The Metro, Boston 1986

I was intending on writing about the second half of the 2008 bootleg that I took a listen to last week, but I have been overtaken by events in the fast moving world of Prince bootlegs. The last couple of weeks has seen the Eye records release of two great packages, the 1986 show at Boston, and “Rainmaker” that covers a some well known concerts of the Purple Rain era. Of the two I am more interesting in the 1986 concert as the other concerts have been circulating for some time in a variety of guises. I have audience recordings of the Boston concert, but I was excited to hear it in soundboard quality. As Prince himself once said “All that glitters, ain’t gold,” and this is true with this soundboard recording. Yes, it is a soundboard recording, but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. There is quality issues (especially on the first disc) and to my ears the tape speed isn’t quite right. The first disc in particular sounds slow, it’s most noticeable with the opening notes that immediately sound off. Again, the second disc is better, but still not quite perfect. I may sound pedantic on this point, but when you listen to as many bootlegs as I do, then you tend to notice little things like this, and it is worth noting. As always, there are positives – it is a soundboard recording we haven’t heard before, and even as it is, it is still a fine document of one of my favorite tours, the hit n run tour of 1986. That is something worth celebrating and I am quite prepared to put aside my bootleg snobbery for a couple of hours and wallow in this glorious show.

3rd April, 1986. The Metro, Boston

There is no surprises with the setlist early on. Prince doesn’t deviate from any of the other shows of the era, and anyone who has been listening to these bootlegs over the years will know exactly what to expect. The flighty and twitching “Around The World In A Day”  moves under the feet with ever changing soundscapes as an ethereal flute opening gives way to some Byrds-esque guitar before the sound unfolds with Prince’s chorus bringing the song to a firmer ground. Its a kinetic opener, even with the slight sound issues I previously mentioned.

The sound becomes bolder with “Christopher Tracy’s Parade.” There is more of the band to be heard, and even with muddled sound the recording captures the energy of the performance. What captures my ear the most is the horn section, here fully integrated into the band and providing early impetus. The song never fully develops though (due to the recording) and the remaining impression of it is the organ solo that is provided, one presumes, by Prince.

The sound strips back for “New Position,” the rhythm section outstanding with their funk and bump. Bobby Z and Brown Mark are often overlooked visually, but they more than make up for it their musical contributions, and this song is an early indication of how much their input makes a Prince concert what it is. Prince himself makes his mark, the one lyric that sounds very clear is when he asks Jerome to sing “P.U.S.S.Y.” It can be heard on album, but here is is very bold and obvious, it is the loudest moment on the song.

There is time for “I Wonder U,” although it doesn’t match anything heard in the first handful of songs. The crowd are bought back into the concert with “Raspberry Beret.” It’s not quite the riotous celebration heard on other bootlegs though. The crowd are present, but not to the same extent as other concerts. The payoff is that Prince sings most of the lines himself, something I greatly appreciate and enjoy.

I wish I could say the “Alexa De Paris” stands alone as a ornate monument surrounded by these slighter pop songs. However, the recording is again muddled with its mix, and although the individual parts sound great, when they all come together they don’t gel. There is some fierce-some guitar to be heard, but it is very low in the mix. If it was alone out front it would be scorching, but as it is it is no more than a smolder in the background, threatening to burst into flame but never reaching the point of combustion.

The is an outstanding start to “Controversy,” with scratch guitar to die for and the keyboards playing with a robo-funk coldness. The rest of the song sounds thin, and it has a weak ending with Princes overplayed “Where’s my cigarettes” shtick. All is forgiven with “Mutiny.” From the opening seconds it is has my nerves jangling, the music connecting my ears to my feet as my brain screams “dance!” The song itself would be enough, but when the sizzling saxophone of Eric Leeds is thrown into the mix, well then, it’s at that point that it becomes the epitome of Prince and the funk he was peddling at the time. Eric Leeds practically bursts into flames as he plays, and Prince does nothing to extinguish this fire as he has the band chant “St Paul, punk of the month” as Wendy and Lisa give clues to the hardcore with their “Dream Factory” chorus. The song is a tour de force for the extended Revolution; the rest of the concert and bootleg are irrelevant, this song alone is all you need as it covers all that was good and great about Prince and this band.

The following four songs maintain this thrill of excitement. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window,” “Lady Cab Driver,” “Automatic,” and “D.M.S.R” come in quick fire succession, increasing the tempo of the show and laying the ground work for what will unfold next.

It is “The Dance Electric” that comes next, and from the title alone you know this is going to be something special. Needless to say, it matches Mutiny for funkiness, and upstages it in raw, unfiltered intensity. It has a deep funk in its groove, and Prince injects impassioned guitar into the vein, giving the song an uncontrollable rush and head-spinning high. This is one of the great performances of this song on bootleg, an instant addiction the first time you hear it.

There is the inevitable come down in the form of “Under The Cherry Moon.” Its other worldliness is heightened as it is coming directly after “The Dance Electric,” and as a contrast it is isn’t just a come down, it’s a crash. I rate it highly, but I would have preferred to have it somewhere else rather than directly after “The Dance Electric.”

I don’t know whats going on with “Anotherloverholenyohead,” but Prince’s vocals are almost inaudible for the first verse. However, Wendy and Lisa are enthusiastically loud and the keyboard can be heard dominating the sound. This is another song where the sound quality is less than stellar, unfortunately a recurring issue. There are positives though, Lisa is enthralling with her piano break, everything else disappears as she plays, the world turning on her breathtaking feel for the keys.

“Soft And Wet” comes from another world, sonically and historically. It still proudly wears the disco coat of the era it was born in, and is shameless in the way it sparkles and glitters in this show. Dr. Fink’s solo is particularly nostalgic, and for a few minutes I forget this is 1986 as Prince and the band recreate the brown and orange world of the late 70s.

Prince stays in the era with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” which performs the same trick on steroids. Everything “Soft And Wet” was, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is, times five. It is stronger, funkier, and forceful throughout, not just suggesting you get up and dance but roughly shaking you to your feet and dragging you to the dance floor. The real action happens in the second half of the song, as the groove moves from the dance floor to a dark corner of the room for some nastiness. Even with the gleam of the horns, there is a dirtiness that can’t be shaken – definitely a recommendation.

“Head” leads us further down this path, the music becoming darker and murkier as Prince spreads a layer of sleaze across the performance. The song lives up to its name, but there is no climax, just more nastiness and Dr Fink adds his own smutty solo before the the scratch guitar hints at all sorts of unmentionable things. It would be the most sexual part of the show, if not for Prince talking about Morris Day and chopping down the Oak tree. This takes me out of the moment, and I do up my pants and move on to the next song.

There is an extended opening to “Pop Life” which gives us all a chance to regather our composure, before Prince delivers a sunny version of one of his greatest pop songs.It floats easy as a cloud, a feeling further enhanced with Eric Leeds’s flute solo that flutters and flits across the sky. It is far removed from the previous song, but it moves the concert forward and brings us back into the sun.

With Eric Leeds’s saxophone, and some slippery guitar to grease the wheels, “Girls And Boys” ticks two of the key boxes for what makes a great song. This is song is entirely representative of the era, it perfectly encapsulates the era and the music Prince was creating. Prince’s voice has a touch of arrogance, born of the confidence in the scope of work he has created,  while Eric Leeds’s saxophone ties the groove to the ground before taking flight late in the song. Elsewhere Dr.Fink, and the twin guitars of Wendy and Miko, give it all the funk you will ever need. It never reaches the same funky heights as some of the earlier songs, but it does neatly package up what the era was all about.

These two songs are the opening numbers of disc two, and they sound much better than the songs off the first disc. This standard is maintained for “Life Can Be So Nice.” It is a clean performance of the song, without being outstanding, but it does gain a few extra marks in my book with the improved sound quality. It doesn’t leap off the page as some of the other songs do, yet with all the instruments and vocals clearly heard it is a pleasant listen.

There is a buzz in the left speaker for the beginning of “Purple Rain,” that does initially detract from the moment. The rest of the opening is faultless however, especially the guitar of Prince that tiptoes briefly through the field of piano, creating a path for the listener to find their way into the song. It is this entrance and then the final exit that are the highlight of the song. The final guitar break sees Prince light up the darkness with its intensity, not just leading the listener through the final minutes but pushing them with an electrifying and emotive shriek.

I have never been completely sold on Prince’s performance of “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On,” and this concert isn’t going to change my mind. Its snappy and sharp, but undemanding and as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t add to the show and is unnecessary.

“A Love Bizarre” throws up the most interesting moment in the show. A minute into the song there is a glitch, one assumes with the drum machine or pads, and Bobby Z catches the moment with an effortless switch to a heavier, and more organic, live drum. The change comes in a split second, but one can clearly hear the change in the drum sound. The rest of the song lives up to other live performances from the year.  It may start with a veneer of pop over a funk groove, but it is the second half of the song where this veneer is stripped back to reveal what the song truly is, a hard-hitting beast of a song that gives Prince and the band plenty of time to ride the groove where ever they please. There is very little surprises to be heard, but as always the song delivers with its strident and bold riffs, highlighting the rhythm section of Brown Mark and Bobby, and newly acquired horn section.

It is a firestorm of guitar that opens “America.” The guitar has been prominent throughout the concert, and here Prince takes it to new levels with an electrifying performance. The guitar establishes a beachhead for the rest of the band to storm through, Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss immediately providing a twin horn attack that tears the song in half. The breakdown halts this attack, the momentum temporarily lost as Prince indulgently leads the crowd with some chants.The rhythm guitars bring some forward movement to the song, but it fails to live up to the opening salvo heard in the first five minutes.

Screams and shrieks greet “Kiss.” It does sound strangely flat on the recording, all the fizz and pop is missing. An appearance of the wooden leg doesn’t help, but the guitar break brings a welcome surge of energy, and the song sounds more lively after its appearance. The final coda restores my enthusiasm for the song, an element of fun is introduced and this brings a lightness to the song that serves it well.

The concert ends with a intricate rendition of “Love or $.” It is a monochrome and highly manicured performance, highlighted by the soundboard recording. The horns are again high in the mix, giving a hint of sparkle to the intertwining sounds that can be heard. The song never bursts out of the tight cocoon that the band weaves around it, often threatening to break out in a flutter of color it instead stays tight in the pocket until the very end.

Ignore any negative comments I may have made about the sound quality and take this show for what it is – a soundboard recording of Prince and The Revolution at their very best. This is only the first show after the Parade warm-up at First Ave, but the band is already firing on all cylinders as memories of Purple Rain rapidly vanish in the rear view mirror. I wouldn’t go so far as to give this a five star rating, but it is a concert and bootleg that you need to hear. Indulge yourself and hunt it out.

