene Chan announced the lineup Thursday at the Playboy Mansion. A Silver lining Several large bands made the June 12 list, including the big band of Ray Anthony, Horace Silver’s new Silver/Brass Ensemble, the L.A. Sax Giants (with Buddy Collette, Bob Cooper, Teddy Edwards, Plas Johnson and Harold Land) and the GRP All-Star Big Band (with Dave Grusin, Randy Brecker and Tom Scott). Others in Saturday’s lineup include Wynton Marsalis, Dorothy Donegan and Mel Torme. Blues guitarist Buddy Guy will close the show. On June 13, Dr. John brings in his seven-piece New Island Social and Pleasure Club band — and Lloyd, now in the midst of an acclaimed comeback, will bring his quartet. Once a Playboy Festival mainstay with Weather Report, Joe Zawinul returns for the first time with his current Third World-flavored group, the Zawinul Syndicate. McCann and Harris will reprise selections from their famous 1969 album, “Swiss Movement,” and play new material. Tyner, Austin on tap Also appearing June 13 are Jarreau, Patti Austin, the McCoy Tyner big band, the Roy Hargrove Quintet and the Nils Landgren Unit from Sweden. The festival will conclude with a Latin workout featuring Poncho Sanchez’ Latin Jazz Band, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Colon. The festival again is being produced for Playboy Enterprises by George Wein, and Bill Cosby will be the emcee for the 13th time. Playboy reports that all tickets except those in the $ 27.50, $ 22.50 and $ 10 ranges have already been sold. “OF COURSE, YOU hope everyone will love your record,” Googe, the bassist for Chrysalis recording artists Masters of Reality, said of his new release, “Suffer on the Sufferbus.” “It’s a simple rock record. The best reaction so far is from my 4-year-old nephew. He knows all the words already.” The marketing rub The Masters’ new album continues in the vein of its predecessors, offering hard neo-psychedelia that’s neither metal nor alternative, and there’s the marketing rub. Kicking off with the shuffling first single, “She Got Me,” the Masters’ concise songwriting is evident on all tracks. Live, they do jam a bit, which is why they’ve reverted to a three-piece, dropping guitarist Daniel Rey. The Masters will do an L.A. showcase in late March, then begin a club tour.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more