Here I was thinking I was running out of quality shows to write about when not one, but five new soundboards from 1994 drop upon us. With these new found jewels I am spoilt for choice, and for this week’s blog I am having a listen to the one that immediately appeals to me, the Palladium show. Featuring guest appearances from two of my other heroes – Vernon Reid and Lenny Kravitz, I am sure you can already see the attraction of such a line-up. Vernon and Lenny only play on two songs in the show, but those two songs are guitar heavy and my mouth is already watering in anticipation. So, enough of the words, give me the music.
14th July 1994, The Palladium New York
Firstly, this is a beautiful soundboard recording, it’s all I can do to refrain from writing “soundboard, soundboard, soundboard!” The whole thing sounds great right from the first moments, and the fact that the first song is Gold only heightens the experience. The song shines and shimmers like its name, and although Princes vocals do sound quiet, the rest of the song is bold and full. The guitar that plays later in the piece is easily the strongest moment, and it adds some muscle to the performance which is lacking early on – I am in no way saying that earlier in the song didn’t sound good, but the extra push that the guitar adds gives it that little bit extra that is required to take it to the next level.
Prince sounds more forward as he introduces The Jam, but after the initial shout out to New York he takes a back seat as the music takes centre stage. There is a guitar that slips in and around the keyboard, and this gives it a sharper sound, and as previously mentioned the recording catches every nuance of it. Asides from that, the rest of the song follows as we have heard plenty of times before with each band member adding their piece. As always Michael B’s drum solo gets the crowd briefly excited and involved with the show. I do find that as the song progresses I get a lot more out of it as it’s a soundboard, and it’s very easy to hear the quality of the band members.
I Believe In You is a stable of these 1994 performance, so I register zero surprise when I hear it next. It does have more life to it than other performances I have heard, the keyboards are again strong although Princes vocals are still quieter than everything else on stage. He does make up for it with some wailing the guitar which is noteworthy and the final minute of the song has some interplay between the bass and keyboards which is also a pleasure to listen to.
There is no scream at the beginning of Endorphinmachine, but there is the shriek of the guitar which amply compensates. Things don’t stray too far from this, it’s the guitar that is all over this that I listen to, while Princes vocals remain low. The guitar has plenty of momentum and drive to it, and it carries the song along. The song remains fun throughout, and everytime Prince touches the guitar everything lights up. It’s never heavy, but it is energetic and lively.
Space is spacey sounding and lowers the energy levels with it’s easy shuffle. Prince’s vocals float across the music and it propels itself along nicely. It’s hard not to like it, and Prince performs it effortlessly with a summertime groove to it. The song makes such an impression that I want to go back and listen to the original which is always a good thing. There is yet more to get excited about with some guitar work coming through for the last minute which is subtle yet fast. The song ends much too soon, and it’s the surprise of the recording so far.
There is a sense of urgency to Days Of Wild, it is lacking the heavy swell of other performances, but Prince performs it as if it was the most important song in the world, you simply cannot fault his passion. He has me completely sold on the performance, and although the guitar solo is thin, Princes vocals are the strongest they have been so far in the recording, and just in time too. The song bounces, rather than steamrollering over everything, and it has plenty of energy to it. Hair is thrown in for good measure, which doesn’t excite me, before the appearance of the 777-9311 bassline has me getting my hopes up, only for Prince to dash them again with “We don’t play that shit, Prince is dead” The bassline only played for half a minute, and it is easily one of the best parts of the first half of the show. Days Of Wild continues it’s unstoppable groove, and it hammers home the heavy funk of Prince at this time.
I am not normally a big fan of Now, this version has me flip-flopping and reconsidering my opinion. It must be the quality of the recording, I am enjoying every single moment of the show. Now starts off on the straight and narrow, before taking off into outer space with a bare beat and then a long interesting jam. Some space age sounding keyboards lead the way and things become even funkier as Prince address the crowd and the keyboards become even more extreme in their sound. It’s one of the longer jams on the recording, and not a minute of it is wasted.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World is the complete opposite, it is short and full of pop and sparkle as it plays. It shines brightly in contrast to the previous two songs, and even with Princes vocals still remaining low, it highlights his lyrics and singing. The audience become much more audible near the end of the song as the recording changes to an audience recording for the next four songs. It’s not a bad audience recording, but it is noticeable after listening to the clean soundboard for the first part of the show.