Thanks again, next week I will tackle the other recent Eye release before I finally return to the 2008 show I previous started.



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.

Parade 1986 8

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.

Parade 1986 6

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


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.

Prince Paris parade6


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.

Prince Paris parade7

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.

Prince Paris parade8

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.

Prince Paris parade9

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.

Prince Paris parade10

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

The 1986 Box Set ‘A Year in the Life’

Late last year the beautifully curated 1986 box set appeared online and it has had pride of place at my house ever since. The 20 disc set covers 1986 in all forms, live recordings, studio recordings, out takes and released songs. Some people collect live bootlegs, other unreleased studio tracks, and most people have a happy mixture of both. Personally I love live recordings (hence the blog) but this set has proved irresistible to me, the discs are never far from the stereo, and I am compelled to write about it. As passionate as I am, even for me 20 discs of material is too much for me to discuss in detail, so this week I will be presenting an over view of 1986 in general and how well this set covers this extraordinary year.




The 1986 Box Set ‘A Year in the Life’

In 1987 I was 15 years old. Everywhere I went I carried Sign O The Times under my arm, not the cassette tape or the CD, but the full vinyl album. It was statement about who I was and what I was about. Obviously I couldn’t play it when I had it with me but I used to love the feeling of it in my hands and I would spend hours poring over the art work and lyrics. I had never seen such a beautiful piece of complete art in my life. It’s only 30 years on that I fully realize that although Sign O The Times was released in 1987, it is actually a product of 1986’s extraordinary body of work. I may have listened to Sign O The Times all through 1987 but it sprung from the fertile ground of 1986.

It was not alone- a great many other creative ghost albums from 1986 have slowly revealed themselves over the years- The Flesh, Dream Factory, Camille, Crystal Ball as well as the genesis of The Black Album. The breadth and scope of 1986 is phenomenal, Prince touches on many different genres and seems to be at the peak of his powers in all fields- performance, song writing, command of the studio, creativity, as well as productivity. The 1986 Box Set brings together all these different strands and presents them in way that I get a better feel for what was happening. I can see clearly how it all ties together, the moves and motivations in what I am listening to. When I see it all laid out I can see that at the heart of it all is a lot of humanity and for me this is key thing to remember as I listen to all this music.

There are several things that immediately spring to mind when I think of 1986. Firstly is the feeling of joyful camaraderie and humour. It’s well that Prince filmed Under The Cherry Moon in France, for its two French words that are at the front of my mind as I first begin to listen to this set, joie de vivre and esprit de corps. There is a joy and playfulness in the music, and in the band’s performances. It won’t last all year, but certainly early on they look like they are having a great time together. Have a look at Wendy’s face as she plays at the Shelia E show, she is strutting and having a great time, definitely one funky lady, as Prince was fond of telling people at the time. You can see that smile fixed upon her face, and the rest of the band is following suit. Again in the Cobo set you can clearly see it, I too feel uplifted as I watch them all play together as a tight unit, especially when standing in line playing Mutiny- the music is flowing easily, and they seem to be close to family. It’s the same all through the first half of 1986, the band is smiling and laughing, and you can hear that in the live recordings in this set. In Prince’s singing it’s there, and you can see it in the live clips. They are a close knit unit, and it seems that Prince has reached the point where he trusts the band, and they have a lot of freedom under his direction. He certainly calls all the shots during the tour, but the band have freedom to jam and play their own thing, Eric Leeds in particular seems to propel the music in new  directions, and who doesn’t love that moment in the shows where he gets to play solo before being cut off by Prince “Eric, shut the fuck up!” My mother used to hate it as I stomped around saying this- I sure was a strange kid when I was younger. Even scripted ‘impromptu’ moments like this as he talks with the band, or the audience, reveal his feelings towards the band, and raise the curtain on a performer that previously seemed a little cold and clinical.

This new humane aspect to Prince’s music for me makes it much more accessible, and long lasting. The thing that first attracts me is the humour, it runs all the way through 1986, firstly with The Revolution-both live and in studio, and then later in the year when he goes it alone. Listening to Data Bank for example, we can hear the good times in the studio, and whether it is scripted or not, there is no denying that it is done in a very light mood. Who doesn’t find it funny as the band plays on ignoring Princes instructions- something which I imagine would never happen in real life. Later in the year, after The Revolution has crumbled and the dark clouds have gathered, Prince still retains his humour, and expresses it in his lyrics. Whatever is going on in his personal life, there is still moments to make you smile. A lot of these songs are on the unreleased CD from the second half of the year, as well as the Black album, and of course Sign O The Times still has plenty to make me smile.


The music is infused with a new humanity as well as emotion – both positive and, later in the year, negative. Knowing what we about Princes life at the time, we can see that he is pouring a lot of his personal life into these songs. The final sessions of Parade hint at this, and it becomes much more apparent as the year progresses. Listening to the warm-up show at First Ave we can hear a mixture of all these feelings, Prince’s love songs, a big splash of humour, as well as a dig at former colleagues with Mutiny and of course his symbolic chopping down of the Oak tree and turning it into a wooden leg. He is much more human than the funk machine we know from earlier years, and the smutty imp is replaced by someone I can relate to and warm to. The music has the full gamut of emotions, and no matter what my mood, when I listen to this I can find something I relate to.

In 1986 his love songs become more meaningful, personal, and as a consequence deeper. He is obviously a happy man in love, at least before April of that year. The songs early in the year speak to this love, and later in the year after his world is transformed he still writes plenty of great songs based on love lost. When I connect Princes personal life to his musical life it’s hard not to look at a song like Strange Relationship and connect it to what is happening in his world. Likewise the song Mutiny which I have spoken of previously is heavy connected to what is happening with his other personal and professional relationships. He taps these emotions to great effect, and some of his most powerful music is drawn from this well.

There is a darker undercurrent running beneath all this emotion, humour and music. There is a dynamic tension in 1986, it propels everything in the year and it’s extremely fertile. The shiny pop vehicle that he rides in on in early 1986 is not the same as the one he leaves in. You only have to look at his personal appearance to see the change. Looking crisp and clean at the start of the year in his black and whites and short cropped hair, by the beginning of 1987 he has taking on a more rough and tumble look, his hair grown out, and a more adult look. He has moved away from the timeless Peter Pan and closer to the sort of person I could expect to meet down the street. The contrast in looks is matched in the contrast of styles he produces through the year. Everywhere I look I see tensions between different sounds and movements. We have the conflicts in The Revolution, both personally and musically, then the tension between his Funk work and his Jazz work.There is the discord between his private life and his professional life. All of it gives a tightness and drive. He is moving in several different directions at once, and tension in the band and in his music can be heard. Wendy and Lisa may have railed against being “Just another funk band”, yet they still played on some of the funkiest songs he has put out to date. After the band split it gets darker and funkier as Prince regroups and is free to go where ever he pleases musically. You can hear the darkness descend in songs like Big Tall Wall, it is balanced by lighter moments, but it’s definitely there. Prince is so prolific that the ideas are bouncing off each other and the connections between his personal life and musical life are blurred. He is a driven man, and everything is thrown into the music. The Black Album bookends this set with Parade, and although dark by name and sound, the lyrics create a further tension, demonstrating a healthy sense of humour against the darker music. It’s a conflicted year, with the joy of The Revolution early on and a flowering of the music, before Prince brings it to a crashing end in Yokohama smashing his guitar on stage and signalling the end of the Revolution but not his creative spirit as he continues to deliver some fantastic music later in the year. When I listen to the studio recordings, and I mean really sit down and listen to them carefully, I can hear this tension, the light against the darkness, the deep against the shallow, the band against the individual, the funk against the full spectrum of music. This conflict is what makes this year so interesting, and best of all Prince had the tapes rolling the whole time.


If humanity and feeling is the most important thing I take from 1986, the second would be productivity, work ethic and the sheer quantity of music Prince recorded and performed in the year. This box set is 20 CDs, plus extras. Full credit to get it down to that, it could easily have been much more. If it was me it would have stretched out to 40, it all feels essential. But these 20 CDs capture the key moments perfectly, if anyone was looking for the essential must listens, this is it. I would love to take any non-believing music fan and sit them down to listen to this, it’s all here. The glorious highs of The Revolution live shows, the unreleased songs that any other artist would kill to release, the released albums, the unreleased albums, an amazing after-show full of rarities and a couple of CD’s of Princes Jazz leanings, all of it essential and all of it of the highest standard. I have been listening to this music for 30 years, and I am still shaking my head that all of this could have been produced in one year. Prince may have sung “You don’t have to watch Dynasty” but he obviously didn’t spend much time watching TV himself, and I am surprised he even found time to sleep. If I could have heard all of this in 1986, it would have blown my tiny teenage mind, it’s probably just as well that a lot of this music has leaked out slowly over the years.

Live bootlegs are the thing for me, and the ones presented here are among the very best from Princes career. Sure, there are better recorded bootlegs from other interesting periods of his career, but most people would agree that the ones in this set are among the most essential. The show from the 3rd March I have written about before, it may not be the best, but it most certainly is my favourite. The old Prince is fused with the new, and he delivers a show that touches on everything I love about him, his showmanship, he ability to play a mixture of instruments well, his great vocals, and most of all his song writing skills, it all starts and ends in the songs themselves. Then there is the beloved Cobo show, I don’t think I have ever met a Prince fan who didn’t own a copy of this and cherished it. It is indeed ‘untouchable’. The next live shows each capture a moment of the evolution of the band and Prince, the Stockholm show shows them at their peak, the Le New Morning show captures what we would consider the start of Prince’s after shows (despite its dubious recording quality) and then a beautiful soundboard of the Paris concert where It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night was recorded live for Sign O The Times. Each one of these shows is worthy of its inclusion, and I rate them all very highly. Don’t be put off by the sound of the Le New Morning after show, the amazing set list more than makes up for it – what I wouldn’t give for a set list like that nowadays. Finally to top it all off we have the final show of The Revolution. An interesting historical document, the fact it is their final show makes its inclusion a must. Prince smashing his guitar brings the end to an era and the live shows in this set.

