Club Black 2004

If you fall off a horse the best thing to do is get back on it, and that’s exactly what this week’s post feels like after listening to last week’s recording from 2004. It was an assault on the eardrums, and I need to get back to listening to other shows from 2004 to reassure myself that not everything is so tough to listen to. This week’s show is just the tonic, recorded a month later it is a joy to listen to, both the recording and the performance. The show at Club Black is recorded at the aftershow coming on the heels of the Rock N Roll hall of fame induction, and is well regarded in the fan community, and from my initial impression I can see why. It’s got crowd noise, like all recordings, but the band is heard crystal clear through the whole show, and they are playing a great set. This one is a breath of fresh air, and I feel refreshed as soon as I begin to listen.

16th March, 2004 Club Black, New York

The sharpness of the recording is apparent from the very first note that is heard. There is a considerable cheer from the crowd, but once they sit back and listen you can hear the band just fine. The opening song is a showcase for the horns and keyboard, a full and clean Footprints is the first song of the evening. There is some sax work, be it Maceo or Candy, to begin with, and this is well worth the time it gets. Not to be outdone, Greg Boyer blows up a storm on his trombone, it’s got a big bounce to it and fills out the sound. The best is saved for last however, with a piano solo dominating the final third of the song. A great moment early on, this is the cue to close your eyes, sit back and take it all in. Already the memories of last week’s blog are receding.

Prince 2004 a

Prince gives Musicology plenty of hype from the get go, pausing the band early on to tell the crowd “you’ll ain’t ready”. After the obligatory applause the song starts proper, Prince has the band in his pocket, everything is smooth and fits together perfectly. There’s no fire in the performance, the band is too cool, and they glide through the song with ease. The saxophones do raise the levels somewhat, but for the most part it’s smooth as glass.

Things do morph, and Maceo plays us into Tighten Up. Maceo never lets me down, and as the crowd chants “Don’t stop Maceo” he blows up a storm. As he steps back, Mike Scott steps forward with a guitar break that is distinctly his. With the guitar sounding so clean and funky, Mike is in his element. The consummate bandleader, Prince keeps everyone involved with firstly a piano break, and then another chance for the rest of the horns to play. As an easy jam this song works, and it’s a great chance to highlight the band early on.

Shhh is introduced as “a quiet ballad” which greatly undersells in what is in all honesty one of his greatest songs. The band keep things low-key and the song belongs to Prince and Prince alone, firstly with his vocal performance, and then with his guitar break that starts with a lone whine, and ends several minutes later in a howl. Normally it would be Prince’s guitar playing that would have me waxing lyrical, and although the guitar here is of his usual high standard (the second guitar break in particular), it’s the vocal performance that gets under my skin, Prince still sounds as if he means every word even after all these years. The final workout on the guitar leaves us on a high before we get funky with the next song.

Mike Scott always sounds great playing D.M.S.R, his guitar tone has a sharpness and gives the song a new lease of life. Prince too seems to be sharper, he sings with a freshness that belies his age, and the age of the song. The horns add some sparkle, the song suddenly sounding brand new again. I Like The Way You Move is seamlessly brought into the mix, and Prince acknowledges OutKast as the crowd chants and sings. The band hit the groove as the crowd join them and the next few minutes are the perfect storm where the show becomes a party. With the horns and guitar all jamming and adding different lines it becomes an irresistible dance, time seems to slip away as I am caught in its funky web.

House Party continues on right where D.S.M.R. left off, it’s down low steady funk keeping the band locked in tight to a groove. Its slower and heavier, and keeps the heads bobbing as the band play. It’s for the most part a showcase for the horns, they play plenty over the steady groove, and they sound brighter against the low heavy beat.

The flurry of A Love Bizarre and Glamorous Life run us into a sprightly sounding I Feel For You. Princes vocals aren’t the sharpest, it’s up to the horns to inject the sunshine and brightness into the song. They are everywhere, their clean sound elevating the song wherever they riff.

We stay firmly in the Eighties with the appearance of Controversy. The guitar is initially low key, before it explodes out of the gate at the one-minute mark with some fabulously funky sounding playing. Prince and the band play well, and it’s an enjoyable listen, but when the rhythm guitar plays it becomes something else altogether, the moments are short and easily the highlight of the song.

The piano interlude by Renato is light and undemanding. It’s a tasty morsel between courses, and at a minute long it doesn’t out stay its welcome before we return to something special from Prince.

That something special is a soulful rendition of The Beautiful Ones. The song flows easy, firstly with some piano, and then some sax playing that has wings. For a while I forget that this is even The Beautiful ones, with the sax playing for some time, before we return to some cascading piano playing for a couple of minutes. All of it is classy, and it’s even better when I consider that Prince has yet to sing. And sing he does, when he does appear on the mic it’s with a gracefulness and measured performance. He sings beautifully, seemingly without pushing himself. There is emotion in his vocals, not over wrought, and well balanced performance that demonstrates his experience, showing us all that sometimes less is more.

Nothing Compares 2 U is noteworthy for the contribution of the Candy Dulfer. Prince’s vocals are as to be expected, but it’s the sax solo that soars and lifts the song. With no female counterpoint to Princes vocals, it’s this saxophone sound that provides colour and contrast to the performance, and it’s only fitting that the sax is the last thing we hear as the song fades out.

Prince pours it on for Insatiable, and gives a vocal performance that befits the subject matter. I have heard plenty of great performances of this song before, and I can safely add this one to that list. Prince’s vocals are smooth as butter, and have a creamy thickness to them that washes over you as you listen. Prince does deliver a spoken thanks to a list of people midsong, he’s very gentle with it and it doesn’t interrupt the mood at all. The transition to Call My Name is equally smooth, he called for the lights to be turned down low early in the song, and it still retains that late night dimly light through the whole 7-8 minutes. Call My Name is softer than on record, and Prince’s lyrics are dripping with passion and lust as he sings. As Renato plays some piano I reflect on Princes vocal performance on the last few songs, he has been sublime throughout, and this really is a master class.

prince 2004c

The rhythm track of Sign O The Times has a heavy dose of funk in it, and the introduction takes on a more dance-able tone as Prince hypes up the crowd. His vocals come quick and clearly, before the horns again begin to raise the heat a little. In fact, with the horns and piano playing it becomes an entirely different beast altogether, the seriousness of the song washes away and we are left with a funky little jam.

The balance is restored with a low key The Question Of U. Prince gives us plenty with this one, his guitar early on sounds as good as it ever has, there are some nice runs and fills that keep us engaged, before the song strips back for some guitar noodling. Things get even better as he sings new lyrics over the quiet music. It’s refreshing and intriguing, I find myself listening closely as he sings these words. I can’t believe how fantastic the last 30 minutes have been, and Mike Phillips puts his spin on things with a solo that easily matches every else thus far, this band is on top of their game right here. His playing in the last minute is outstanding, it demands listening.

The One and Fallin’ come together, intertwining with each other, and fitting well. The One has always been a song I look for in setlist, the version here is good, but it can’t compete with all we have just heard. Prince does come back strongly on the guitar, at first it doesn’t grab me, but it does get stronger and stronger and soon enough I am swept up by it and carried away.

Things change direction as Prince calls for the house lights and the band groove into Let’s Work. The bass isn’t as loud as I would like, and it does sound brassy with all the horns playing. In some ways it loses it attraction for me because of this, it doesn’t have the sweaty sound that I normally look for. The band do give it plenty of energy though, and soon enough it becomes U Got The Look.

U Got The Look has an electric sound to it, the guitar isn’t strong at all, and it has a more interesting sound because of this. That is until Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty” and begins to solo, crisp and clean in this case. The crowd come to the party with some singing that doesn’t add much to it, but does sound like fun.

It’s at this point that it becomes a jam and a party as Prince begins to call people on stage and the band begins a medley of party songs. All the usual suspects are in the mix, Talkin Loud And Sayin Noting, Life O The Party, and Hot Pants are prominent, as is Princes ‘Uptown up’ chant. Things move quickly, the beat and the dancing being the most important things. Soul Man adds some brightness, and seems appropriate for the performance that Prince has thus far delivered. Chance Howard takes on the vocal duties, leaving Prince to party up and keep things moving. It all ends with a crisp and poppy sounding Kiss. The horns and the guitar outdo each other to be heard, and the song is full and bright sounding. The guitar has a superb tone, and for me is the star of the song, I could have done with the song being a whole lot longer. Prince ends with a simple good night, and suddenly it’s all over.

This recording was better than I could have ever imagined. I had heard others speak highly of it, and although I have heard it before I don’t remember it being as good as it was. The first third was great, but the second third was outstanding, and it’s this part of the show that I found mesmerizing, Prince was at his peak with the band doing a fantastic job of supporting him. The end was weaker, but still well worth the time. I rate this recording highly indeed, and I am almost tempted to call it essential. When I think of 2004, this is how I want to remember it, a great show and a brilliant recording.

Thanks for reading
See you next week
-Hamish

House Of Blues 2004

The House of Blues show from early 2004 is an average recording of a great show. The sound may not be the best, but as compensation we have a show packed with interesting moments, one of the highlights being the opening ten minutes of Sign O The Times. The rest of the show lives up to the opening salvo, which makes it all the more disappointing that it is recorded in bad quality. As always I am a devoted fan, and I am prepared to listen to any quality to hear Prince doing this type of show. Its recorded just six weeks before the musicology tour, and you can hear that Prince is ready to go with the band well prepared and enjoying a couple of one off shows before the tour begins.