I always enjoy Billy Jack Bitch, and here is no different as Prince delivers up an impassioned rendition, backed all the way by the audience. Prince’s vocals are stronger sounding on the audience recording, it may not be as clean, but he is certainly a lot louder. Prince gives a great performance and his blazing guitar adds to the venom of the song. Morris Hayes gives the song some depth, and along with the audience singing the show takes on a different feel.
Papa is faster than on record, and sounds more disturbing than the album version. Prince sounds deeper and darker, and injects something extra into the performance, and nowhere it’s an intense and interesting performance. The guitar adds fuel to the fire as the song ends on a high. One of the shorter songs at the show, it nevertheless delivers a punch.
We slide back to the soundboard recording with Love Sign, and its notable for it’s smooth sound and the appearance of Nona Gaye. It also signals the return to Prince vocals being quiet in the mix. The song itself is smooth as velvet, and is faithful to the recorded version. If not for the moment when Prince calls “New York” I wouldn’t have noticed a difference.
Shhh comes from another world, it is so glorious sounding. Prince is in complete control as he works the song and the audience. With lyrics that positively drip in sweat and lust he works his way up towards the searing guitar break that closes the song. It is without doubt the high point of the show, and of the recording. A masterful song, it takes on new life in the live setting, and hearing it in this pristine soundboard is truly a joy. Clocking in at ten minutes it is unmatched by anything else on the recording.
I finally get to the moment I have been waiting for as Prince is joined on stage by Lenny Kravitz and Vernon Reid. For such a line-up of guitar heroes, it’s surprising that the first moments are all about the heaving keyboard. That wrong is soon righted as the band groove on Mary Don’t You Weep and Prince encourages Vernon to solo, before turning it over to Lenny. Both are recognizable in their unique styles, and Prince is correct as he sings “I don’t have to introduce my friends”. As good as the guitars are, there is plenty of space for everyone, and Prince takes the time to let the keyboards play extended solos as well. They all add layers to the music, giving it a timeless sound that will stand up to repeated listens. I am surprised by how little guitar there is for most of the song, but Vernon more than makes up for it in the final minutes as he adds his crunching guitar sound.
No Of Your Business sounds sharp and crisp, with plenty more organ and keys at the beginning. Of course the guitars to enter the fray, they know their place and stay low key early on before adding more sparkle later in the song. Vernon Reid and his guitar is front and centre, and the song is just a stepping off point for plenty of funk and roll. The guitars don’t solo, but they do drive the song in their own ways, and I get a kick out of hearing Vernon Reid adding his sound to Prince. It is the party jam that you would expect at this point of the show, and it’s got a celebratory feel through the entire song. It not a song full of guitar solos as I expected, but Vernon Reid’s sound is present in the whole song, and a real highlight.
Get Wild is a fitting song to end the show with, and once again we have an upbeat funky jam. Morris Hayes adds his weight to the song, and with Tommy contributing there is plenty of keyboards underpinning the song. Tommy plays almost as a horn player, and his playing gives a brightness to the song. With drums coming like gun shots, and the keyboard of Tommy Barbarella adding a sharpness, the song is a funky weapon, and then a weapon of mass destruction as Prince layers some furious guitar over it. With a screech and howl amidst feedback of the guitar the song ends in the only way possible, and with the ringing in my ears the recording too ends.
I am pleased to look back and see that I haven’t just written “soundboard” over and over for this blogpost. Trust me, it was very tempting to do so. This is a most welcome addition to the collection, and I most pleased to see it appear. Although the set list was routine, the performance and guests were not. Every song was played with plenty of heart, and with the soundboard recording there was plenty of new things to pick up on. Lenny and Vernon appearing was a definite bonus, Lenny was disappointing and quiet in the mix, while Vernon was unmistakable and his sound was all over the songs he played on. With some top notch performances of the songs of the era, and the great sound, this is a great addition to the collection. Hopefully we will get plenty more of the same in the coming months.
Thanks for reading,