David Bowie once sung “Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young” and I know exactly what he means. After the last few weeks I have had I feel like I am watching my life from a distance, I have moved house, had no internet for two weeks, and on top of that I have been battling bureaucracy with Immigration trying to keep my girlfriend in the country (should we fail, the next blog post will be coming out of Tokyo). It’s now that I have discovered the great power in music. Today’s recording is simply astounding, and as I listen to it with headphones on I find all my troubles fade away as the real world disappears into the background. I have written about rehearsals and soundchecks before, and I decided that in future I would shy away from them. This one though is so mind-blowingly good that I find I am compelled to write about it. A soundboard from 1985, this soundcheck has The Revolution playing an amazing set, and within minutes of beginning to play it I was captivated. Already there is a lot of internet buzz about it, and I will say this – believe every word you read, this one is one of the greats.
7th April 1985, Soundcheck, Miami
As soon as the recording started I wanted to talk to someone about it and share the experience. All the elements I love are present right from the start, a crystal clear soundboard, a pounding beat, some delicate funky guitar and then the sax shows up on the scene and I am mouth open and eyes bugging. The Controversy/Mutiny combination is so perfect, you need to hear it to believe it. The Controversy riff is full and dirty, I sweat just listening to it, and the sax playing the Mutiny riff, well it’s just unfair that anything could sound so good. Add in some lead guitar from Prince and this thing is TNT. No more writing here, I am going to spend the next few minutes strutting around the room with this blasting.
From funk to blues, Prince next shows his blues chops with I Got Some Help I don’t Know I Need. The Revolution shows their versatility as they turn their hand to this, in a heartbeat they go from a funky monster to a laidback deep blue’s groove. I love the feel of it, and once the singing stops and the sax and guitar take over it becomes something else again. Prince lets the sax play before upping the stakes with a stellar guitar break that leaves me with my eyes closed shaking my head, oh yes The Kid can play.
Erotic City is heavy on the drums, as it should be. It’s not much more than a minute, but those sixty seconds I am holding my breath hoping the packaging was wrong and we’d get much more.
The ‘much more’ that I had hoped for comes next. I read someone commenting that Something In The Water here is the best 12 minutes of your life, and they weren’t far wrong. Its 12 minutes of brain melting music that is The Revolution at their very best. It’s a combination of things which make it such a standout, I don’t know where to start, the funky guitar groove that runs for several minutes as the song builds, the melancholy keyboard swells, or the surprising saxophone that leaves me floored. It’s not what’s played, it’s how it is played, and I soak all of it up, not wanting a single element to ever end. I keep coming back to the saxophone, it’s got such a feel to it that it stays with me for hours after I have finished listening. The guitar picks up seamlessly from where the sax finishes, and I swear I have never heard anything so beautiful in my life. It a close run thing, but I think the guitar just tops it.
The obligatory James Brown cover (Bodyheat in this case) gives the saxophone another chance to get front and centre as it holds down the groove through the song. The band is just on fire at this point, and it amazes me that they can play such a variety of styles right after one another, and inject some much life into each one. A few minutes ago I had tears in my eyes as they played the emotion heavy Something In The Water, now they are a classic funk band, complete with horn section, and jamming on a groove that demands I get up and dance. Don’t let anyone ever tell you The Revolution couldn’t do this or that, listen here, they can do it all.
I wonder what could possibly come after all this, and for the third time in the evening I have to pick my jaw up off the floor as the band play Strange Relationship. For real. I read it on the cover, but I don’t believe it until the song is deep in my ears. It’s not as funky as it would become, but asides from that it is 98% the same song that would later be released. Did I mention it sounds good? Oh yes it does, the keyboard swells rather than grooves, and there is a piano solo mid song that pulls it all together. There is a part of me that wants to write “this is the best thing on the recording”, that would be a lie, there is many great moments on the recording, and this is right up there with the other ones. As a bonus though it does have a great Eric Leeds solo that gains it a few more credits in my book.
We get another rare treat next as High Fashion is heard. What a pleasant surprise, I smile as soon as I hear it begin. This is much more of a jam, and I love that distinctive rumble of Brown Mark. He has a great chugging sound, and it’s almost as unmistakable as the funky sound of Wendy’s guitar that plays over top. It’s got an undeniable summer sound and I sing along enthusiastically, much to my girlfriend’s dismay. As the riff plays over and over, I find I never tire of it and I am surprised as the song comes to an end.
With the horns playing the riff of 17 Days, it has a different sound and leaves me off balance. The heavy keyboards feel safer as they begin and the song takes on its classic sound. The instrument that I pick out for special attention is Wendy’s guitar, she is something else, and the song has plenty of her sound that I love. The song becomes a jam, and it spins off in a direction I hadn’t expected. The bass and drums pick up a different groove as the sax solos, and surprisingly I like this even more.
Groove In A is an even better jam, with everyone contributing something. Listening to this, I find myself thinking that it’s a shame that The Revolution didn’t play aftershows like Prince started doing a few years later, jams like this demonstrate to me that they would have killed it. In fact this whole soundcheck would have worked brilliantly as an aftershow, just close your eyes and imagine hearing this at a small club. Groove In A has a nice funky thing going, with a sax riff, before Prince plugs in his guitar and begins to let loose. I say let loose, but in reality he is playing well within the song, and nice and tight. It’s a claustrophobic sounding jam at this point, and I am still with it, every beat and pop, howl and squeal. The song ends with an exchange between Prince and Wendy that has Prince telling her “say into the mic, “I’m weak””, which sets us up nicely for the final song which is a Groove In F
It starts fast, very fast, and Prince and Wendy have me laughing as she says “I hate this kind of music”. The bass the cymbals hold most of the sound, with a final appearance from the saxophone a minute into the song. Things take off at this point, Prince responds with a quick solo, before we drop back to the groove. Its funny guy Prince, with him talking funny before the last solo fades out the recording.
I have only had this recording for 24 hours, and already I know that it is one for the ages. We will be hearing a lot more about this in future, I am sure over the coming days, weeks and months everyone will be talking about it. I don’t know how many times I have felt like a jaded fan and the excitement is gone, only for a recording to surface that makes me just as excited as the first time I heard Prince’s music. This is one of those recordings, and listening to it this evening I was transported to another time and place, a time and place where The Revolution reigned supreme. A truly amazing performance and recording, this sounds just as fresh as the day it was recorded 31 years ago.
I’m going to go listen to it again, join us next week for another classic recording