The unreleased music and albums in this set throws up a great mix of style and flavours. Prince is experimenting here and pushing himself. The things I first gravitate to are the jazzy flavoured CDs, The Flesh shows Prince dipping his toe in the water before immersing himself more fully with Madhouse later in the year. I rate both highly and for me Junk Music is the must listen track, if you haven’t heard it I suggest you skip straight to it now. The two CDs of unreleased tracks throws up all sorts of interesting tracks, and is a real grab bag of sounds and styles. It’s a lolly scramble with many flavours and colours to try, and again I have to remind myself that this is all coming from one guy in one year. These are trumped for me by the unreleased albums presented here- The Dream Factory, Crystal Ball, Camille, The Black album (later released). Each of them has a distinct flavour and sound. The Dream Factory to my ears is the most cohesive as well as sounding the most like a band effort. It’s the album I listen to most of the four and in some ways it’s a disappointment that it didn’t get released at the time. I can understand why the record company was reluctant to release it in this flood of material, just as I can understand Princes frustration in producing all this great material and being unable to release it. Crystal Ball has an unsettled sound to it, and I feel it reflects well the state of play in late 1986. It has an unease about it and a darkness. Camille is a somewhat artificial creation, more a fan made creation than an actual album, it nevertheless is a lot of fun, and I give it a lot of play in my car. The Black album is the dark funk album of the four, but as I mentioned earlier, Prince’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek with his lyrical content. Who knows what the world would have made of it in 1986, by the time it was released times had moved on, but it’s still a great party album.

The box set opens with the final Parade sessions, and at the other end we have Sign O The Times which is a nice exclamation mark at the end of it all. It’s self a hotchpotch of everything that has come before, it encapsulates everything that has happened in 1986 and neatly sums up the year in its four sides. Love songs, live tracks, sex songs, spiritual songs, psychedelic songs, funk songs as well as some good old fashioned rock, Prince picks something of everything he has done through the year and throws it in. No need to tell you I have heard it thousands of times, yet it’s still an essential addition to this boxset.


The final thing that marks 1986 as an outstanding year, is not just the quantity of the music, but the quality. Sure there is a lot of songs there, and honestly every one of them is worthy of its place. Prince was untouchable, and everything he tried in 1986 came off for him. He experimented with a range of styles, and mixed them into his own sound producing something unique. In 1986 he did this over and over, I could pick any song from this year and hold it up as an example. His jazz moments get a lot of praise, and then again we can’t forget he also produced the funky Black album to boot. Listening to all this albums and songs now, anyone of them would hold its place on a released album. Prince did a lot in these 52 weeks, and he did it oh so well. The band influence can be heard early on, and later in the year he is still taking on other influences as he works alone. In 1986 I knew Prince was good, I just didn’t realize how good until a few years later as these songs came to light.

Prince plays many different styles over the span of the box set, and for me the two that are of the highest standard and both worth mentioning are the Jazz stylings, and the hard funk. Again, they feed back into the dynamic tension that drives 1986, and the unsettling nature of hearing one man produce both at such a high quality in a small period of time. Parade may have had hints of Jazz, but it’s The Flesh where Prince first begins to flesh it out (excuse the pun). The Parade sessions end in January and then in the same month Prince records this collection of Jazz flavoured songs. You could argue that it’s not really a jazz album, but the intent is there, as is the sound, helped notably by Eric Leeds. I have to constantly remind myself that these are the essentially the same group of people that recorded Anotherloverholeinyohead just a few weeks previous. Prince gets a chance to do it all again later, with his Madhouse configuration later in the year. Here he strips it back to just him and Eric Leeds, and this time it’s no studio experiment, this time he is recording for release. Looking at it now it seems a mad idea, but when you look at the body of work from 1986 in makes perfect sense. Of course he want to record a jazz album and put it out, this is Prince we’re talking about. I am not a fan of everything on the album, but I am full of admiration for the fact it is done, and it does stand on its own as an album.

This being 1986 there is an opposite to this, and that would be The Black album. It’s easy to point at similarities too, the Black album is conceived as an album that focuses on one style and aspect of Princes music, and of course it does feature 2 Nigs United 4 West Compton which works as a jazz fusion funk jam. Elsewhere though, the colours are drained out and this is a lean mean funk album. The lyrics as noted earlier are fun and light, even if the music is hard edged. Again, I aren’t a fan of everything on the album, but it does hold true to his vision, and like everything else in the year it’s done to a high standard.

There is no doubt in my mind that 1986 is the peak of Princes productivity and creativity, and as such the 1986 boxset is absolutely essential. If I was to introduce a newbie to Prince, this would be the place to start. It reveals him not as a pop star or performer, but as a true artist. True, he is playing the game in his live shows, but it’s in the studio where he is pushing boundaries and himself. When I listen to this set, I don’t hear pop songs, I hear art, art that will last long after Princes star has faded. There will be those in future who won’t have grown with his music as I have, nor seen him live, and its box sets like this that will remain as testament to his genius and vision. There is more to it than this however, for me the music here is not just about Prince, it is deeply personal to me, and I carry a variety of associations with it. It represents not just a milestone in Princes life, but also a series of milestones from my own as it has sound-tracked my life for the last 30 years. 1986- A Year In The Life has actually lasted me a life time. Good times and bad, I have had this music with me all the way through my journey, providing comfort and uplifting moments when I needed it. I may have carried Sign O The Times with me all through 1987, but this collection of music from 1986 I have carried with me for all my life.


For more on this extraordinary collection visit:

THE1986BOXSET Flyer (2)






Warfield Theatre 1986

I am happy to say I have finished work for the year now, and I am looking forward to three weeks of rest and relaxation. The summer is hot, the beer is cold, and I have more time to listen to some of the longer shows in my collection. Today I am going to take a listen to the longest show in circulation from 1986, a show from the Warfield Theatre, San Francisco. The shows from this year follow a formula, and this one differs in the inclusion of a couple of interesting moments. ♥ or $ is in the show, which is always good to hear, and we have a long version of America, something I am looking forward to hearing very much. Also an appearance of Andre Cymone playing Dance Electric gives this show a buzz, and adding another good reason for me sit down and give it a listen.

23 May, 1986. Warfield Theatre, San Francisco

No surprise at all as the show opens with Around The World In A Day. What I immediately like about it is the noise and passion of the crowd. There is a great roar as Prince is introduced, and some immediate chanting, which helps me create a virtual concert in my mind. However the recording is an OK audience recording, and at first doesn’t sound great on my speakers. I switch to my headphones and it becomes much fuller and I am rewarded right away with the band playing up to their impeccable standards.

Christopher Tracy’s Parade doesn’t have me quite as enthralled. The vocals aren’t as tight as I would like, and some of the momentum of the previous song is lost. I do like the bass I hear later in the song, and Prince engages the audience with some hand waving near the end which sounds like fun. Unfortunately the sound quality drops off a little at this stage too, which leaves me feeling disappointed and underwhelmed at the end of the song.

The drums and bass are the best thing in New Position. The sound is still uneven on the recording, so I don’t get as much out of Prince’s vocals as I would like. The song is still very good though, and any problems I am having are definitely down to the taping rather than the show.

San Fran 86c

I Wonder U also has rather murky sounding vocals.  I do like the vocal play between the singers however, and the song is so short that I don’t really have too much to complain about, or indeed praise.

Prince counts us off, and the band steamroll into Raspberry Beret. With the crowd clapping and singing, it’s easy to overlook the sound quality. This song sounds light and easy every time, and there isn’t anything fancy required to get it across to the crowd. It does have its classic pop sound here, and Prince takes a minute near the end to do a little spiel to the crowd about a girl who is looking fine. There’s not anything more to it, and with a final fanfare we more on.

Alexa De Paris is the best sounding song so far, mostly due to the fact that there are no vocals, and the recording does a far better job capturing the instruments rather than the singers. Prince always has a nice balance to his songs, and in this case I really like how the horns offset the guitars. It’s a nice dynamic, and its small things like this that I notice more and more as I listen to Prince.

The beat of Controversy begins, and as that funky guitar line starts I already know that this is going to be my favourite part of the recording. This feeling is heightened as Prince says “Frisco, tonight you’re mine” The introduction is just brilliant, with Prince telling the audience that tonight they are going to be Uptown, before having them do the Holly Rock chant. I turn the volume right up on this one, and switch back to the speakers, but again I find it much better when I am listening with my head phones. The bass is great right before the breakdown, and what comes next is a highlight, as Prince stops the band as they segue into Controversy and introduces Miko Weaver to the crowd. He has him play just the guitar line, and this is what I have always wanted to hear most, just that great slippery guitar. Prince quietens Miko, and speaks to the crowd, asking about his suit, before Wendy starts her guitar line. Prince calls Miko to join and it’s just heavenly, it’s these spontaneous moments that make live recordings worth listening to. A few more Holly Rock chants and we kick back into Controversy proper.

San Fran 86b

The good times roll on as the band next plays Mutiny. Prince is feeling the funk now, and so am I here at home. I go to turn the volume up again, but I am already at maximum, and there is nothing more I can do but bob my head along like a grinning idiot. The groove is a monster, and Eric Leeds puts his mark all over it. I don’t know if Prince is pulling his funk face, but I certainly am as the song gets better and better. Eric’s breakdown seems to go for an age, the band stop, and just Eric and the chanting of the backing singers is heard. It is hot, oh so HOT. Prince is in fine form, stopping the band and asking Jerome “what you wanna do” and then letting the band loose, cutting him off just as he begins to answer. It’s funny, funky and great to listen to. Prince drops in the chorus of Dream Factory, giving us a little treat, especially 30 years on and we know the full story. Even the outro gets the full treatment, with the band winding down for a good minute with the horn riff. The last ten minutes has been magnificent, and if the show ended right now I would be more than satisfied.

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window seems a strange choice, but it segues beautifully into Lady Cab Driver. It’s a shame we don’t get to hear Lady Cab Driver in all its glory, but this show is already so crammed full that I can’t complain in the slightest.

Automatic doesn’t have the ominous cold sound I normally associate with it. It this context the horns lighten the feel of it, and it’s actually a good fit into the show. The song is kept short, with some horn vamps near the end to round it out.

San Fran 86d

I like the horns playing the intro of D.M.S.R and there is a fantastic scream just before Prince speaks the opening words. The song is shaping up to be another funky jam, but things become even better than I could possible imagine as Prince rather simple says “Ladies and Gentlemen, Andre Cymone”  as the beginning of The Dance Electric begins. I don’t know what I love more, the song it’s self, or the fact that Andre is playing it in the middle of this wonderful show. The song surpasses its novelty value, and I can’t express enough how good it sounds hear. There is some flaming hot guitar sound, and the bass matches its intensity. To be honest the band plays this to the hilt, and everyone holds the groove so tightly as the guitar is let loose. Its eye watering good, and as soon as it finishes I hit the repeat button, several times.

After the intensity of The Dance Electric, Under The Cherry Moon is a nice contrast, and also a sign of how far Prince had come in his sound in just a few years. He is clearly at the top of his game here, to have the confidence to present a song like this straight after the funkfest we have had so far, and I applaud and admire him for that. The song works well as a break in the furiosity of the show, and a chance for us to collect our breath. It’s also a chance for someone near the taper to find their seat, all beautifully recorded for prosperity (seat 7 for those that are interested).