1st February 2004 (am), House Of Blues, Las Vegas

There are no surprises with this recording, right from the start you know what you are in for, with a scratchy distorted sound from the first moment. The band is playing Sign O The Times, somewhere behind the noise of the recording I can hear the band is sounding good, but it is hard work to listen to, and even at this early stage I am questioning my dedication to the cause, this will be one tough listen. Sign O The Times is played mostly as an instrumental, the beats and rhythms play for a good five minutes before any singing is heard. The sax attack of Candy Dulfer and Maceo Parker are in the house, they help break the cold electronic sound of the song early on, before Prince starts singing. It’s impossible to comment too much on Prince’s singing, the recording breaks up badly, but things become more settled as the crowd begins to chant and Prince sings the later verses. The best sounding part of the song is the keyboard near the end, the recording doesn’t distort so much and as Renato Neto plays the piano it finally becomes more listenable.

Prince 2004

Although The Question Of U suffers the same problems I stick with it for Princes guitar playing, and we are rewarded with a solo that has plenty of vitality to it, and lifts the recording.  The second half of the guitar break is where the real treasures lie, as the music eases back further so does Princes playing and he segues into The One as his guitar cries. It’s always a song I look for, I find the lyrics and guitar playing to be an emotional match, and as per usual Prince plays an emotive rendition. He closes out the song with the as expected wail on the guitar, and it’s a great way to bring it to an end.

I am very happy to hear Let’s Work next, even if it is accompanied by more distortion on the recording. This is definitely one for hardcore fans, even I am struggling with the quality. Prince sounds bright on Let’s Work, there is an extra bounce in his vocal, and he does add some liveliness to the show.

U Got The Look has the added bonus of the horns playing, and when Prince does begin to play his guitar it’s in a brighter sharper way that fits nicely with the horns. The riff is heavily distorted, so I find myself listening between the riff, and what can be heard is Prince and the band playing a funky version of a song that shines in this new rendition.

prince 2004c

The horns stay the centre of attention as Life O’ The Party begins. The song lives up to it’s title and the party can be heard starting, led by Prince on stage. He injects a lot of himself into the song, and the overall effect is uplifting. Likewise, Greg Boyers solo on the trombone is full of life, it hard not to smile as I listen to him play, he makes it seem like such fun. The song heats up at this point, and the rest of the song goes by in a blur, even here at home I feel I am part of the party.

We do get a couple of minutes of Soul Man next, which is crowd pleasing, but not heavy on Prince. Chance Howard takes the lead vocals, he sounds fine and is a good match for the song. As much I enjoy him, he’s no Prince, and I am happier when the song finishes and the opening of Kiss sounds out.

This is one funky version of Kiss, and for the first time the recording becomes almost listenable.  The guitars are sharp, the horns dazzling, and the keyboard is doing all it can to rival them, it’s great to digest all of it, and Prince himself gives a vocal performance to match. This is easily the best moment of the show so far.

It’s hard to dislike Take Me With U, and Prince plays it with some sincerity. The audience respond well, they can be heard making noise all through it, the only negative being again the reappearance of distortion on the recording. Prince is frisky and good-natured in his delivery, and there is a lot of joy in the song.

We get a long funk workout with the Everlasting Now, there is plenty of time for everyone to contribute and give it some sparkle. Princes guitar solo leads the way, and against a backdrop of horn swells he plays economically, before Candy comes to the party with a hot solo of her own. The song continues in this vein, Prince calls for Renato to solo, then the rest of the band, before getting the crowd involved too.

Prince 2004b

Shake Everything You’ve Got sees Maceo become the focal point. He is worth listening to, with all the years of experience you know he’s not going to let you down. The other horns all get a part to play too, it’s hard to single any one of them out, they all sound good to my ear. There is plenty of time to lose yourself in the music, they play for ten minutes, with all the horns having a part to play, along with Renato Neto. Although Prince isn’t to the fore, this is still worth the time to listen to, and the band are well in the groove.

Maceo is still the main attraction as Down By The Riverside begins. His playing is quick and lively, and I can hear him working hard on the recording. The rest of the band is in the back ground as he leads from the front with yet another excellent break.

Prince ends with a “Thank you -goodnight” but soon enough he returns for another show stopper, a luscious sounding The Beautiful Ones. The intro has an ethereal synth sound, as a piano plays for some time. The recording is certainly bad, yet the beauty of this performance still shines through. Asides from the keyboards, we also have a sax playing early on, adding its shine to the song. Prince doesn’t actually sing until well past the four-minute mark, and by that time the scene is truly set, the music has laid out exquisite carpet for him to sing over. He sounds quiet, yet his voice is note perfect, and on any other recording I would be gushing about this version. However it is what it is, even with a perfect performance the recording drags it down, his final howls lost in a wave of distortion and buzz.

Prince continues to tug at the heartstrings with a warm rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. The crowd sing the chorus appreciatively, although it’s Candy Dulfer that steals the limelight, and the show, with a blistering sax solo that has me nodding my head in acknowledgement. It’s hard to follow such a performance and after a quick chorus Prince wraps it up, but not before I am once again reminded of how good Candy is.

Prince 2004 a

Seeing America listed on the setlist was another reason that I chose this recording, and I’m not disappointed in the slightest as Prince begins the chant as the band hit the deep groove. It’s hard to make out the sound, being a heavier song the distortion again raises it’s ugly head, but I do catch Maceo setting the stage on fire with his playing, and there is definitely some funk in the house as they play. The bulk of the song is a long drawn out groove that is not served well by the recording, for long periods it very hard to work out what is happening as the beat continues.

Purple Rain sounds better, being quieter there is less distortion, and the balance of the instruments is again restored. There is an intro played on guitar that is achingly beautiful before Prince sings his opening lines, and for me the highlight of the song is right here. Most of the vocals are lost on the grubbiness of the recording, although thankfully it briefly improves during the guitar solo. It’s hard to say the recording is going out on a high when you can hardly make out most of the song, and I actually feel relieved as it finishes.

I made a big mistake choosing to listen to this show. I never wanted this to be a blog complaining about recordings, I wanted to celebrate the music and performances of Prince, however this recording was so bad it completely detracted from the show I was listening to. I let myself be fooled by an inviting looking track list and venue, and forgot the most important thing, it’s all about the listening experience, not just what was played but how it sounds. Being hard-headed, even once I realized my mistake, I continued with the blog post – it’s a lesson learnt the hard way. This isn’t even a show for the hardcore fan, be content to read the set list on the vault, and know that it was a probably a good show if you were there.

Thanks for sticking with me through this one,
Next week onwards and upwards!
-Hamish

 

Paris 1981

It’s been quite some time since I last went back and listened to some shows from earlier in Princes career, and today’s blog taking in the Paris show from 1981 is well over due. I have previously written of shows from earlier in year, the shows in March at both Sam’s Minneapolis and the Ritz New York, as well as the opening for the Rolling Stones later in October of the year. This show today falls right between those and neatly shows how quickly Prince is evolving. There is a lot more evolution yet to come, but here we see his look becoming a little less raw, and the overall show becoming more focused. There is still a long way to go, as we’ll see, but he is definitely progressing forward at a great rate.

4th June 1981, Théâtre Le Palace, Paris

As the show begins Prince is looking all cool and calm, it seems his look has been toned down, certain from the raw look he had at the Ritz show. I wouldn’t go so far as calling his look polished, but it certainly would be more acceptable to my Mother. Do It All Night matches the look of Prince and the band, it sounds smooth and polished, even if the lyrics give a clue to what lies behind this facade. The band is together on the small stage, shoulder to shoulder, and this too can be heard in the music, the band is tight and playing as one. Sonically it’s the bass that I am drawn to most, it’s got a life to it that lifts the song, and it helps that Andre Cymone looks dead cool as he’s playing. In fact, with a front line of Andre, Prince, and Dez it’s hard to say who’s the coolest, and all of them are worth watching closely.

Paris 81

Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad sees Prince stalking the front of the stage, guitar slung at his side ready for action. After the first verse he delivers, and along with Dez there is a nice clean rock sound that comes across as warm rather than dangerous. That feeling changes as the song progresses and Prince becomes more impassioned and bolder with his guitar playing as we get deeper into the song. Initially its Dez striking the guitar hero poses but soon enough Prince is again centre of attention as he has his guitar howling and crying. Even as the three of them stand shoulder to shoulder playing it is still Prince my eyes remain glued too, guitar in hand he is electrifying to watch. The last minute even more so as he plays out the last minute of the song solo, every note stretched for maximum effect and emotional value, and I know that as a teenage boy the final pose of him atop of the amps shredding was about as good as it gets.

Paris 81a

The teenage me would not have been quite as excited by Gotta A Broken Heart Again that follows, however the more mature me finds plenty to like about it. Eyes closed, gripping the microphone, Prince is in the moment and putting his all into the vocals. I haven’t seen this DVD in years, and watching it now I am seeing it with new eyes, Prince isn’t working the guitar or the audience, instead he’s pouring it out into the vocals and as a listener the reward is great. It’s not a song that I would generally rate for the vocals, today I am in a different frame of mind and it’s all I hear as he sings.

The announcement that “this is a new song, Jack U Off” has me again paying attention closely, Jack U Off seems to have been around for ever, but even it was a new song at some stage. The audience is fairly muted (as they are throughout) and it’s up to Prince to compensate with his dancing and energy onstage. His dancing is still at a primitive stage, its Dez who gets all the cool points here with his guitar god moves and poses. The song finishes with a flourish, before something more serious and well-known follows.

Prince loses another layer of clothing as When You Were Mine soars into view. The song sounds sprightly, although onstage there are times when the band look like they are going through the motions. They get a new less of life after the breakdown, and the second half of the song is played with great gusto. No matter what is happening on stage, it always sounds good in my ears, and never once do the band drop the ball in this respect. The final moments see Prince knelt at the front of the stage playing guitar in a visual image that always sticks with me.

Paris 81d

Paris 81c

I never thought of Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) as a fully-fledged rock song before, but here it is rocking my socks off. The bass and drums and beautifully locked in and Dez provides some sharp edged guitar buzz to it the has my inner rocker all a shaking. The only thing that pulls it back is the shrill keyboards, the rest of the time it’s all macho posing and Dez’s deeper backing vocals add a much manlier sound to the mix. Prince derails this somewhat with his effeminate dancing and overall provides a cool balance to it all, especially as he and Dez engage in some interplay with their guitar playing.

Andre is back to the forefront of things as Sexy Dancer begins, and his bass certainly adds a lot more weight than what is heard on record. Prince, Andre and Dez perform some rather rudimentary moves, although it’s hardly necessary on a stage as small as this, and instead it’s the music that carries the day. The part of the performance that does catch my attention however, is when the three of them stand in a semi-circle playing to each other. Although they don’t make eye contact you do get the feeling that they are listening to each other and playing off each other.

Paris 81e

I can’t get past the silliness of Sister, although one does have to admire the courage of Prince to stand in his underwear and sing this in front of a crowd of strangers. It’s a blessing that the song is so short, but to be fair I don’t see how he could make it any longer without really pushing things over the top.

I am much more at ease as we sail into Still Waiting. It refreshing to see Prince at this stage without guitar in hand, and instead he engages in some old fashioned showmanship and he croons and works his way through the song at the front of the stage. He moans, he howls, he croons, he falls to his knees at the front row, all the time attempting to break through to the audience. He falsetto for the final minutes is right on the money, and it’s a rare thing to hear a voice of such clarity and beauty in a raw club setting.

Guitar rattle and runs signal the start of the next movement, and initially sounds like the beginning of a blues song until Prince begins to tell the audience “Down with War” which kicks open the door for Party Up. Prince has worked himself into a lather by this stage and he is looking and sounding suitably sweaty as they bump and funk their way through the song. Andres moves behind Prince almost steal the show for me, I am fascinated by his bobbing and weaving, although Prince commands attention as he later calls on the rather flat Paris crowd to “partyup”. Even enthusiastic hand clapping from Prince fails to elicit much of a response, this is either one cool crowd or a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Dez and Prince put their all into playing, and they look like they are feeling it, even if the crowd isn’t.

Paris 81f

Dirty Mind sees Prince finally dispense with the last of his clothes, and performs in his bikini briefs. The music is exciting and up-tempo, and the performance has plenty going for it. Princes dancing is raw, and to be honest at times he does look like he performing calisthenics rather than performing on stage. It makes me wonder if he did perhaps meet the devil down by the cross roads sometime between this show and 1984, there is night and day between the dancing of the two eras. Knowing Prince as I do, I’m sure he dedicated many hours to perfecting his dancing, and looking at his raw performance here I can see it was certainly needed. His passion for the music and obvious joy of performing it does shine through, and it’s very hard for me to be negative about any aspect of the performance, I know a lot of my moves are similar to this when I am dancing to his music. Dez’s guitar and the swelling keys give it a great uplifting sound, and the energy does leap out of the speakers at me throughout the entire song.

There is no better way to end the show than Uptown, and it is a glorious sounding version played here. Prince and the band end on a high, Andres bass and Dezs guitar sound full and fresh, as does Bobby on the drums along with Lisa and Finks keyboards. Everything sounds pushed forward and full, and I do love the full band sound playing at maximum power. Prince is back to playing guitar, mostly rhythm although he often instead punches the air or grabs the microphone. There is a great coda though where his guitar playing is highlighted, although only briefly, and then its Dez who gets a rocking lead break while Prince encourages the crowd one last time.

Paris 81g

There is no denying this is an earlier, rawer sounding Prince. He is moving in the right direction though, there is more dancing appearing and they are working on a more well-rounded performance. The sound on this recording was excellent, and seeing the band as well as hearing them is always an added bonus. Of the earlier shows by Prince captured on tape, this is perhaps my favourite, the look of the band, their sound, and the show itself are all interesting and it greatly appeals to me. This is a real band performance, I could hear each of them playing their part and contributing, I could have easily highlighted anyone of the band for special praise, and for me that says a lot for the quality of Prince’s bands. A worthy addition to any collection, this one will stand up to further viewings in years to come.

Thanks for reading,
See you back here next week
-Hamish

Paris 81b

Nighttown 1998

In retrospect I was perhaps a little harsh on last week’s show I listened to. It was a perfectly serviceable show from 1998, and it certainly had its merits, even if I didn’t fully appreciate it. Part of the problem of being a Prince fan and listening to these bootlegs is that I am constantly judging him, not against other artists, but against his own high standards. Even if I consider a show to be ‘average’, it’s still far beyond what others were doing at the time, and especially so with the aftershows. There is no other artist out there playing aftershows and these jams just for the love of the music such as Prince does. I would take an average Prince aftershow over any other musicians show any day. Today’s recording has my heart a flutter already as The War is on the setlist. I still remember the day that the cassette mysterious appeared in the mail, and although I consider the late 90’s to be bit of a dry spell, The War is a definite highlight in my book. I know its appeared at other shows and recordings, but I don’t recall hearing it before, so this will be a good chance to sit back and recapture some of that magic. So I’m all set, let’s give it a spin.

1998 Prince

12th August 1998 (am) Nighttown, Rotterdam

A whoop, a cheer, the crowd clapping a beat and chanting start this one, and they quickly fade out as the guitar is heard playing a subtle, delicate, and yet funky, riff. Its par for the course that these recordings contain some audience chit chat, although thankfully in this case it isn’t too intrusive. The riff isn’t too strong, but it is a real earworm of a hook, and I can hear the band and the audience playing around it for some time. It is a slow burning, slow building take of Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothing, and the band do play various parts on top of the foundation that has been set, without ever exploding out of the blocks. I wait for things to cut loose and get wild, but that moment never comes, instead Prince and the band are happy to play as long as it takes with their slow build. The release does finally come with some funk infused keyboards, and a loud cheer as Prince begins to sing. Its music to dance to as much as listen to, and I wistfully dream I was there as the keyboards battle it out in my headphones. This feeling is made stronger by the chanting and singing as the band, and the party, begins to heat up. Things burst into flames as Prince has firstly Mike Scott and then Morris Hayes play solos, both bring an intensity to the performance that has me wanting more. I laugh as Prince admonishes the sound guy with “Was that feedback, who’s adding that to the mix, who thinks that is necessary?”. He has a point, and it’s well delivered.

Let’s Work throws me right back to the 1980’s, in both its freshness and its clean funk sound. Mr Hayes adds his warmth to it, but asides from that it’s the bass sound of the original that I cling onto. It bumps and funks along, with plenty of fat swells around the chorus. We don’t get too comfortable with this nostalgic trip, however the three minutes we get is  plenty, and it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to most people’s faces.

1998 Prince (4)

I am not so enamoured by Delirious, yet again I can’t deny it’s a nod to his past, as well as being just downright fun to listen to at a show like this. The thing I like most about hearing this tonight is Morris Hayes, his fat sound adds a more serious weight to the song, and I do feel for it more as his organ pushes the sound forward. Things take a turn towards the rock sound as a lead guitar appears and we have a coda of Rock N Roll Is Alive. They are strange bedfellows, but as always it works, and I feel much better for hearing this new sharpness added to the sound.

As we move to That’ll Work Prince takes a few moments to thank the crowd for attending the concerts, before the music begins to sing, literally, with a wonderful cameo from Marva King. Larry Graham makes an appearance at this stage, as the crowd chant him in, it’s surprisingly funky and enjoyable as the crowd chant over the music for some time like this. Larry has his thumb working overtime, and encourage by the crowd he serves up a fantastically fat sounding solo.

The sound of his bass carries us easily to the next song, which is logically enough Hair. The deepness of his bass is amply matched by the deepness of his vocals, and my head moves gently to the sound of it as he sings. I can’t tell you who is doing what on stage, but I do know that there is some fine keyboard sounds matching Larry, and the addition of Jerry Martini on the saxophone changes the sound of the band again. There is time for everyone to play, and it’s not only Larry front and centre. The guitar and organ both shine in their respective moments, and there is the feeling that this is very much a band performance rather than one or two people dominating.

1998 Prince (2)

Things slow down next as the blues takes hold in the form of Sex Machine. Its low and slow, with plenty of guitar work from Prince to wallow in. He plays very tightly and restrained, and I do enjoy hearing another style of his playing. The blues sound that he stakes out is kept with by both Morris Hayes on the organ, and Larry Graham on the bass. They play in the same manner, and keep us firmly rooted. The sax work of Jerry Martini adds a brightness to proceedings, but Prince buries us in the blues when he returns for a stronger, heavier guitar break. It’s still smoky and bluesy and even when the notes come in a flurry it still sounds dark and tightly in the groove.

The moment I have been waiting for arrives, and at first I fail to recognize it. It starts with a simple bass loop, and for me it sounds a lot like the start of Miles Davis So What. There is no mistaking The War as the keyboards begin to emerge from the background and Prince intones his “One, two”.  This song interests me in so many ways, and it is very Prince sounding in lyrical content. In many ways it points to the direction he will take with the Rainbow Children in a few years’ time both with the music and the different slant on lyric writing. The lyrics have a weirdness to them which only makes me listen more carefully, and even if the music doesn’t always have me fully engaged, Prince and his lyrics certainly do. The sax of Jerry Martini again lifts us, but it’s against the backdrop of the darker swirling sound, wah-wah guitar, and Princes spoken manifesto.  Mike Scott soars with his guitar break and things loosen briefly and we come out of the darkness. Any hopes for a 26 minute, or even 45-minute version, are dashed as Prince wraps it up at 10 minutes, ending with an appropriate macabre laugh.

1998 Prince (3)

We end on a high with a furious take on the Santana medley. Although the recording isn’t great, Prince tears it up at this stage, and his guitar rips through the songs. I would have loved to see his face as he plays, he certainly sounds like he is playing with great abandonment and plenty of joy. The guitar sings in places, howls in others, and is undoubtedly the star of the show for the last ten minutes. Even as the song ebbs and flows, the intensity is maintained throughout by Prince and his playing, and I don’t tire of it for a single moment – it is essential listening throughout. The final stabs shoot out at me, and end the show on a high that would be hard to top if they continued to play.