The guitar whine that introduces Anotherloverholenyohead has me perked up, and Prince doesn’t disappoint at all, his vocals are perfect and I get the same feeling that I get every time I hear it on record. The intensity is back in the show, and I feel the song as much as I hear it. I love Eric Leeds and Atlantic Bliss for their contribution, and just as much I find myself listening to and enjoying the keyboard of Lisa. I am not sure if I am imagining it or not, but she seems to get longer to play, and I lap it up here at home. There is a false ending that throws me, Lisa plays a keyboard run that I expect the song to end with, but then she picks up again for another minute of playing as the chant continues “You need another lover, like you need a hole in the head”
San Fran 86

What follows is a kicking beat that I can’t quite place, even as Prince tells us it’s a blast from the past. He puts me out of my misery as Soft & Wet is heard, and I am very happy to have it the setlist. This setlist is light on pop songs, and this and Raspberry Beret carry the load in that respect. Dr Finks solo is mind-blowingly good, only half a minute it comes out of nowhere and floors me. I wait until my partner leaves the room and then I sing along for the last minute, it’s just too catchy to resist.

You wait all day for a pop song, and then two come along at once. I Wanna Be Your Lover is ever youthful, and still sounds like a sunny day. I have long since forgotten about the quality of the recording, I am just enjoying these songs and this show too much. The bass and keys hit the groove in the latter part of the song, and I find this just as enjoyable as the opening couple of minutes, and in addition there is the realization of what song will follow- oh boy, I can’t wait.

The horns signal the beginning of Head, but something is missing. There doesn’t seem to be the nastiness and dirty sound to it that I expect. I may have spoken too soon, Lisa’s vocals add the sound I am looking for, and paired with Dr Fink they nail that old school sound I am looking for. For the second time today Dr Fink delivers the goods, and I love that sound he gets out of his keyboard. The song progresses through to its “head, till you burn it” stage and Prince works the microphone like a pro with plenty of croons and squeals. Some of this good work is undone as Prince introduces the wooden leg, luckily I can’t see it and I just keep on listening to that slippery guitar sound underneath. Things get worse as I hear the word “oaktree”, but again the music is still strong and keeps things balanced. Things get very interesting as I hear Prince say “I wish Morris was here to see this, would he be mad or what” as he chops the oak tree down. I had never noticed that before, and I find it very interesting to hear.

San Fran 86e

There is an interlude as the keyboard play and Prince address the crowd, before a very cool sounding Pop Life follows. The keys sound laid back, and Princes delivery is equally relaxed sounding. The song still has its pop, and I enjoy hearing the girl’s voices singing with Prince. Eric’s flute solo is very good, and the sharp sound goes well with the song. The bass isn’t as strong as I have heard on other recordings, but the song doesn’t seem any worse for it.

Another favourite of mine next with Girls & Boys, I don’t know what it is about this song, but I think it’s the quirky keyboard sound with the deep sax of Eric rubbing up against each other. I could enthuse about every member of the band here, but there is only one star, and that’s Eric. His signature sound drives the song, and I could easily listen to him play all day. Prince gives him space to play, before come back strongly with his own vocals near the end of the songs. Yet I again, I find I can’t help but sing along – I guess I really am a fan.

Life Can Be So Nice comes as a rush after Girls & Boys winds down. I can’t catch Prince’s vocals very well, and neither can I pick out some of the other band members. Things sound better in the chorus, the band pulls back and the recording sounds better, it’s only during the verses that the recording can’t match all the sounds that are there to be heard.

It’s untalked about in the fan community, but I find that Purple Rain is the odd man out at Prince shows, and especially in a show such as this. There is no other song like it in the Prince canon, and its sound is completely different from anything else we have heard at this show. I find it strange that the most well known song of Prince’s, indeed his signature song, is also the most unrepresentative of his sound. For all that, it is a song that I still enjoy, even after hearing it thousands of times live, and the version played here is pretty darn good. There is a long intro with Prince playing soft lead, and although the beat sounds weak and thin on the recording, his guitar playing makes up for it. There is plenty of time for the crowd to get their “ooh, oohs” in before Prince begins to sing at the four minute mark. Again, any issues with the recording are forgiven, as Prince delivers a sublime vocal performance. In particular when he sings “I know, I know, I know times are changing” I can feel the weight and emotion in his voice, and I am sold on it. The guitar break picks up right where his vocals left off, and there is flurry of guitar work in the middle that captures my imagination. By the time the song ends with the cascading keyboards I am more than satisfied, and I can’t believe how much this show has given us already.

There is no time to dwell on that thought as the driving beat of America comes right in over top, and some furious guitar work from Prince opens the song. This show just keeps giving and giving, the first salvo from Prince is great, before he hits the main riff and Eric and the band come and drive the beat home. I have used the word intensity many times already, but it’s entirely appropriately, the band is playing everything with intensity, and this one is no exception.  I shake my head at how good this all is, we have Atlanta Bliss in the mix, and some fiery guitar work from Prince. The band gets into the groove, and there a few stops and starts from Prince as he puts them through their paces. He throws in some funky chants as they jam on it, before a drum solo appears in the mix. It does peter out at this stage and comes to a rather limp finish.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ is short and light, and doesn’t fire my enthusiasm. What I did enjoy though is when the song abruptly stops and Prince demands of Wendy “Wendy, what’s so funny?” The crowd begin to bark and Prince picks up on it and calls for a beat to be put to it – I like the casual way he calls Bobby Z “Bob”. I hadn’t expected to hear him call on the band in such a friendly manner. The band briefly jams and it turns into Holly Rock. This gets a much fuller treatment than Whole Lotta Shakin’ and they play it for a good four minutes. The bass work is tight, and Prince has the crowd barking along all through the song.

Love Bizarre starts very suddenly with Prince calling “A,B,C”. We can’t see what is happening on stage, but it is eliciting plenty of cheers and shouts from the crowd. Eric Leeds is to the fore, and his playing is on point throughout. The best part for me though is when Prince starts the chant “whose house? Wendy’s house” and Wendy obliges with some great guitar work. Prince stops the band, and as the crowd cheers Wendy calls “Yeah, wasn’t that great!” Prince starts to talk, and at first I think he is going to diss Wendy, instead he praises her to the sky. It fantastic to hear him speak so highly of her, and I agree with everything he says.

San Fran 86a

It’s a tepid sounding Kiss that follows, but I think we can blame the recording for that. The actual song is an extended version and has the classic long ending with plenty of funky guitar and groove. Wendy lives up to all the praise Prince has just given her, and along with Brown Mark there sound holds it down for the latter portion of the song. There is plenty of horns and the rest of the band, but its Wendy and Brown Mark holding it all down.

♥ or $ closes the show, and it’s a great demonstration of how good this band is. Every member of the band can be heard clearly dong their part, and without being individually showcased you can still hear the valuable contribution each member is making. I love the sound of the horns in the mix of this one, they are all scrambling over each other to be heard, and it gives it a little more energy. The song comes to a sudden halt and the show ends with applause and more barking from the crowd.

With the recent appearance of the (unofficial) 1986 boxset, these concerts have been at the front of my mind. The amazing part for me is, not only did Prince play these amazing shows, but he also recorded and lay down a fantastic catalogue of songs all in a single calendar year. It’s an unmatched achievement, and listening to these shows in that broader context is mind-blowing. This show, although not the greatest recording, is just as fantastic as anything else from this era. The warm-up show is always my favourite, but this one matches it in many ways. The setlist is great, and there is plenty of interesting bits as Prince acknowledges his past with the appearance of Andre, and also in his telling comments about Morris. Musically brilliant, historically interesting, and contextually essential, I have gushed about this show, and for good reason. Every show from 1986 is a must listen, and this is one of them.

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch this year, your words and comments keep me motivated
Same time next week -Hamish


Le New Morning 1986


How does this sound for a set list?

I Can’t Get Next To You
Love Or $
Purple House
An Honest Man
Strange Relationship
Last Heart
Soul Power
A Love Bizarre
Jazz Jam
Do Me, Baby
17 Days
Susannah’s Blues

Looks great, doesn’t it? And played by the Parade era Revolution. Oh, and did I mention that Prince’s father plays piano on the jazz jam? It’s beginning to look like one of the greats. There’s just one thing- it’s not a great recording. In fact it’s decidedly average- plenty of distortion through the whole show. So, where do I stand on the quality of the show versus the quality of the recording? Is the trade-off worth it? For me it’s a definite “Yes”, but this one isn’t for the faint of heart.

24 August, 1986 Le New Morning, Paris

Right off, the recording is distorting. The bass has an annoying buzz to it that I just can’t shake. It is an audience recording, and I certainly have heard a lot worse, but the constant distortion on the bass is a distraction. Prince and the rest of the band can be heard quite clearly, so it’s not all bad. The recording begins with the band playing a cover of I Can’t Get Next To You. It has a hypnotic beat and bass line, but I have to listen carefully past the bass and its buzz to catch the nuances of the song. Prince is sounding relaxed and playful, and has the crowd with him early on. The verses sound fine with Prince and the girls backing him, and the choruses has him and the male voices which have a nice strong sound. Prince calls for Miko to play a lead break, and he plays a break that I really enjoy. On a better recording I would be raving about this, but it is what it is. Miko always has a great tone to his guitar, and here it’s a clean sound which I really like. For I long time I underestimated Miko, but now I have come to really admire his sound. The song returns to its steady blues sound, and Prince and the rest of the band blend in well together. I had expected this song to go on and on, so I’m am caught off guard as it finishes at this point.

♥ Or $ next and any reservations I had about the quality of the recording are forgotten. The band hits their straps on this one, and I get swept up along with it. They settle into the steady groove, and even with the distortion they sound sharp. There is plenty horns and sax, and I can hear the crowd cheer, as I am doing here at home. The band sound tight, and yet Prince and the horns sound nice and loose, and there is an air of anticipation that is heightened when Prince threatens “we about to get funky in here”. He is as good as his word as he unleashes Eric Leeds, and as a lifelong fan of Eric I am deliriously happy. There is a funky little guitar line too, you have to listen hard to hear it, and it adds a little more funk to Eric’s horn. There is very little in the way of singing, just plenty of Eric and groove. The song ends with the girls giving a sharp “love” as the crowd shows its appreciation.

Prince Parade 86

The first live performance of Jimi Hendrix’s Red House (appropriately re-titled as Purple House) follows next as we swing back to the blues. Prince claims the song in the first line as he sings “There’s a Purple house yonder” The distortion isn’t too bad, it’s unfortunate that it does hide some of Princes vocals. The song isn’t as guitar heavy as I thought it may have been, Prince gives the singing plenty of attention before he begins his guitar playing about mid-song. There is some horn swells which round out Princes guitar playing, and he doesn’t linger too long with his playing. I am two minds about this, I do love it when he plays, however the song has a nice balanced sound as it’s played here, so I am more than happy with what I am hearing. Again it’s not stretched out or jammed on, and the band is still pretty uptight.