This show is redemption for the show I listened to last week. Last week I bemoaned the lack of intensity and fire, this show recorded a week earlier has plenty of both and delivers on all fronts. Hearing The War live was undeniably a real treat, and the highlight for me, but there was plenty more to this show to recommend it. Larry sounded great, as did Jerry Martini, Marva King and the irrepressible Morris Hayes. It would be unfair to compare this to Prince shows from other eras, but on its own it stands as a worthy listen.

Thanks for reading, have a great week
-Hamish

 

19th August 1998- Copenhagen

It’s very easy for me to overlook certain years, such as 1998. Why would I pick something from 1998 when there is so many gems from the 1980’s and early 1990’s to choose from. 1998 hardly seems like the most exciting year of Prince’s career, yet recently I have been thinking about these shows and finding there is interesting moments that I have an urge to hear. Today I am listening to an aftershow from 1998 where Violet The Organ Grinder is played. That’s enough of a hook to lure me in, and I am further intrigued by some of the other songs played as well. Perhaps not my favourite band of all time, but there are enough key players there for me to have my hopes up for another great aftershow.

19th August, 1998(am) Vega Mussikens Hus, Copenhagen

I am liking it already as Prince lays the ground work with some mellow organ as a guitar and bass flicker in the background. It is just a warm up, yet I find it an easy way into the recording before we start proper.

The warm positive feelings stay with us as the band begin to jam from the start. The instrumental is smooth and cool, and has a groove that is effortless in its cool. There is a very intimate feel as the band is introduced and a sense that we are building to something greater with the yell of  “and we got the man, we got the man!” as an introduction to Prince. The groove is locked tight with the bass, guitar and organ playing as one, in a way that only Prince and his band do. It grooves and rolls and is a fine introduction for the evening.

Prince, Larry 1998

Johnny is fantastic, a laid back jam that is almost trance-like. The guitar and organ play around each other in a delightful groove that is dripping. The lead guitar breaks things up without over playing and we stay with the summer vibe of it all. Prince sings, and the mood stays exactly the same, his vocals staying with the laid back sound. There’s only a verse and a chorus, but it hardly matters when the groove is this delicious. We have twelve minutes to wallow in this sound, and to be honest I could have easily eaten up another twelve minutes’ worth of the same. There’s even a sax solo near the end to liven things up which is a nice exclamation mark on the whole song.

The transition to Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa is every bit as smooth as you might expect, and for the first time this evening we can hear Larry Graham. What captures my attention though is the saxophone again, Tony Morris is adding a lot to this show, and it lifts it from the slow heavy groove to something brighter and it demands closer listening. The other instrument that features prominently in this song is the heavy swirling sound of Morris Hayes on the organ. The song becomes a very quiet sing along with just the faintest hint of keys and guitar as the crowd carry the song for a couple of minutes. I do like this part of the song just as much as anything else we have heard thus far, and the band work themselves steadily back to the groove for a finish in a way that sounds pretty cool to me.

larry Prince 1998

The Jam fails to fire my enthusiasm at first, there doesn’t seem to be anything new in there for me. Of course I always enjoy Mr Hayes contribution, and tonight it’s when Mike Scott comes to the party with a guitar solo that has me sitting up and taking notice. It’s short, and for the half minute it plays he has all my attention. Likewise, the sax solo has a touch of fire that has me interested, although it too is short and sweet. Mentally I tune out as Larry plays, no offense to Larry, but I have heard him for many years now and tonight he doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

The following jam is of more interest to me, and has a few different things in the mix. The steady groove is still firmly in place, and sounds almost shuffling at times. As the music moves up and down we have Prince singing Push It Up before the song becomes an all-inclusive singalong. Usually these don’t sound great on recordings, tonight I am feeling in the moment and happily listen to it and try to imagine what it was like to be there. Come On, and Acknowledge Me are also in the jam in various forms, and the whole thing works as an evolving, tumbling jam.

P 98

The change to Gett Off is subtle, and I almost miss it. The lyrics suddenly come at me, and although the music is a soft jam there is no mistaking the words and Princes delivery. The organ swells behind him, and we are a million miles from the Diamonds and Pearls version. The key hook is absent, instead we have Mr Hayes filling the spaces with his heaving organ. The hook finally appears, but only just as we swing into a jazzy Violet The Organ Grinder.

It is jazzy sounding, with Prince scatting against a jazzy toned guitar. Some noodling by Mr Hayes adds to this feel, and when Prince does sing Violet The Organ Grinder it’s with a croon that completely throws me. That’s not to say I don’t like, I love it, it’s just not what I expected right now, which is exactly why I love listening to these shows and I never tire of listening to Prince and his bands. Prince playfully returns to his scat for the last couple of minutes of the song, but returns to singing just as the scat was coming dangerously close to out staying its welcome.

After a lengthy break the music and funk returns with a long jam. It’s much faster than before but not as heavy sounding. The instruments play quick and light and it does sound quite different from earlier jams, especially with a choppy guitar sound. There is the obligatory “I like funky music” chant, yet it’s all about the music and is a mostly instrumental jam. I am surprised to hear the lead guitar sound fire up, and Prince does give us a brief solo before the song becomes Release Yourself with a chant and singing to match. Although it goes for some time, it doesn’t reach any great heights, and it’s only a brief burst of guitar that sparks a flicker of interest in me. The rest of the jam is fine, but compared to the rest of the show it is a comedown.

P 1998

The show ends at this point and I am left to gather my thoughts. The show encapsulates everything I dislike and like about this period. There are some great moments and overall you can’t really fault the show and yet at the same time there is something missing, a fire, a passion or an excitement. I get the feeling that Prince is comfortable and playing well within himself. I do like the song choices and the different arrangements keep me interested, it’s just enough to keep me coming back for more. For me this is an enjoyable ‘middle of the road’ show that is well recorded, I would happily listen to it without ever feeling the need to recommend it to anyone.

Thanks for reading, next week I’ll take in another show from 1998 that is worth a closer look at

-Hamish

 

 

Paradiso, 25 March 1995

Sometime ago I wrote that if I ever got a time machine I would immediately head back to 1995 and the March 26th show a Paradiso. Mr Herman Hagen very kindly contacted me, and said that if this whole crazy time machine notion ever played out I should say hello to him on the 26th. He would be easy to find- having a black eye from one of Mayte’s boots from the show on the 25th.  So here I am with a recording of the 25th in my hand, already to give it a listen. Obviously I will not to hear the moment when Mayte stage dives and catches Mr Hagen in the eye, but at least I can hear the show and be with Herman in spirit if not in body, after all I am still some way off from completing my time machine.

25th March, 1995, Paradiso Amsterdam

“Go Michael, Go Michael” is a great way to start the show, and Michael B does come to the party with solid pound to introduce the band and the music. The recording isn’t too bad, and you can pick up the party atmosphere of the show right away. Prince has the crowd on has side right from the get go, having them sing along with him throughout Funky. It’s hard not to like it, and I do feel as if I am there as the crowd cheers and chants their way through the song. It’s no surprise that there is something for everyone in this first song, Mr Hayes adds his depth to it, and Prince throws in some funky guitar mid-song before indulging is some fast solos near the end. We are off to a fine start, and the band is feeling hot right from the first note.

Prince 1995 fun

The last few months I have written of my growing appreciation of 18 And Over, and here is no different. Prince dwells on the chorus this time, and obviously is getting a lot of enjoyment from having the crowd sing it back to him. The house is empty so I happily sing along, safe in the knowledge that my partner is going to walk in and quiz me on the questionable lyrics. Tommy plays a light sounding piano solo, unfortunately the recording is quiet at this moment, so I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. The long guitar break from Prince has me closing my eyes in enjoyment, not a loud rock solo, but a more measured and beautiful sounding break that well suits the late night vibe of the song. The song ends on a crowd pleasing high and they happily sing the chorus under Princes guidance.

Now is much deeper sounding, and more chaotic to boot. It’s not as fast as it is on record, and for me it at times lacks a spark. The best moments for me are the chorus and the ever present Morris Hayes. For the longest time I don’t feel it, but eventually Prince and the band do get to me, and there is some hand clapping and a passionate howl from Prince that has me completely sold on it. The song becomes the inevitable jam with a chant of “go Michael, go Michael” leading us into new territory. There is some popping bass to enjoy as the song slows and spins. There is a jam to the end with that is OK to me, although I feel I’m not getting the full experience listening to the audience recording. It’s something that needs to be heard live rather than a recording of.

I Believe In You was a staple in the setlist at the time, and although I do like the squelchy bass I am not really feeling the rest of the song tonight. There is a guitar break by Prince, rather pedestrian by his standards and even as it shimmers and shakes I still don’t get that spark of energy. It’s the second shortest song of the evening however and as it finishes I look forward to returning to the jams.

But first we get hi-tempo Proud Mary, with plenty of guitar runs from Prince. Its kept to the point, and introduction verse and chorus, then a minute of Princes soloing before a return to the chorus as the song finishes with a final burst from Prince. It’s all very sharp and not a note is wasted. It wraps up this burst of shorter songs and now we do indeed return to the longer jam.

Prince 1995 fun b

And when I say longer jams The Ride is one of the first ones I think of.  The rendition here is exactly as you might expect, after a smoky start Prince and his guitar ramp up, and as he finishes his solo the crowd gives a very appreciative cheer. I can hear why too, Prince plays expressively and passionately, while all the time there is the feeling that he is steadily in control. Everything is in its place, and as it should be. A great late night burner, Prince once again delivers with The Ride.