What attracted me most to this recording is the set list, and what we have next is another treat with Prince playing An Honest Man. With just him and the piano he catches just the right side of vulnerable. I love hearing tracks like this, and this one is made even better by the fact that the distortion is absent now that the bass isn’t playing. Prince gives it some flourishes on the piano, before he calls Eric and the two of them play together. I close my eyes and enjoy the moment. The recording isn’t perfect, but this is the reason I listen to bootlegs, rare moments that only happen once. The song ends with Prince crooning and a gentle twinkle on the piano, before another special moment begins.

Next up is a steady beat that sounds very familiar, yet not quite as I know it. This is the first airing of one of my most beloved songs – Strange Relationship. It’s played slower, and is missing some of the energy of the finished product, and yet is fully formed pretty much as we know it. The intro is long and elastic, before Prince starts singing the “do do do do” lines. Unfortunately the distortion also makes a return, but I refuse to let that ruin this moment for me. At the slower pace it lacks the funky dancing vibe, however my head still bobs along with it as it plays. This is very much a highlight for me, I love hearing this version and the horn lines give it an extra touch of class. There is a piano break that I am guessing is Prince, and at this pointing I am cranking the volume way past 11, it’s just the sort of thing I want to hear, and it’s a real treat for me. Prince calls to Miko, but I can’t make out what he is saying, and I don’t hear Miko contributing anything sonically either. I give up trying the pick all the pieces and instead focus on Princes piano and singing, before Eric Leeds plays again and demands my attention. His solo here adds a lot to the song, and it does give it a completely different feel. The song stretches out past the seven minute mark, and Prince begins to sing Last Heart. Oh boy, what a treat this is. The piano is prominent and after a few lines Prince jams on it some more. As the song ends I am in heaven, despite the distortion this is amazing to listen to, I don’t know why I haven’t had this on constant rotation.

Prince Parade 86c

Head starts of very quietly and builds to a steady groove.  There is no synth early on as the bass and the guitar build up, the bass bobbing along while the guitar picks out a string of funky lines. The horns finally hit a stab and the snare cracks as the song suddenly comes into focus. There is a loud shout from the crowd, especially in my left ear, which both excites and irritates me. There is an interesting mix on this one, its normal, bare the guitar which is playing a funky line that is very clear throughout. I enjoy it in this way, and appreciate the different sound it brings. This is obviously a favourite with the crowd, there is a lot of yelling and cheering as the song progresses. Prince asks if the crowd is having a good time as Atlanta Bliss plays a trumpet break, thus adding a further interesting dimension to the song. The song takes its usual twists and turns, and it’s the horns and the piano lines that I get the most satisfaction from. Prince has the crowd doing soul clap as Bobby puts a harder beat on it and the piano gets funkier and funkier. The song ends here with a final horn flourish and an appreciative audience.

The opening sound of Anotherloveholeinyohead has a very thin shaky sound, and the song really picks up when the band come on board. The distortion is again a distraction, and I am grateful that I can hear Prince and the band singing loudly which takes my attention from it. The crowd sings loudly and the funky levels certainly go up a notch, and that’s saying something coming on the heels of Head. The horn solos punch over the top of the distortion, and I am more pleased as just after this things briefly quieten and I can for a short time hear the band clearly. The recording fades out at this point, which is almost a relief after the distortion.

Next we hear Price say “and for my next trick” as the band strikes up Soul Power.  This band is well suited to this James Brown groove, and the song is led by the guitar and an organ groove. I love grooving along to it here at home, and I am dangerously close to getting off my seat and dancing along to it. It’s given even more of a James Brown sound as Eric Leeds puts his trademark horn to it. His playing is quite frenetic, and it’s a shame that it’s kept relatively short. It’s not so bad through as Prince leads the band through some chanting of ‘soul power’ before encouraging them to play faster. Later in the song the bass becomes more loose and wild, and it’s something I would love to sing the praises of, if not for the distortion that comes with it. I start to grin as Prince gets the crowd singing “oohhhhhhh, shit!” I guess there is still a bit of teenager still in me. Prince plays with the crowd further by having them bark and meow for the last minute of the song. A lot of fun is had, and even though not much is happening musically it’s still good to listen to.

Prince Parade 86a

A very Parade era sounding Controversy follows next. There is that great pounding beat that starts it, while a funky rhythm guitar plays. The horns blast in, and I am immediately transported back. Prince runs through his lines easily enough, but as always it’s the music that I really listening to here. The song is kept short as per the Parade tour before a natural segue into Love Bizarre.

“A, B, A B C D!” is followed by a fantastic horn riff and a massive shout from the crowd. Excitement and energy levels are obviously very high in the room, and this song goes over very well. The distortion levels also rise, which is disappointing. It’s not too bad in the choruses, but it does ruin the verses somewhat. The horns are nice and airy, and they come across good in the recording. Prince’s vocals are deep in the sound of the song, and I have to listen pretty hard to hear them. There is a respite from the extra noise when the band drop out as Prince and the ladies sing “Love Bizarre” before a glorious sounding Eric Leeds plays with the organ behind him. Wendy also gets some shine next as Prince sings “whose house, Wendy’s house” over her rhythm. There is a break for Brown Mark to play, unfortunately as it’s the bass that’s causing the distortion it’s not an easy listen. The band really rumble at this point, the bass and the drum hit that beautiful groove and the band all fall in. This gives Prince a chance to do his best James Brown, and he gives plenty of screams, before working the band through a series of stops and starts.

When the song ends there is a loud cheer from the crowd, before the recording takes a sudden cut to the middle of another song. It’s listed as Jazzy Jam, and that is a very apt title. Its only half a minute here, we are obviously only catching the end of a song, but it is heavy on the sax and trumpet and does indeed have a Jazz sound to it.

Do Me Baby is far more recognizable, and the arrangement played here is gorgeous. Prince elects not to sing, instead playing the vocal melody on his guitar. It’s just as good as you might imagine, even with the quality of the recording. The melody is only the start point as Prince stretches it more and more out, before beginning to really branch out on the guitar. The horns come in and ground it, and everything seems to click together just right. There is a break down mid song, when everything strips back, and it’s a nice opportunity to catch our breath. The horns again play a nice fat sound, and fill the song out nicely. I rate this version highly, there is plenty here that I haven’t heard before. It not until the six minute mark do we finally hear Princes voice, as he sings a series of “Do me baby, all night long”, before again playing some delicate guitar.

Prince Parade 86b

The tempo and mood is again uplifted as the band play 17 Days.  Prince plays with the song a little, calling “bass and drums” only early on and just letting the rhythm carry it. A funky guitar is thrown into the mix, and the band play this bare stripped sound for quite some time. Brown Mark is prominent, the song is grounded on his bass, and there is also a minute where we get to hear him play with a more loose sound. Prince does sing, later in the song, and it doesn’t sound quite as catchy as it did on record. He only sings a verse and a chorus before the horns play a delicious break that leaves me wishing I could have been there. Prince does call out to the band, again due to the recording I am unable to make out what he says. However the song does strip back for the guitar, and I love hearing that.

There is one final surprise as Prince calls a change and the band segues into Susannah’s Blues. It’s very loose, with Prince chatting to the crowd and introducing Miko. It’s just a gentle riff, and Prince scats a little before the piano plays a jazzy sounding break. The recording fades here, and leaves me to consider what I have just heard.

This show is really something. I can’t state enough how brilliant the set list is, so many interesting arrangements and rarities in there. Likewise I can’t dismiss the fact that the recording itself is far from ideal, and something that the average fan would generally avoid. My overall thoughts are that the good points about this show are so brilliant that they do overshadow the poor quality recording. In even slightly better sound this would be one that all Prince fans would be talking about, and even as it is it’s still a worthy boot.

Thanks for reading,
Next week, something from the 21st century.


Parade Tour in Sweden

Was there ever a bad show on the Parade tour? Maybe, but this one certainly isn’t it. Today I return to one of my favorite tours- The Parade tour, and take a listen to a recording from the Swedish concert. This is a fairly well known recording, it is available in video and audio, and one that I know many people enjoy – myself included. My two go to shows from this tour are the warm up show at First Ave, and the Cobo birthday show, but this one is a close third place behind those two. So, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have here.

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

The classic “Please welcome Prince and The Revolution” begins the show, while the band plays the beginning of Around The World In a Day in darkness. There is plenty to enjoy in the music at the beginning, lots of different instruments to pick out and enjoy, and these senses are heightened by the fact the band are playing behind a curtain. I do like this song a lot, and don’t really know what to expect from a live version, and the first thing that really grabs me is the wonderful sound of Princes voice. It has a well rounded and warm sound to it, and contrasts nicely to some of the instrumentation in the back ground. The rest of the band joins and the song starts proper, but after a minute of some great bass work and fanfares from the band we move into Christopher Tracey’s Parade.

Prince Parade

There is some guitar work in the left at the start of the Christopher Tracey’s Parade that seems a little out of place, but overall the sound and the texture of the song is just wonderful. I especially like the keyboards playing after the first verse. Lisa is playing some great stuff as well as providing backing vocals to Prince. The second half of the song the band moves up a gear and Prince takes his first break at the organ. He doesn’t play anything mind-blowing, but the organ adds more warmth and fullness before we move without pause to the next song.

New Position sounds very full and colorful here in comparison to what we hear on album. The horns play some nice wiggly lines, and the rest of the band fill out the song much more. In particular I can hear the guitar much more on this number. The song ends naturally enough with a flourish from the horns before the tempo changes.

I Wonder U is quite a change from what we have just heard, and the atmosphere of the recording changes with it. Here it’s again the keyboards I enjoy most, although the singing from Wendy is fine enough, it’s not a showstopper. Atlanta Bliss on the trumpet though, now that is a nice touch. He plays a break that sounds shaky but is actually very good. Already it’s my favorite moment of the first ten minutes of the show.

Prince asks if we are ready to rock and roll before the horns introduce Raspberry Beret with a flourish. Prince uses the song to encourage the audience to clap their hands and to sing. He himself sings most of it, which has me a little surprised as I expected he would leave it mostly to the crowd. The song sounds good enough, but I find that with verses cut out it does lack the charm of the story telling original. Again Prince teases us with just a brief moment on the organ, before the song transitions into the next part of the show.

Prince Parade 3

Prince does some cool sounding vocals at the start of Delirious, and then the band joins in and we go racing off. The vocals at the start are well worth the few seconds they get, I can imagine him doing more with it like this, especially when he stretches his voice out. The rest of the song is a fun dance along number, with plenty of time devoted to Prince and his back up dancers.