Glam Slam Boogie comes up next, and for the first time I think of the word groove. It does have a groove to it, and I easily bob along to it, as well as sing along with the crowd and their “ow we oh”. The guitar takes a back seat for a while and we have a couple of cool sounding keyboard breaks, something a bit different to break it up. It’s so easy sounding, and is a delight to listen to, I find it very uplifting as it plays. It could have been another 10 minute jam, but Prince and the band wrap it up in half that time, a shame as I was quite happy chilling out to this one, Mayte’s tambourine solo being a definite highlight.

Days Of Wild has a different sound to it, it’s not as aggressive sounding, although it is more in tune with what we have heard already, and more laid back in sound. I still like Princes lyrics, even if he’s not spitting them hard. Even the singing of the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” sounds somewhat muted. The bass starts rolling fast as we get a segue into Hair for a verse before the hook of Days Of Wild returns again with new enthusiasm. The crowd is much more into at this stage, and the singing returns with more vim and vigour. A final burst from Prince and the band finishes the song on a high after a slow start.

Prince 1995 fun c

From one wild song to another as Prince next kicks off Get Wild. Its a great performance, and to be honest I forget to write for the first couple of minutes as I listen intently. The vocals are catchy and infectious, and Maytes input is equally fun. The party sounds full in effect now, and I could easily see myself bouncing along to this song. The crowd adds a fast soul clap to the proceedings as Prince introduces us to the “play the motherfuckin bass” chant. I want to chant along to as the band is on fire at this stage and there is plenty of intensity to the song and performance. The band do sound as if they are getting wild, and I love that the performance and music match the lyrics. Each band member takes their turn to get wild, all of them add something to the song- I can hear the wildness coming out of the speakers at me. The soul clap comes down like rain, the crowd staying involved to the end with their singing and chanting, especially as Prince begins to sing “The roof is on fire” It becomes a jam that sounds as if it might go for ever, guitar comes and goes, as does singing and chanting, the occasional chorus and some cool sounding keyboards. Things sharpens near the end of the song with a guitar break from Prince before the groove tightens right up for the end. It’s only fitting that the “ow we oh” chant carries us through to a final roll from Michael B and the finish of the show.

I have listened to a lot of shows from 1995 in the last six months, and I think I may have reached saturation point. This show was funky, and the band was exceptional and tight. For all that though, I never quite warmed to it, even though it ticked many boxes of what I look for. Like I said, I have listened to plenty of shows like this in the last six months, and I think I am ready for something new. Sorry Herman, if I do ever finish that time machine I will buy you a beer at the show on the 26th, but don’t expect to see me on the 25th.

Thanks for reading, I have been very run down and sick for the last couple of weeks, and I think you can see that in the way I write. I’ll be back next week, back at full power and full of the joy of life

Take care
Hamish

Prince 1995 fun d

 

Dream Factory

It’s early winter morning here. The sun has yet to rise, and outside my window I can see the sparkle of frost on the lawn by moonlight. All is quiet as I sit here with my cup of tea, except for the sound of the Dream Factory album playing. Nothing moves and all is still as I sit here listening to it alone. Prince made a variety of great music over his career, some was for partying and sharing with others, and some was for private reflective moments. Then there was the music that he didn’t want us to hear at all, the unreleased tracks, the lost albums. It’s entirely appropriate that I sit here now listening to Dream Factory alone, as that is how I have heard it all my life. It wasn’t bumped at the clubs, or all over the radio, we didn’t talk about it at High School, and for most of us we didn’t hear it until much later. It is however one of Princes most important albums, one of his most creative albums, and one of my favorite albums. No, on second thoughts, it IS my favorite album.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dream factory, and July 18th marks the anniversary of my personal favorite configuration of the album. There are plenty of versions floating around, with the June 3rd 1986 being one of the most popular. My preference for the July 18th configuration comes from the fact that the Pimpsandwich edition has some beautiful covers that complements it wonderfully, and I feel that this tracklisting flows better than the one from June 3rd.

Dream Factory Pimpsandwich

 

Of course Dream Factory was never released, instead being pulled apart and used for Crystal Ball, before that project too was shelved and out of the ruins we got Sign O The Times. Many of the tracks on Dream Factory do appear on Sign O The Times, but it would be a mistake to think of Sign O The Times as being an upgrade of Dream Factory. Dream Factory works much better than Sign O The Times overall, it has a much more cohesive sound, and overall consistent vibe to it. A large part of this could be put down to The Revolution who contribute heavily to Dream Factory, as well as the track listing itself.

Sign O The Times opens with the title song itself, which adds a seriousness and a weight to what follows. Dream Factory opens with the much lighter sounding Visions, and it immediately changes the feel of the album. The Dream Factory is more colourful, more layered, and  having Lisa playing the opening solo piano track announces that this is a much more collaborative effort. Lisa plays as only Lisa can, layered chords as the other hand plays a light floating melody, it has an intimate sound, almost as if one has walked in unannounced on her practicing piano. This feeling of a band effort is reinforced by the following Dream Factory title song, it is bright and has twists and turns that hold your attention, and there is no mistaking the outside influences other band members have brought to the table. The downbeat verses are upstaged by a great chorus where all the band contribute their different sounds. It works, and it rattles around in my head long after it’s finished. Train continues with this sonic assault and cleverness, the music mimicking a train, something that sounds cool rather than corny. Again, the band is the thing, and this time the horns add another element to the mix.

There is a jump in sound and style from Parade to Sign O The Times. In Dream Factory we have the stepping stone between the two, Parade has its fingerprints over several songs, such as Dream Factory and In All My Dreams, while Sign O The Times looms on the horizon with the tracks from that album featured here. We get both sides of the same coin, and the album looks both backward and forwards in its sound and songwriting.

Dream factory tracklist

Dream Factory – Pimpsandwich

Even songs that we are familiar with from Sign O The Times get a new life in this context, and surrounded by these Revolution contributions they sound more together and belonging. Side One and side four are where Dream Factory differs the most from Sign O The Times, but the songs that fill side two and three still have a sense of belonging and place. Dorothy Parker and It both seem to shine a little brighter, and with Sign O The Times buried deeper in the album it loses some of its weight. Strange Relationship gains a fantastic sitar sounding introduction (courtesy of a Fairlight CMI) which elevates it to another level and you can again hear the band influence on Prince adding layers to it, rather than the funk work out that it is at it’s heart.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the album is the run of Sign O The Times, A Place In Heaven, Crystal Ball. On paper they look like a desperate mix, but together on album they are a showcase for the breadth and scope of Princes, and the bands, vision. We have light and dark in equal measure, and each song acts as a counter balance to the other. Crystal Ball is the most ambitious of the trio, it has Prince at his most creative stretching things to the limit, it doesn’t always work but today in the early morning it sounds pretty close to perfect. Its songs like this that show Prince was more than a song and dance man, he was also an artist and a visionary.

Although side 4 opens with The Cross, it could in some quarters be considered the weakest side of the album.  It’s at this stage that the comparisons to Sign O The Times don’t serve Dream factory well. Whereas side four of Sign O The Times featured The Cross, Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night and closes with the divine Adore, Dream Factory closes with The Cross, Last Heart, Witness 4 The Prosecution, Movie Star and All My Dreams.  The Cross is rightly hailed as a classic, and All My Dreams is a fantastic song that deserves more listens. The intervening songs are all good in their own right, but in such esteemed company they sound thin. They do have their charms, Last Heart with its late night pop sound, Witness 4 The Prosecution ticks all the rock boxes and sounds like something Prince could play in his sleep, and Movie Star is Prince playing with a knowing wink to us all, the lyrics themselves almost too clever for their own good. All My Dreams comes from a different place altogether and is in a league of it’s own. The vocal arrangements are beautifully textured, and Princes lead vocal sounds black and white against the music. It at times sounds like the theme song for a TV show, but it takes on a different tone mid song with some weirdness that adds interest without detracting from the song. Its fitting that the word ‘Dream’ should be in the title as it does have a dream like quality to it, and it summarizes the album nicely with the band contributing , and a piano solo that runs through the middle of the song that bookends the opening song on the album. By the time Prince croons “Don’t ever lose your dreams” a final time it does feel as if we are coming to the end of a journey with him, and in the case of The Revolution that is certainly true.

Dream Factory thunderball

Dream Factory – Thunderball

Dream factory is a natural extension of Parade, you can hear where it follows on from where Parade left off. Much more than that, it is an extension of The Revolution, and not only are they confident and strong with their contributions, Prince is also much more accepting and willing to use what they bring to the mix. The Revolution broke up a couple weeks after this configuration, but this is a fitting memorial to their greatness and how much a part they were of the Prince legend.  1986 is the greatest year of Princes career, we have plenty of evidence of that, and the Dream Factory is the key thread that pulls it all together. To properly understand the relationship between Prince and The Revolution, and the creativity they had together, you only have to listen to this album. This is the greatest thing they ever did together, and the pinnacle of their partnership. One of Princes greatest albums, this would not exist without The Revolution.

“The Revolution will be heard!”

Yokohama 9 September 1986- End of The Revolution

This week I am listening to one of the most important Prince bootlegs in circulation, the final show of the Parade tour that serves as the final performance of Prince and The Revolution. For historical significance alone it is a stand out, and the moment is well served with a performance and recording to match. People often deride audience recordings, but when done well they are a joy to listen to as in this case. The recording is surprisingly good for an audience recording, and the concert, although at Yokohama Stadium, has a small and warm sound – perfect for a moment like this. The recording has plenty to recommend it, and when we factor in the historical context, well then it becomes absolutely essential.

9th September 1986, Yokohama Japan

The couple of minutes of audience noise beforehand is a nice touch in my book, it adds to that sense of anticipation and expectation. There is some chat, a couple of cheers and if you close your eyes you can just about picture yourself there. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult not to read too much into what is happening, and when the announcer introduces the band I hear some melancholy in his voice, or like I say I am projecting my own sense of history onto the moment. Once again Around The World In A Day is a great introduction for the band, with the horns making themselves heard early on, along with the fantastic Brown Mark bumping and buzzing along the bottom. He has a beautiful fat sound to his playing and I am very happy to say it comes over well on the recording.