The funkometer goes up to ten next as the classic opening riff of Controversy begins. Always my favorite part of the Parade gigs, this is where the show starts for me. The song starts with plenty of funky guitar but the keyboard and horns also come in heavy and it’s a great funk sound. It could have derailed when Prince goes into his cigarette smoking routine, but things are saved when the next song starts.

Prince owns Love Bizarre in these live performances. The sound is funk yet still there is plenty of pop in there. The band and Prince deliver it all with such intensity, not just the music but also the performance. Wendy and Lisa sound great on the backing vocals, and the guitar playing is just as good too. There is a keyboard groove that keeps me moving, and I think groove is the perfect word to describe this song. The guitar and keyboard are relentless, and the horns add just a splash of color. Eric does get a solo moment, and he sounds as good as ever. Prince does encourage the crowd with “who’s house, Wendy’s house” and I want to sing along here at home. At one point the band drop out leaving just bass and drums, and I don’t need to reiterate, it’s so funky. ‘Stop on the one’ has Prince in band leader mode, but he doesn’t play up on it too much, content to just sit back and let the band play. The song ends with Prince on the drum riser, and I wonder how he can top that.

Prince Parade 1

Again the tempo drops, and Prince delivers a slow burning classic rendition of Do Me Baby. As always his vocal delivery is top shelf, but on this recording it’s the backing vocals that I notice most. They are right behind him on the chorus and it’s perfectly complimentary. Prince Wendy and Lisa really do sound wonderful together, I can’t deny. This is one of the better versions I have heard, Princes vocals are very clean sounding on the recording, and I can hear every note and inflection in his voice. The horns playing give the song and extra push near the end, and add to the seductive nature of the song. When I started writing about this show I didn’t expect Do Me Baby to be one of the highlights, but it is. The end of the song is breathtaking, and I don’t say that lightly, as Prince pulls the band back and sings as the crowd clap along. His lyrics sound excellent, and he throws in some appropriate screams and yells. He finishes up with the crowd singing with him. If the show ended right here I would be happy.

I still haven’t worked out why How Much Is That Doggie is in the set list, but I easily forgive them when the brief instrumental of Lady Cab Driver is played. Its only seconds long but its enough to remind me how much I love that song. The band move easily onto Automatic, which is no bad thing as it also is a favorite of mine from the 1999 album. Its not as dark as it sounds on album, on this recording its much more of a dance song, especially with all the horns thrown in, and Prince plays up this aspect for all its worth, with plenty of dancing throughout.

We stay with 1999 with a short but cool version of DMSR tacked on to the end. Again, it’s a medley version, with plenty of horns, so we don’t get to enjoy the fullness of it, but I know that as soon as I finish writing this I will be pulling out the 1999 album.

The simple keyboard riff of When Doves Cry is enough to get the crowd screaming. It’s played true to the album here, if anything it’s got an even more stripped down sound, the beat that Prince sings over is very sparse sounding. Part of the beauty of this song is the sound of Prince voice out alone in front of the music, and it is definitely true in this case. Its very melancholy sounding, and even when the bass enters that feeling remains with me. But the best part is definitely Wendy’s solo. The guitar tone is brilliant, and it’s got the sound of a lone instrument. The beat is still barren with just the occasional bass sound as she plays, and it’s a great rock moment. The full band enters soon after this point and the horns are finally heard, and sound oddly out of place on this recording, even thought I have enjoyed them plenty on other occasions. The coda has the horns playing while Prince plays at the organ, and I warm to them at this stage, it could well be another song but the sound is fantastic.

Prince Parade 4

This show gets better and better, I can’t believe how much I have gushed over it already, but still it keeps delivering. Next we have Prince alone at the piano, and instead of starting straight in on a song we have a couple of minutes of him improvising. Even if he is just warming up it sounds great, and I could happily listen to it for much longer. He does start to play Under The Cherry Moon, and I am even happier. Just the sound of his vocals and the piano are perfect and it seals the deal for me- this show is one of the greats. Prince and the piano are backed very well by some other keyboard work, but its never intrusive and Prince still has plenty of time to play his piano parts.

My favorite song from the Parade album is Anotherloverholenyohead, and to hear now with this band on this tour, well it doesn’t get much better. Lisa and Prince sound great, I was expecting to be writing about Eric Leeds, but it’s the girl’s voices that get my attention first. Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss do get their moment later in the song, and as you might expect they live up to their billing. Everybody seems to chime in for their part on this song, and Prince introduces Lisa as we get a long break of her piano playing. There is some great chords, and some fast delicate playing as well, and I can’t speak of it highly enough. In a show packed full of highlights this is yet another one.

Prince Parade 5

17 Days is another song that we need to hear more of. The bass line on this recording is nice and strong, and the full band makes for a much fuller sound than we hear on record. Like everything it’s a compromise, we lose some of the morose feeling of the original, but there are so much more great things to listen on here. The horns take over as Prince engages with audience, and throws bundles of flowers to the fans. The groove gets deeper and darker as the song goes along, and Prince gives us some organ play which fills out the sound a lot.

Prince Parade 6

“I hate rock n roll, who wants some head?” and the nasty part of the show begins. Head has a nice intro, moving from bare rhythm guitar to dirty horn stabs. Head is dirty by name and dirty by nature. I can hear the guitar lines on this one very well, and they lay a nice layer over which the horns and keyboard stabs play. Any show that has Head in it usually has me writing that it was a highlight. I am reluctant to say that, with a show packed with highlights, but it is the moment when I most wanted to put down my laptop and enjoy the music. Dr Finks solo sounds great, it’s a little different sounding than I am used to but still has me listening intently. The song breaks down to a nice long jam, and Prince calls for Bobby Z who lays down a nice snare beat. I was waiting for Prince to take his time and dance for much longer but instead he returns to the organ for another break before he starts dancing again. Head gets the full treatment, its drawn right out, lots of audience interplay and Prince playing band leader. He breaks into his electric man routine as he lies on the floor, which would be great if I hadn’t of seen it so much already. But as he calls for Booby to hit him with the snare I’m back on board. The band is on fire and of the whole show this is the performance I enjoy most from them. There is a little bit of everything. Prince even picks up a guitar to deliver some suitable dirty guitar to the proceedings, then walks off the stage as he finishes his guitar break and the band play us out in darkness.

Prince Parade 7

The tone is lightened again as the band strike up Pop Life. Live it sounds just as joyous as it does on record, and it starts off with Prince singing “Life it ain’t too funky, life it ain’t too funky” The rest of the song follows as heard on record, the main difference is that Princes vocals sound much stronger, and the keyboard riff is more to the fore. It does have a great live sound, Prince vocals are a little ragged, but it still has that pop. It also nice to hear Eric Leeds playing the flute solo live, a nice little touch that I didn’t expect. There aren’t any surprises musically or performance wise in the song, it does exactly what you would expect from the title. Prince does try for an audience sing along before the end, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the song ends at this point.

Girls and Boys sounds funky, but lacks the deep funky sound I associate it with. But I am in no criticizing it, I enjoy this performance a lot. As with the last song, it seems to gain an extra emphasis from the raggedness in Princes voice. He’s never rough sounding, but it does sound a little more throaty than earlier in the show. The best part for me is near the end when Prince lays down his spoken part. It sounds so strong and funky and for me it’s a great way to end the song.

The band keep up the pace with a quick segue into Life Can Be So Nice. There is plenty sound on this, but its kind of hard to pick out all the instrumentation, the mix is such that at a couple of points there is too much sound to digest. I love it for this, it’s an ambitious live song, and once again I find myself in awe of The Revolution. The second half of the song is where the groove really goes, and as is so often it has that sound that The Revolution might just play on like this for days. However the song does fade to a halt with The Revolution singing the main refrain over and over.

1999 sounds so good, it feels that this band could sleep walk through it and it would still sound great. There is just a touch of horns in it, rather than the full on horn treatment it receives in later years, and it still has that synthesized 1999 sound. With all the band members and dancers from the Parade era revolution I wonder how far they will push the party time coda, but it’s played straight and doesn’t out stay its welcome.

Prince Parade 8

There is a break for perhaps a minute after this. A chance for us to collect our breath before Mountains begins. Mountains sounds great right from the start, there is nice deep organ sound that can be heard underneath at the start of the song before Prince starts singing. The song doesn’t deviate too far from the original, but it’s great to hear it live. Especially Wendy’s guitar seems to sound more funky and raw live, an over all more organic sound. If I had any complaint about this song, it would be that it seemed to go by in a flash, but every moment was a joy.

The arrangement of Kiss on this recording is also very cool. The main riff is played on the keyboard, and the guitar only has a very low key presence through the song. The horns start the solo, and they sound sharp, before Wendy plays her solo, and the guitar comes to the fore for the rest of the song. As much as I love Wendy, I would have to say it was the first half of the song I preferred more, the sound of the keyboard playing the main riff was very cool to my ears. That said, the last 30 seconds with just the bare sound of Wendy’s and Mikos guitar has me reconsidering my words. They both have different sounds, but at the end of this one they sound great together. Its 30 seconds that I could listen to for hours.

Prince Parade 9

A single spot light on Wendy playing guitar takes us into Purple Rain. The introduction is very short, Wendy plays the opening chords only once before Prince starts singing immediately. I have heard plenty of drawn out introductions, so this on is actually a nice change. Prince doesn’t push his vocals too hard, and the keyboards sound way too loud compared to everything else – at least in the first verse, but again it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I notice about the mix, the girl’s voices are very loud and clear. It’s a good thing, I can easily hear how well they work together. There are no surprises in the guitar solo, but I had a good few minutes playing air guitar along with it, so it’s just as enjoyable as any other I have heard. He does play it for all he can, so we do get a nice long rendition. There seems to be very little crowd singing along with it, but this maybe a reflection on the recording, rather than the audience at the concert. There is a good 5-6 minutes of guitar to close out the show, and it’s nice to see him with his guitar again in a show that seems to have a touch of everything.

I love Parade shows. This one doesn’t offer up too much when you see the set list, the set list is average, but the show is anything but. The performances are what make this one so good, both musically and visually. Its well worth listening to if you want a reminder of just how great The Revolution were, they were all outstanding. This one is a great document of the Parade tour, and is essential for any collection.

Thanks again

1986 Minnesota music awards

1986 stands above all other years of Princes career as his creative peak. I don’t say that lightly, for a career of 35 years he has many fertile periods when his creativity has astounded all of us. But for me, 1986 tops them all. He released the fabulous Parade album, the not so fabulous Under The Cherry Moon movie, recorded the bulk of Sign O The Times/Crystal Ball/Dream factory/Camille, worked on The Family project, Shelia E, the hit and run tour of the US (and who doesn’t love the Cobo arena gig?), and the Parade tour of Europe. And Princes huge outpouring is work in this year is a boon for we collectors of unofficial recordings. Fantastic concerts, and great work that was recorded but never released, it’s a gold mine for us. Some of my favorite recordings are from this period, but in this flurry of music and recordings it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller, lesser known shows. Today I will be listening to a recording of Prince playing at the Minnesota music awards. It slots in early on in the hit and run shows, just a couple of weeks before the Cobo show. Prince and the Revolution only play 40 minutes at the awards, just enough time to play the highlights of the arena shows, but it is worth a listen.

May 20 1986, Minnesota music awards, Bloomington

The show starts simply enough, with one of Princes trademarked “Awwwww!” There is a cheer from the crowd then after a drum roll and pause everyone is left waiting in anticipation, me included! Another flurry of horns and guitars, then the familiar refrain of Raspberry Beret. Such an upbeat song, it’s hard not to feel uplifted. Nowadays Raspberry Beret is beginning to sound a little stale to my ears, but here in 1986 it’s still fresh as a daisy, and the crowd gleefully sings a long. The female vocals on this one are right out front and very strong. The song is abridged, somewhat surprising for a song that is already so short. Prince is very playful with the crowd, as he was throughout this era. He asks Jerome “can I tell you about this little nasty girl?” And Eric Leeds sax makes its first appearance as the groove of Girls and Boys begins.

Prince parade era 2

Girls and Boys is my favorite song on the Parade album, and this live version certainly delivers the goods. So much I enjoy about this one, the guitar, the deep groove of the keys, Finks quirky sound, and the deep honk of Eric Leeds. Prince exhorts the crowd to get up, and I should think it would be pretty hard to stay seated as the band really grooves on this one. Girls and Boys always sounds so different live, but it never diminishes the sound of the song to me, often live it feels much more muscular to me, it really hit me like a punch. Prince calls Eric to solo, and it crosses my mind that this would be a great jam song if they decided to take it that way. But Prince keeps the band on a tight leash, and hammers us with the funk in the song. The song has a false ending, and then continues with Prince calling for everyone to get up again. I would love to see the visuals for this one, I am sure it looks as good as it sounds. I smiled when after a few “Vous etes tres belle, mama, girls an’ boys” , Prince tells the crowd “that’s French, you understand”

Prince Parade era

There is no respite as the distinctive intro to Life Can Be So Nice plays. The band and crowd sound like they are having lots of fun, there is plenty of squeals and screams from the crowd. There is a deep refrain coming out the left speaker, I don’t know what it is, but it drives the song along for a minute or two. There is a nice change of tempo and the song winds down, the Revolution sounds as tight as ever, and even at the slower tempo it still sounds funky. The song continues in this vein, and then a steady beat and some very funky guitar take us into the next song.

With the pounding beat and funky beat, at first I think it’s going to be Mutiny, but then Prince sings “all day, all night” and I think my heart is going to explode out of my chest. Unfortunately it’s just another Prince tease and the band continues with some great funky rhythm guitar. This recording is not the greatest quality, but it’s worth listening to just for these two minutes of funk guitar. I don’t mind admitting, that when I was writing this I listened to the first three minutes of this song five or six times in a row. It felt so good. And all the while Prince is encouraging the crowd to make a funk face. His humor is further displayed when he tells the band “Bring it way down fellas, and ladies, I’m sorry” I have listened to enough Parade shows that I should of realized what was coming, and this funky intro slams in Controversy. “Come on band, groove” and the band plays the horn infused intro that we are familiar with from the Parade shows. From the 1986 shows I have heard and seen this is always one of the highlights for me, when he plays Controversy and into Mutiny. Controversy has a massive groove to it, much more so than on album and energy levels are high, especially encouraged by Wally and his calls to the crowd. Things slow as Prince does his whole smoking a cigarette charade. I know what is coming next and I can’t wait. With a shout of “Get Up!’ the band storms into Mutiny. This one song that never got the release it deserved. I can’t help but move every time I hear it, it’s an absolute monster, and here the band plays a rousing version. Something about the organ and the horns just really gets me. I could listen to this all day long. Eric plays such a great role in this song, I love it when the band drop out and give him space to play his solo, especially when Prince cuts him short with “Eric, shut the fuck up” and the band explode back into action. “On the one” ends the song, but thankfully they enter back into the groove right where they left off for another couple of minutes. During this long groove Prince sings lines from ‘Hollyrock’ which always seems to go over well with the crowd. Prince teases me further when he has the girls singing the chorus of the Dream Factory. I wonder if those in the crowd knew what they were hearing. Some more funk guitar ends it, and there is a pause for the crowd to catch their collective breath.

Portrait of Prince

It doesn’t last long, as the instantly recognizable intro of Kiss is played. After the full on assault of Controversy/Mutiny it feels a little light. It is, never the less, still very good. I cringe when I hear Prince say the words “Wooden Leg” during the bridge, glad I don’t have to watch THAT dance again. I have always loved the guitar break in this song, and I was surprised when I saw Prince live how many other people really dig it too. As usual, here it sounds very good. Its strange to hear the original “you don’t have to watch Dynasty” line still in it, I have become so used to the move recent versions with TV show of the moment inserted here. 1986, and the line is still fresh and humorous. There is s a long play out, and Brown Mark is sounding very good, he often gets overlooked when I am writing these.

Prince parade era 1

The show ends with a ♥ Or $. It’s refreshing to hear it, and its another chance for the band to show how good they really are. Especially the horns and Eric Leeds are very prominent throughout. I was surprised he finished with this one, but I did enjoy the horns on it. It very quickly settles on repetition with the girls singing “love or Money” while the horns play all over it. It comes to a sudden halt where I am expecting Prince to call them back in, but he never does.

The recording itself goes for another minute, with Prince thanking the crowd for his award. He thanks the usual people, The Revolution, The fans, before finishing by thanking God.

This recording was very short, and yet very enjoyable. It briefly presents the best of the Parade era tours. All the material played, with the exception of Controversy, is new, yet the crowd responds to it well, and everything is well received. Like I said earlier, this is many more recordings from this era I would grab before this one, but it would be a shame if this was overlooked.

Take care

Parade warm-up at First Avenue

Writing each week about these recordings, I find myself using the same words again and again “favorite” “best version” “love this”. I try to avoid it, but the point of being a fan is that I am passionate about it, and there are many ‘favorites’ and ‘best versions’ Today I will be using these words a lot. I apologize in advance, but when I started listening to this one I just found that song after song I was thinking, “Man, this is the best ever”. I myself very rarely namedrop this as a favorite recording, but I think in future I should. The parade warm up show from First Avenue is widely circulating in both DVD and CD. I have seen people talk passionately of it, but it doesn’t seem to get the same coverage as say Small Club, or For Those Of You On Valium. It deserves to rank up there with the best, and I only hope that my words today can do the show justice.

3 March 1986, First Avenue, Minneapolis

“We only been rehearsing about a week, so we a little rusty” Prince informs the crowd as the show starts “But here goes”. Immediately the sound of Around the World In a Day can be heard, and Prince starts the gig with an “Aawwwhhh” as he does so many times. Around the World In a Day is one of those songs that have seemed to fallen through the cracks. It’s an interesting song, but never seems to quite fit with anything else he has done before or since. The first half of the song is delicate, but the second half the lights come up and Prince and the band run through some fairly solid dance moves. Its bit of a novelty song for me, so I enjoy the performance here.

A shout, and the band switch to Christopher Tracey’s Parade. A fun song, the audience and I start to relax more. The mood is pretty light throughout, and Prince ad-libs a nice little line in the middle with “Jimmy Jam, I don’t to hear this on your record”! The extended Revolution shows off the new members, especially the horns are much more prominent. The song ends with Prince moving to the keyboards and jamming for half a minute. Oh, if only it was longer.

Prince Parade warmup

There is no rest as they immediately segue into New Position. My thoughts are already how well these three songs all work together. It’s a nice energy to all three of them, and they all demonstrate his nice clean sound at this stage. For a band that has supposedly only been rehearsing for a week, they all sound tight to me. One can only guess that the week involved some very long days.

I Wonder U slows us all down, and takes us somewhere different again. What a great mix of styles he had at the time. They play slight faster than I normally hear on record, and it takes a couple of lines perform Wendy’s voice warms up and gets stronger.

Another nice moment is between songs when Prince says “oh, I like you guys already”. Again he explains they have only been rehearsing a week, and may be rusty. No fear of that, I assure you, it’s all sounding great so far.

Next up is the first of many highlights for me, when Prince pulls out his guitar and delivers up a rarely heard live version of Paisley Park. A favorite of mine on record, live its something better again. I can’t explain what it is about this version that I enjoy, maybe the rawness of his voice, and the guitar. There is a lyric ad-lib as well, which only adds to the loose live feel of it. Prince is playing with a big smile, I am sure this comes across in the audio recording. Price plays a nice guitar break near the end, buts it’s the sound of all the instruments working together that I really enjoy. And in a very nice moment Prince plays the finger cymbals as the song has its long fade out. The fade out goes for quite a while, and Prince gets up close and personal with some of the audience. I really do love gigs like this when he is totally relaxed.

Prince Parade warmup (2)

Alex de Paris is next, but sadly it’s just a mistake, with only Wendy playing. Obviously she has misread the set list. Prince covers with an “oh man, you let someone new in the band and they wanna solo”, which seems like a strange comment considering Wendy had been in the band for almost 3 years by this stage.

A little bit of pop music next as they play Raspberry beret. Usually a crowd sing-along song this version is refreshing in that Prince himself sings most of it rather than leaving the crowd to sing it. Energy levels are high, with some choreographed dancing by Prince, as well as just some joyful jumping around. There is some excellent face pulling by Prince at the crowd, then some humorous banter between Prince and Jerome- mostly about wiener size. (Seriously!) There is a final flourish by the band, the finally Wendy gets her moment with Alex De Paris.

Prince Parade warmup (3)

It’s worth the wait, she takes centre stage and plays a great version. Although her body language doesn’t show it, she speaks through her music and it sounds quite impassioned. Again, another gem that should be heard more often. She stalks back and forth across the stage, and I must admit I watch pretty enrapt as she plays. The Revolution certainly was a great band.

The pounding beginning of Controversy never fails to excite me, especially when that killer guitar enters, this time backed by the horn section. The balance is just right here, with the funk of the original still intact and the horns not overwhelming it. Prince himself doesn’t play guitar on it here, content with dancing and singing, and the energy seems to pore out of him during this performance.