Parade 1986 1

I can hear Prince and the band well as Christopher Tracey’s Parade begins, although at first the girls’ voices aren’t heard well, they do however come further forward as the song goes, and it’s one of those “moments” when you can hear them singing with Prince. Prince does call “Tokyo!”, which has me scratching my head- I am prepared to give him a pass though, Yokohama is closer to Tokyo than Narita airport, and is only 40 minutes from Tokyo centre. And it is the end of the tour, so we can forgive technicalities.

New Position sounds unbelievably smooth and easy, and is testament to how tight the band were at this stage, there is a lot of new sounds and instruments in the mix, and somehow they weld it all together and make it work. The horns are the what you hear most, but for me there is just enough rhythm guitar in there to get my blood flowing.

There is a particularly psychedelic and alluring sound to I Wonder U, the flute giving it a floating quality that is offset by Wendy’s guitar. The band knit it together wonderfully, and as I said at the Paris show a few weeks ago it doesn’t matter that Prince isn’t there, this band and this music is strong enough to stand on its own without his powerful stage presence.

The next few songs come in a flurry of sound and excitement. Raspberry Beret is first out of the gate, as always it’s a crowd pleasing singalong, although to be fair on this occasion the crowd is fairly muted. On a more positive note I find Brown Marks bass again firmly in my ears and that is never a bad thing. The energy levels are kept high as it only runs for a couple of minutes before an equally quick run though Delirious, complete with a 1,2,3 count off in Japanese. It comes and goes in a blink of an eye before we get a quick snippet of the “oww wee oww” the segues into Controversy.

Parade 1986 2

Controversy is just fine, my only complaint being the briefness of it, but that is amply compensated when the count of “A,B, A, B ,C” comes and Prince is joined on stage by Shelia E.

This is the first of those magical concert moments that I look for, and as Prince and Shelia vocals playfully dance around each other I am in fanboy heaven. Shelia sounds cool, Wendy and Brown Mark sound even better, and for a long time I just sit back and listen to them respectively. The break down with the vocals is sublime, and the recording is good enough that I can pick out each person’s voice and identify them. Eric Leeds sprinkles his magic dust over the performance with a solo that lives up to the high standards he sets show after show. The funk just gets stronger from here on in, firstly in Wendy’s playing, then in Prince and the bands scat and a capella performance. When the music comes back it’s with all the intensity you might expect and wave after wave of horn blasts and calls of “Ice Cream!” carry me to unexpected heights.

Even though I am funk heaven at this stage, I am more than happy as the sultry sound of Do Me Baby begins. The bass has a great pop to it as the horns add a touch of sass to the intro. All this becomes irrelevant however as Prince sings, and listening to the lyrics and his delivery becomes and experience in itself. As the music rocks back and forth Prince croons and emotes as he has never emoted and crooned before, and I am sold on it. Maybe I feel like this for every live performance of this song, but tonight it smacks me right between the eyes and I am dangerously close to switching off the computer, going into the other room and sweeping my girl off her feet. And at the end of the day there is no higher recommendation of a slow jam song than that, it’s sublime through and through.

Parade 1986 5

Next up is the trifecta of How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, Automatic and D.M.S.R. I would have liked to hear more of them, asides from How Much Is That Doggie, and it’s a giant tease from Prince to have two killer tracks from 1999 to be relegated to a two-minute medley like this. As you know I like to look on the positive side of things, so I give thanks that they are in the setlist at all.

The ship rights itself as When Doves Cry plays, and the opening keyboard riff still gives me chills even after all these years. It has a clinical delivery as it should, and over the cool electronic music Prince sings dispassionately which only heightens the sense of loneliness I feel when I listen to this song. It’s a cold world indeed, and it’s only in the Princes singing of the chorus do we feel the humanity and hurt. I have covered a few different shows from 1986 now, and I always speak highly of Wendy’s solo during this song. Today is no different, and even though the recording neuters her sound a little I still get a thrill from her playing.

Parade 1986

Little Red Corvette has Prince alone at the piano, and is an emotional highlight. I want to write that it tugs at the heart strings, but I know the following few songs are going to top it in the emotional stakes, so I enjoy I enjoy it for what it is, a nice soft rendition of one of his classic songs.

The band joins in for Do U Lie, and it has a swing and sway to it, it’s got a lovely lilt and sounds like it has come from a completely different concert. I don’t have too long to wallow in it as Prince moves on, but it is another cool moment.

The Ladder is one of the songs I have been waiting to hear, and Prince doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The Ladder has the obligatory piano, but also a lot more. One of the things that strikes me most is the backing singers, and the way that the horns lift the song to the heavens. For a stadium show its wonderful how Prince makes it feel like he’s singing in the living room, there’s a lively intimacy in the recording and a classy touch by Prince at the end thanking the audience in Japanese.

Prince is alone again for Condition Of The Heart, and at this point it becomes very difficult for me to write objectively as this song has a special place in my heart. Prince delivers a performance that does the song credit and although short it gives me everything I could ever want.

Parade 1986 4

Under The Cherry Moon is breath-taking, and has some wonderful flourishes on the piano that give it that little bit extra. As much as I like Prince’s vocals, I find I tune out as I instead concentrate on the music. The music has a magical quality that is rarely heard, and as he Prince plays piano I sit mesmerized here at home, this is definitely a show for the ages.

The band and the funk returns with Anotherloverholenyohead. This show has been phenomenal thus far, and Anotherloverholenyohead maintains this high standard. It returns us to the heavier sound of the band, and the darker sound as Prince starts his “Another lover” talk midsong. The piano and the horns via for my attention, and for me it’s the piano that nails it, I don’t write about Lisa enough in this blog, but she is a treasure. She sounds magnificent as she plays her piece, and it is distinctly- and uniquely, her. And even better, she gets a good few minutes to play so there is plenty of time for me to lean back and swim in the music flowing from her fingers.

♥ Or $, now I didn’t expect that. Eric puts his mark on this one, but it’s again a complete band performance and I can’t single anyone out for praise, they all sound great singly and as a group.  From here on in the show becomes much more intense and focused, all medleys are dispensed with and we get some proper, heavy funk. Keeping with this direction the band funk up ♥ Or $ before turning their sights on Head.

I have always liked the slippery guitar sound in Head, in this case it has a sharper sound but nonetheless is still funky as all hell. There is some fun as Prince toys with the crowd, but the whole time it’s that guitar I am listening to, at least until Matt Fink sets things on fire with his synth solo. Electric Man gets an outing, with Prince surprisingly throwing some lyrics from Hot Thing, recorded barely a month previous. As Prince squeals and squirms I wish I could be there to see a performance that sounds electrifying. The guitar sounds ominous as the music rises near the end, and I find myself enjoying this just as much as Princes vocal performance.

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Pop Life banishes the darkness of Head in the opening moments as, after a twinkling opening, it bursts out of the speakers at me. For all the melody of it, I find its Brown Mark I listen to most, his bass adds an infectious bounce to the proceedings. Again Eric Leeds flute lends a different sound to the concert and with some beautiful backing vocals, the song stands up to repeated listens.

Prince sings “Do you want to dance with me” as Girls And Boys begins, much to the delight of the audience. Eric has traded his flute for the sax and adds the deep honk that I adore so much. Prince seems to get a second burst of energy around this point and I swear you can hear him singing and performing harder. He gives way to Eric and his solo and it’s about now that I sit up and take notice of Wendy and Lisa’s singing- soft yet beautiful.

The first minute of Life Can Be So Nice seems to come fast, and it’s at the chorus that I catch up and begin to get into it. It’s a game as Prince and the band play the crowded versus before pulling back for the chorus. Bobby Z does his thing, and he sounds great against the rhythm guitar. There seems to be a lot going on in my ears, and I have to listen closely to make sure I don’t miss a thing. The final fade out is my favourite part, not because its ending, but the way the band peels out and I can hear each of them.

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I am feeling jaded as 1999 plays, the song sounds fine, but is already dated against the colourful parade of music that Prince has played this evening. I do hear the crowd enjoying it, and there is some singing, so the song certainly has its place in the setlist despite my own personal tastes. It goes out with a bang as the horns and the rest of the band tear through the last minute, and the main show ends on a high.

There is an underwater sound as America starts, and I am my expectations are sky-high in anticipation as there is the dual guitar attack of Wendy and Miko getting all funky for the first few minutes. Prince joins the fray with his vocals and there is a fire to the performance that I feel the recording doesn’t quite capture. Eric is great, and Atlanta is even better as his trumpet scorches through the song as he plays. A lead guitar appears and the song is smoking hot by this stage. It’s almost unfair that Prince has Wendy, Miko and Eric on his team funking up the stage, as the solid bass of Brown Mark keeps us firmly on the dance floor. I was hoping for 20 minutes of this, but realistically the seven minutes we do get is amble, as I am sure those in the building had danced themselves into a frenzy in that time.

Kiss is nicely balanced, and I like that it has a stripped back sound with Prince and Wendy’s guitar taking the lead roles, nothing else bolted on or tampered with.  The lyrics sound a shade downbeat, I kind of like it that way, and the crowd come to the party with their boisterous “Kiss!” The ending is nice, with Prince thanking the crowd and a bare guitar playing for the last few moments that wraps it up in a bow before the next encore.

What comes next is, for me, the emotional and musical highlight of the show, a gut wrenching rendition of Sometimes It Snows In April. The opening with Wendy and Lisa playing is simply stunning, the delicate guitar sound and piano dancing a beautiful dance together, this is a special moment worth listening to again and again. As Prince sings things become even more emotional and his voice has a melancholy tone to it, and I think it is real rather than the performance. The three voices come together for the final lines and it’s hard to not think about the times these three had together. Prince ends the song thanking Wendy and Lisa, and thirty years on it sounds like a full stop.