“Get up!”, oh yes, this is my moment as Mutiny begins. I have said it before and I will say it again, this is my favorite part of any Parade show. Prince dances across the stage back by the dancers, and then hits us for a few lines. There are many elements to this that I love- his dancing, Eric Leeds playing, the funky guitar line, the driving beat, and the lyrics. There is a breakdown mid song, I think it sounds good, but somebody has missed a cue- Prince calls “breakdown, then I told you we were rusty.” Eric Leeds sax solo is a absolute joy, especially while Prince and the back up singers have fun with chanting “Paul, punk of the month” Prince teases me even further by singing ‘ this is what its like in the dream factory”. This performance is stellar, so much happening in it, and its all played with passion and fire. Prince clearly enjoys this song a lot at this stage, and it gets played to maximum impact.

Prince Parade warmup (4)

I am very surprised to hear Soft and Wet next, although given the variety and quantity of music Prince has recorded anything could be heard at any time. This one isn’t so choreographed as some of the other songs, and at stages Prince looks like his younger self, just playing his music and moving how he feels to it. Fink plays a nice solo, and it feels straight out of 78 again. It’s a real contrast to the previous 40 minutes of music.

There is further nostalgia when he follows up by playing I Wanna Be Your Lover. It feels so simple after some of the more complex music he had been working on at the time, but doesn’t lessen the enjoyment level in the slightest. It’s always going to be one of his catchiest songs, and an essential part to his legend. The song segues in to its funky second half and Prince tell the crowd “We gonna play everything we know tonight” There is a party atmosphere, and I find myself typing faster and faster as I listen to it. The crowd is clapping and singing and I find it hard to not get caught up in it all myself. Wendy gets a couple of guitar breaks, and the tone of her guitar sounds nice and sharp.

Prince Parade warmup (5)

Of course it moves easily into Head, very seamless. I would say that this sound of Prince is the sound that made me a fan, and probably introduced me into the world of funk. I should mention Brown Mark at this stage, his playing here is what I am listening to most throughout this song. The horns here really strengthen and fill out the sound. The keyboards are very much still the basis of the song, and this is highlighted by the solo that Dr Fink plays. Never boring, he delivers every time I hear this song. Prince says “don’t play no keyboard unless you do that” and I know exactly what he means. Dr Fink puts everything into it, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him bobbing and jerking behind the keyboard. Things take a dark turn after this as it slides into a long dark groove. There is plenty of Prince interplay with the dancers, as he moves through some of his more corny dance moves (Oak tree or wooden leg anyone?) It’s hard to dislike any of it, as the music is so strong and carries it.

Prince Parade warmup (6)

There is some very funny interplay from Prince and the band between songs, difficult to transcribe here, but actually very insightful to the band dynamics.

A keyboard is placed centre stage and Prince plays a nice rendition of Under The Cherry Moon. I am shaking my head at this stage, difficult to believe that just a minute ago we were getting funked up to Head. Prince plays the song, but there seems to be a lot of audience talk throughout on the recording, so I am wondering how well it’s going across with the crowd. However, 30 years later I think it’s great.

Prince Parade warmup (7)

Pop Life, not only one of my favorites on record, but also a live favorite, here it gets a full treatment. A very well titled song, its just oozes pop, with just a touch funk underneath it all to satisfy most fans. Not many songs have a flute solo, but this one does, and some how Eric Leeds still manages to look cool as ever as he plays it. The bass playing on this is excellent, I just wish there was more of it. The song has a long breakdown, with the male dancers singing Pop Life over and over while Prince breaks into some dancing. Doesn’t sound wonderful, but it is enjoyable. Especially when Prince tells the audience “we got plenty of time”

Eric Leeds gets further praise from me, as the next song is Girls and Boys. The band is well and truly in the groove now, and the audience is right behind them. This version is tight, my only quibble is the guitar isn’t in the mix as much as other recordings I have heard. On the plus side, Princes singing is very strong here, and he does encourage the crowd to party throughout. The latter part of the song finds me with a big smile on my face. The band is definitely heating up, and the song starts to take off as it goes along. Again Prince prowls back and forth across the stage, plenty of audience interaction, and ad-libs, everyone has their hands in the air by now, and you know he owns them. Normally I dislike it when Prince tells me how funky he is, but here he is definitely preaching to the converted, this song is funky as hell. Just when I think it can’t get any better Prince whips off his top, engages in some dancing, then moves to the organ and begins to jam. By now my greatest wish is that one day he will go back, pull a clean copy of this video from his vault and release it. The song lasts for a good nine minutes, never repeats itself, showcases all his styles and talents, and I am breathless by the time it finishes.

Prince Parade warmup (8)

There is no let up as we get Life Can Be So Nice right on top of it. I don’t know where Prince gets his energy from, I feel tired just listening to it. Not just the energy of the song itself, but also all the stage antics and performance. If anyone ever doubts he’s the greatest ever, just show them this. The show to this point has been truly sublime. The song ends with the band leaving stage one by one, leaving just Bobby Z and Eric Leeds playing. It lasts like this for a minute, until even those two leave.

The show to this point has been outstanding, but it’s about to get even better. The next song is undoubtedly the most over played of Princes career. When I look at my Prince recordings I have 100’s of versions of Purple Rain. No matter how good the song is, the fact is I have heard it too many times, and I will quite happily skip it on most recordings. The version here is the exception to that. The arrangement played at this gig is unlike any other I have heard, and it is my favorite recording of Princes most famous song.

Purple Rain begins with the simple guitar signature that we are all so familiar with, and the steady beat. But where it really takes off for me is when Eric Leeds starts playing saxophone all over the intro. Some people may feel that it shouldn’t be messed with, but for me it adds a whole new element, and in no way at all detracts from the song. It’s another layer to it, and it’s a very welcome for me. His playing gets more passionate and feeling as it goes, and it adds another emotional layer to the song. I don’t know how many times it was played like this, but I would love to hear more recordings of this arrangement.

Princes asks “Can I play just a little bit” and he himself adds a beautiful little run on the guitar. Although only 30 seconds, I find myself moved by it, there is a lot of feeling hanging on those few notes.
By the time he begins singing at the five minute mark I have already had my moneys worth, and already this is my favorite performance at this gig. Prince sings the verses the same as we have heard so many times, that’s not to say they are bad, but after the first five minutes I am already floored, nothing else can elevate this song more. The Prince solo is just as good as any other I have heard, and it deviates just enough to keep me interested. Actually, it gets better and better and by the end of it I find myself just sitting there nodding, much like Billy in the Purple Rain movie. This is MY Purple Rain.

It’s bit of a let down when they follow up with Whole Lotta Shakin. But to it’s credit, it is short, and energetic. Both the piano and horns get moments to shine, and it does lift the audience after Purple Rain. Hard to imagine anything to follow that, so this seems like not a bad choice!

Prince Parade warmup (10)

Another personal favorite next when the long deep sounds of Eric Leeds sax introduces Anotherloverholenyohead. Prince immediately starts to gee up he crowd, but if they are anything like me, there is really no need. Again it’s hard to believe that this is a new song for the band. They seem to have it down pretty good, and it’s another high point in a gig full of high points. Wendy and Suzanne share a mic for the backing vocals, and Eric and Atlanta deliver up a couple of nice little runs. The song quickly turns to a jam with the band playing on while the singers sing “You need another lover, like you need a hole in yo head” Its songs like this that I enjoy most, the horns playing over the top of a long groove. Prince seems in a playful mood, bouncing around the stage and just moving to the music.

Prince Parade warmup (9)

The songs keep on coming, next we have Mountains. Again it’s lively, with Prince doing plenty of dancing. Early in his career he wasn’t much of a dancer, but by this stage he has got it done, and he is excellent in this song, and indeed in every song. The horns sound nice and sharp in this one, and there is a brief moment for Wendy and Miko to play. Wendy is upfront and prominent for most of the gig, while Miko is fairly anonymous at the back in the shadows. It’s a shame, because his funk playing is excellent. There is a nice long fade out, and I can hear his playing a little better. Prince ends the song with finger cymbals, I can’t help but smile when I see him play them.

Prince Parade warmup (11)

Another favorite of mine from this era follows, with a shout of “A, B, A, B, C, D!!” A Love Bizarre almost has me leaping from my seat. It’s astonishing how much great music he was writing at this stage, not only for himself but for everyone. Love Bizarre is a classic, and the performance here is brilliant, not just the audio, but also the onstage show. Prince again is all over the stage, dancing and singing. The band doesn’t miss a single note, and the club is partying. Eric solo begins with Prince exclaiming “Eric Leeds, look at his suit!” The whole band is bouncing as Eric plays, and it sends my pulse racing. But the best is yet to come, as Prince plays some mean guitar next. He plays a nice minute on Love Bizarre, but then continues playing as they move to the main riff of America.

It’s a shame there isn’t more performances of this song out there. I love the video performance of America recorded in Paris, and the America played at this gig is also outstanding. The Revolution play the hell out of it, and Prince demonstrates that he hasn’t forgotten how to play guitar. This song is so sharp and tight, the band very cohesive and play furiously. Listening to it, I wish he still played it today, but to be honest, I really think its The Revolution that elevates this song. Every member gets a moment, and the pace of it is just relentless. Prince puts down the guitar and dances hard as the band march on. It’s about now that it turns into the jam as you knew it would. With Prince leading the dancing he also demonstrates his band leader skills, and leads the band through several changes. Prince sings bits and pieces of several songs, but never for a moment does the groove let up. Prince further demonstrates his many talents by taking a turn at the drums later in the song. I am doing it an injustice here, this is one of those ones you have to hear, or see. It’s really something.

Prince Parade warmup (12)

There is a brief interlude, where Prince promises that he will come back and build a club house and they can do this everyday. It’s a nice thought, and I am reminded of his song uptown. With a call of “who’s house -Prince house” the band begin the final song of the night, Kiss. It feels light, after some of the songs we have heard previously, but it’s very enjoyable. I especially enjoy the last portion, after the verses have finished and it just moves to funky guitar and a beat. There is some more of Prince dancing with his ‘Wooden Leg’ (That didn’t really catch on, did it?) while the band and audience stick with him. There is a final chorus and the show ends.

Prince Parade warmup (13)

I have many thoughts about this one. It contains many of my favorite songs, and favorite performances, yet it’s not often played by me. After listening to it the last few days, this would be number one on my wish list for a better soundboard recording to suddenly appear from the vault, or a crystal clear video. In my list of top twenty shows, this deserves to be somewhere near the top. A lot of new music here, and excellent performance, and some stellar reworkings of familiar songs, I can’t praise this show enough. The show is 10/10, even if the recording is not.

Thanks for reading, plenty more good shows to listen to in the next few weeks. I have been avoiding the Purple Rain era so far, but that is going to change soon.

Take care