Parade 1986 3

Purple Rain rises and falls as does the lump in my throat as I listen to it. Its plays as it does every time I hear it, a beautiful song that sounds so big and threatens to overwhelm all that has come before it. The guitars are warm, the piano clean, and Princes vocals heavy with emotion. The guitar solo starts with a quiver and a shake, before it becomes the howl we know so well. Having seen the video, I know how hard Prince was playing, and you can feel that on the recordings, he is pouring everything into to the guitar with a long sustained howl that ends with him throwing it to the floor before strapping on another guitar and giving us more of the same, before that too is thrown to the floor. As the crowd sing their part we do have half a minute of Prince playing the organ, and that is a real treat, it’s not high in the mix, but you can clearly hear it and it gives the song a final push before Prince thanks the crowd and leaves the stage, leaving the keyboards to play us out for the final minute.

As I have said throughout, it is impossible to divorce this recording from the context surrounding it, as great as the show and recording is, the historical significance of the moment looms large over it. I have heard people say that they cry listening to this, and I thought I was too far removed to have such feelings, but I must admit the last 15 minutes listening tonight I did have a tear in my eye. Having heard a fair number of fantastic recordings of The Revolution the last few years I found myself 30 years on listening to this thinking “why?”, they were beyond compare and seemed to still have more to give.
There are many words that spring to mind when considering this recording – essential, historical and emotional are at the front of the list. There is no two ways about it, this recording demands you listen to it. A fitting send off for The Revolution, this bootleg delivers on all counts and is an essential keystone of any collection.

Thanks for reading, I urge you to dig this one out and take a listen, celebrate The Revolution 30 years on, they were every bit as good as you remember.
Take care
Hamish

 

The Astoria 1995

Recently I took a good listen to the Emporium set from London 1995. Viv Canal kindly got in touch to let me know that he had seen his first aftershow about this time at another London venue – The Astoria. This got me to thinking that I should give this one a listen to as well, and I did wonder about it as I couldn’t immediately recall hearing it before. Some digging revealed that I do have it, and it was actually a bootleg I remember very well, as I paid far too much for it back in the 1990’s. It has sat unloved on the shelf for too long, and is well overdue for another listen. It’s immediately made more appealing by the fact that both George Benson and Chaka Khan play with Prince and the band, and I do wonder why I haven’t played it more. The reason being, perhaps, that the recording isn’t great? I don’t recall, and there’s only one way to find out, let’s give it a spin.

9th March (am) 1995, The Astoria London

George Benson makes his appearance on the first song of the set – Glam Slam Boogie. Without hearing it and just seeing the name on the case it seems like a match made in heaven, one can almost hear the guitar sound of George Benson working very well with the lighter guitar playing that Prince sometimes indulges in. The reality is not quite what I expect, but still well worth the listen. Prince tells the crowd that George Benson is one of his heroes, and I fully believe him, you can hear it in the way Prince plays- there certainly is some influence there. The song is a fine introduction for the band as they each play their own solo as the groove carries us along just right. The sound of the recording is much better than I remember, and I am finding it to be a very easy listen. Each instrument can be heard clearly, and the drum sounds full without ever taking over. It takes some time to reach George Benson and his playing, and he is well hyped up by Princes introduction. His solo is worth the wait, and as he plays I can hear how Prince has been influenced by him.  The solo is shorter than I hoped, and Prince resumes his dialogue with the crowd, this time having them singing “ooww, weee, oooww”. They sound great, and for a minute I am a touch envious and wish I was there.

1995 GlamSlam

We go from one hero to another as the soft introduction of Sweet Thing brings Chaka Khan to the fore. It’s ethereal sounding, the sound of the keyboard wash while the guitar cascades, I am lost in the music as it plays. The crowd recognizes Chaka as she comes to the stage, and there is an appreciative applause before she begins her vocal delivery. I thought the intro was beautiful, things get even better as she sings. Its glorious in every way, and already I am regretting I haven’t been playing this bootleg more often, things are off to a wonderful start. The vocals are the centre piece as they intertwine, raise and fall, and I feel myself falling in love as I listen to it.

Things become more upbeat as the guitar begins a wah-wah sound and You Got The Love begins. A song from Chaka’s back catalogue, it’s not something I am overly familiar with, but I do like the bands performance, and Chaka always gives a great vocal performance. As the song plays on I find I am swept up by it, and I find I am turning it up louder and louder as it goes- always a good sign. There is some silky guitar work near the end by Prince, he sounds good but it’s not enough to upstage Chaka or the band especially as they up the groove for the climax of the song.

1995 Prince

Love Thy Will Be Done initially sounds distant, but soon enough it becomes stronger as the audience claps along. It’s got a sound that is right to be played with, and sure enough it is played out with a suitable long introduction before Prince speaks. As he counts off again the sound suddenly opens right up and he plays some punchy guitar that serves as a wakeup call. It’s probably wrong to say this, but I prefer Martika’s singing to his, at least based on this performance, however the guitar playing amply compensates as I find the performance again to be top notch. I have to give special mention to the last lead guitar break, it had just enough fire to ignite the song for me.

Following straight after is Funky. I loved the version that he played at Emporium, this one tonight doesn’t reach the same heights for me, although the chorus has me sitting up and taking notice, especially as Prince hits us with a blast of lead guitar every time. Things get seriously intense after the last chorus, and at this point the guitar is deep and rough sounding, it’s just the sort of naked raw sound I like to hear.

1995 Prince Netherlands

I actually salivate as 18 And Over begins. I have always had a soft spot for it on the album, and in the last few years I have warmed to the live versions, to the point now where it is something I look forward to in the set. The music is enchanting, and I find Princes vocals to be just on the right side of clever, I listen with a big sloppy grin on my face as he sings. People get different things out of different shows, and for me this is the highlight. I don’t care if there’s no guitar solos, or a soaring vocal performance, the mood and groove of the song is just right for me. Despite the smutty lyrics the music retains a sense of elegance, its beautifully balanced.

Prince next plays homage to another one of his heroes with an enthusiastic cover of Graham Central Stations I Believe In You. The first couple of minutes is very much a band performance, until Prince begins to play his guitar with a loud solo that claims the song as his own. There’s still plenty of funk there, but Prince certainly puts his stamp on it with his crisp and crunchy guitar sound.

As The Ride begins I know we are about to get a whole lot more guitar, yet in a completely different style. Sure enough after a slow steady start Prince begins to weave his magic on his guitar. It’s got an easy swagger to it, and as Prince is so fond of saying, they do indeed sound as if they have days to play. He plays his solo for quite some time, and I find it interesting to listen to without ever feeling its punching me in the face with intensity. In particular I like the way he gets the guitar to whinny and rear up like a horse, the sound of it definitely evokes that image.

1995 P and M

The last song played by the band for the evening is an extended Get Wild, I say extended but in reality it’s always this way, played out to the max. The popping bass solo is cool, all “up” sounding and bright. The smile stays on my face Prince has the crowd singing “play that motherfuckin bass” -oh to be there! Mr Hayes comes to the party with a trademark solo, very playful and heartfelt. Tommy matches him with a more electrifying break, its shorter and much sharper.  As it becomes a jam and groove with Mayte dancing, it needs to be seen as much as it needs to be heard, all the calls for her to shake her money maker has all sorts of images playing in my mind. I hope for much more music to follow but the song ends at this stage, as does the show.

As a final exclamation point, Gold is played over the P.A. It is on the recording, nice and clear and, although it’s good to hear, it doesn’t add anything else in terms of the show, especially since it was later released and now familiar to us all.

Personally, I think Viv was lucky to see this as his first after show. The centre piece of the show was the band themselves, and at this stage of his career Prince was very trusting of his band, as I have written of other shows from this era the band sound like they are a gang, bonded together against the world. This isn’t a setlist to set the world on fire, but it was all played  well and passionately and with the bonus of George Benson and Chaka, it all adds up to make this a show worth listening to. Thanks for the recommendation Viv, I will be putting this one in the car for the next road trip.

have a great week
next time, back to 1986 for the end of The Revolution
-Hamish

 

Le Zenith Paris 1986

After listening to some brilliant shows from the 1990’s the last few weeks, today I am going further back to that year of years, 1986. I have listened to many shows from 1986 already, so you might think there is nothing left to listen to that would be of interest. I have listened to some fine shows, that is true, but this particular show is of great interest as it is the live debut of It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, and the fact that it was recorded at this show and with the addition of overdubs is the version we all know so well from Sign O The Times. I have heard the song hundreds of times on Sign O The Times, and it gives me a thrill to hear it here in its untouched glory, The Revolution playing at their best. There is no one recording that does this show justice, so I am going to listen to a mixture of recordings. Firstly, a nice soundboard that covers 90% of the show, then an audience recording that covers the rest. In addition, I will also watch an audience video recording of the show, which doesn’t add much as it is quite hard on the eyes, but nevertheless is still worth seeing at least once, if not for seeing The Revolution chewing up Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.

25th August 1986, Le Zenith Paris

As always the opening of Around The World In A Day starts behind the curtain, but once that curtain opens Prince and the Revolution are on fire. The first verses calls you in, but then the music takes off as Prince is revealed and the spot lights hit the stage. Brown Mark sounds great early on, and his bass has a cool rolling quality to it mid-song.

Prince Paris parade

The horns that herald the beginning of Christopher Tracey’s Parade sound joyful in the extreme, and as Prince and Wendy sing there is a lovely summery feel to the show, and one expects that the whole evening will be an uplifting experience. Its bright and lively sounding, and I love the drum sound to it. Princes showmanship is excellent with some leaps and splits right from the start that sets the tone. However, the best moment is when he jumps behind the organ and starts playing, it’s so energetic sounding.

New Position stays with this bright sound with Wendy playing the steel drum adding a new dimension to the live show. The purple Rain shows feel a million miles away as I watch Prince and the band work the stage, everyone seems to have an extra spring in their step. Three songs in and I am in love with 1986 all over again.

I Wonder U slows things down, and asides from highlighting Wendy on vocals we also get some cool sounds from Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss, as well as a fantastic guitar playing in my left ear. I don’t even know what to call this music, all I know is how much I get out of listening to it. For a couple of minutes I don’t even mind that Prince isn’t on the stage.

Prince Paris parade5

He is well and truly back as a flurry of horns open up Raspberry Beret. This was all over the radio when I was a younger man, and age has not diminished its freshness to me. It is one of the great ‘pop’ songs, and Prince plays it with the spirit and youthfulness it deserves. Like all the best moments it comes and goes before I know it, but I still enjoy every fleeting second.

Prince is all over the stage and showboating as they play Delirious and I wonder how can he have so much energy. The first part of the song was cool, and it looks like Prince is about to play some organ, but then they swing into my favourite part of the show.

This version of The Revolution sounds great as they play Controversy. With the twin rhythm guitar of Wendy and Miko they have a wonderful slippery funky sound, one that resonates in my ears all day long. Controversy is very short, before the segue into Love Bizarre, and I am perfectly happy with that as I know this medley so well, and it is usually the part of the show I skip to.

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Love Bizarre, right from that first “A,B, A, B, C’ has the funk turned up to eleven. It’s in the sound of the guitars again, and until Eric Leeds appears this is what I listen to most. Eric Leeds solo is different to how I remember, and infinity enjoyable. However, the best bit comes next as Wendy and Miko stand back to back funking me up while Prince encourages the crowd to chant “Who’s house, Wendy’s house” The song goes off on an interesting tangent next with a bass heavy groove leading us into Prince and the band stomping around the stage before, ugh, “the wooden leg”. Whatever my feelings for the wooden-leg, the music is everything I could ever want and more, and it takes on a James Brown edge as the song comes to a close.

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I can lean back and relax again as Do Me Baby begins, although it doesn’t have the long beautiful intro that I usually look forward to. The intro is shorter, and Prince is into his singing right from the start. The music swells and rises behind him, I can’t deny it sounds good, but for me it’s missing the wow factor that I have heard on other recordings. The small flourishes from Eric Leeds give it some extra shine, and these moments are a real high point for me, especially the little pieces I can hear him play as the song quietens. The last few minutes of the song are what make it for me, some of Princes soft singing as the music twinkles and sparkles behind him, it’s divine.

Prince Paris parade1

A diversion next as How Much Is That Doggie leads us into the brief lady Cab Driver which in itself quickly becomes Automatic. Compared to everything else in the show its stripped back, and that works well for this part of the medley with the sound of the guitar and bass carrying us along. The rest of the band make themselves heard at the chorus as it spins off into uncharted territories before settling on DMSR, Wendy and Miko’s guitar sound once again sounding glorious in my ears. Its short lived as we finally get a longer song.

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When Doves Cry gets a bonus point in my book for being longer than the previous medley, and it’s played straight without too much extras in the sound. Like the other performances on the tour, it’s Wendy’s solo that gets all my attention and all my praise, she sounds amazing as her guitar comes hard and clear. As much as I love Princes vocals and performance, Wendy upstages him and it’s a wonderful moment. The intensity is ramped up as Prince climbs atop his piano to encourage audience more, the band responses with some great intense playing of their own. The last few minutes with Prince working away at the organ while the band play on is sublime.

We come back to earth as Prince takes his time at the piano to play something a little more laid back. That something is the heavenly Under The Cherry Moon, a song completely at odds with all that has come before, and all the more powerful for it. The playing is lovely as is Princes vocal delivery, this time restrained and beautifully interweaving with the piano. No words can properly do this moment justice, it has to be heard and savoir every note.

The sweet music is forgotten in an instant as the band strike up another favourite of mine, Anotherloverholenyohead. Prince and Wendy’s vocals are tightly together in this song, and I am reminded how well they worked together, not just playing but also singing. Other band members get their moments too, Atlanta Bliss and Eric Leeds play their piece, before the band begins the long playout with Prince engaging the audience in some calls. Lisa is superb, her piano playing is light and bright, and adds a sheen to the heavier bass sound of the song. It’s music that I find I have to listen to, you can’t let it slide by, and I find I enjoy every moment of the few minutes Lisa plays.

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I had forgotten that 17 Days was coming, and I am oh so pleased to hear it next, especially as I haven’t mentioned Brown Mark yet. He is in his element, and his sticky sounding bass sucks me in. Prince tells the audience that they are recording show, and I am only too happy to be enjoying the fruits of that thirty years later. The horns and guitar pick it up and run with it, and it becomes a groove that goes on and on. Prince starts to chant “Head, head” and I smile with anticipation.

Nasty Prince is definitely in the house as he tells the mothers in the crowd “Cover your daughter’s eyes” at the beginning of Head. I know we are in for a good one, as there is a pause before the horns start and the funky guitar plays through. Even when the horns come in, and keyboard riff plays it’s still that guitar sound that stays with me. Head plays for ten minutes and I revel in every note of it, all of it deliciously dirty and funky. Dr Finks solo is best summed up by Prince himself when he says “If you ain’t gonna do that to a synthesizer, then don’t play one” The long ‘burn it up’ sequence at the end is intense as Prince hurls his top into the crowd before engaging in some slick dance moves. Prince writhing on the floor singing electric man as the song sinks even deeper into the grimy funk is a fitting end. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get any better than this.

Prince Paris parade2

A shimmering sound comes like a glimmer of light in the darkness, and when Pop Life begins it’s like a door is suddenly opened and the show becomes uplifted and pure again. The pop of the bass is excellent, as is Princes crisp sounding vocals. It’s in complete contrast to what we have just heard, I can only imagine Prince making such stylistic changes in concert like this. Pop in sound as well as name, Eric Leeds playing flute is the icing on top, and we come to a soft ending with the girls singing “Pop Life”

Girls And Boys has the crowd involved again, with Prince encouraging them to dance as the intro runs for a couple of wonderful minutes, the guitar, bass, and keyboards all interweaving and creating a colourful yet funky tapestry. Prince on the organ is the highlight as the intro plays, and he gives us a good couple of minutes here. The vocals are simply amazing when Prince singing, the sound quality is just right on his vocals, and I feel like I am right there when he sings. I know I have been heavy with praise throughout this recording, and this song too has me floored – Eric is wonderful, Wendy’s vocals sweet, and the band is beyond words.

Prince Paris parade4

“Oh Honey, put your shirt back on” Prince says as Life Can Be So Nice, and one can only speculate to what he was seeing from stage. Life Can Be So Nice is full of sound and the band inject a lot of themselves into it. Bobby Z and Wendy are the heroes for me, Bobby gets a shout for his break, and Wendy’s vocals are all over this and heavy in my left ear. There is an awkward moment on the video when the stage is invaded by an audience member who knocks Prince over, but he recovers quickly and carries on very professionally.

1999 is nice, in that it’s a beautiful sounding recording, and the band play it for the most part straight. The horns are an addition to what is heard on album, but they aren’t over bearing and add just enough colour. The guitar and vocals are very faithful to the album, and they are what I enjoy most in the performance. The “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” is playful and a nice way to finish the main show before we fade to darkness.

Now comes the moment I have been waiting for, the genesis of It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night. The single drum that begins is so familiar, yet also new and I know what is coming next as the horns play their refrain and the “ow, wee ow” chant begins. I don’t know what I was expecting, but for the most part it does sound like it does on record. We do get Prince playing his organ which is cool, as is seeing Wendy play that guitar riff while stomping at the front of the stage. I greatly enjoy Brown Marks playing, as well as Eric Leeds, but I think the real highlight is watching the video and seeing The Revolution at their very best creating something that we will listen to for the next thirty years. The rap is missing, and instead we get some wonderful bass, and a lot of crowd singing- in some ways I prefer it like this, it feels so real and natural. “Confusion” and a final horn blast closes out what has been a wonderful ten minutes of my life.

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Mountains comes on so quick, it’s like a breath of fresh air. The band look and sound incredibly relaxed, and in particular I get a laugh when Prince rolls around on the piano. The coda is when things become more intense and when it finishes it seems the song has gone by in a blink of the eye.

Kiss has Prince stalking the front of the stage, shirt off and looking every inch the rock star. The song is tight, and there aren’t any real flourishes added to it. Of course we get Prince dancing the wooden leg, but on the recording it’s Wendy who is the star for me, her solo isn’t out of the box but it is excellent. It’s her guitar alone in the final moments of the song too, and it’s a fitting end before one final encore.

That encore is of course Purple Rain, and I am very happy to say that although the recording of it isn’t great, the song itself is just swell. A short intro before Prince starts singing, and the crowd is very vocal as he reaches the chorus. He sings it all the way, and we get every verse before the sweeping, epic guitar solo. It builds up well, and the notes come furiously fast right before the crowds “ooww oh ooowww”, and he keeps on playing as they sing. The songs ends not long after this, but we do have a couple of minutes of the strings to cushion our fall back to earth.

Prince Paris parade3

Over the last few years I have run out of words for the shows from the Parade Tour. This one is yet another fantastic one in the canon of shows from that year, and to see It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night brought to life right on the spot was beyond words. There was something magical in the air that night, and all these recordings catch some of that in one way or another. None of them are perfect but I am pleased we have some sort of record from that night. Here’s hoping in future something better will surface that can truly do this show justice.

Thanks again,
Hard to think of what would top that show, but I’m sure by next week I’ll have something new to listen to and talk about
Take care
Hamish