Glam Slam, Yokohama 1992

I am currently in Tokyo for a month visiting my wife’s friends and family. To celebrate this fact (and to avoid going shopping), the next few weeks I will take a listen to some of Prince’s live recordings from Japan. Today I will start with an unusual concert from Yokohama in 1992. It is an one off show at the Glamslam club, but what makes it unusual is  the setlist that is a standard run through of songs that we would expect at an arena show. This is an audience recording, with a slight distortion just perceivable, yet I like it for the songs, and the general vibe of the show. There is a great feel to the performance that lets me temporarily forget the sound quality.

6th April, 1992. Glam Slam, Yokohama, Japan

I didn’t expect much when I saw “Daddy Pop” listed on the packaging as the first song, and the feeling doesn’t change as the quality of the recording is revealed in the opening seconds. However, it is a bright and breezy performance that wins both me and the audience over. Rosie is monumental, but there is much more to this song than just her. The band is playing with an easy touch that has the song flying along, and with the crowd lending their infectious voices to the song it most definitely has a joyous vibe.

There is no cherry on top, but there is “Cream” and it envelops the club and bootleg, Prince at his very smoothest as the band flow through the performance. There is no sharpness, or jagged edges, just the constant forward movement provided by the buttery guitar line, and Princes sticky-sweet vocals. It is easy on the ear, and I am completely prepared to over look Tony M’s barking that comes loud across the recording. It ends with the syrupy guitar line that has carried most of the song, and I am satisfied with this sweet treat coming so early in the performance.

Rosie puts her cards on the table with “Chain Of Fools,” and comes up trumps with an ace performance. I didn’t fully appreciate Rosie when I was young, but I do now and her vocals early in the song are the exact reason I rate her as highly as I do. Strong, yet warm and inviting, it is hard to resist her sumptuous voice, and I am drawn in from the start. She does step aside as the song becomes a jam, the horns and guitar providing lines that keep the song on track with their train-like rhythm. Taking this song with the previous “Cream,” the concert already rates highly in my opinion, and we are only three songs in.

There are only two minutes of “Let’s Go Crazy,” but it is two minutes too many for me. It is during this song that the limitations of the recording are readily apparent, the guitar distorting at times, and a incessant  buzz.  It is equally jarring to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” in this company, after several smooth funk songs (and one straight after) it feels wedged it and detracts from the show rather than adding anything to it.

The smooth funk I alluded to returns with a greasy sounding “Kiss.” With the guitar line sounding almost like “Sexy M.F.” it has a classic funk sound, and is all the better for it. It may not be one for the purists but there is no denying the funk of it, and with the horns adding just a tinge of brassiness I rate it highly.

I like “Jughead” (I never thought I would write that) because it opens with a verse from “Dead On It.” The rest of the song I could take or leave (mostly leave). Tony M is quite forceful in his delivery, which tends to drown out everyone else. However, Rosie holds her own with the moments she is given, and as always it is the slippery rhythm guitar that I am really attracted to. I have to admit, I do enjoy Prince’s rap – for no reason other than I guess it’s one of those days.

The band is back in the groove for “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get it Girl). Much like many of the other songs at this performance, it is smooth funk jam. I have heard this song at several other concerts, and this one is different from those in it’s easy long groove. There is very little singing as the band ride the rhythm from start to finish, unswerving in their dedication to the funk. There may be a couple of solos, but never once does the attention waver from the underlying feel and rhythm.

I could say the same about “Call The Law,” if not for Tony M’s heavy delivery. Rosie matches him for power with her vocals, but it is the guitar that steals the show with an burst early on that makes any vocal work irrelevant. Again, the recording is less than stellar, only the guitar stands proud among the swampy sounds of the verses. I do like the funky intentions of the band, sadly let down by the recording, and shaded by a guitar player who stands head and shoulders above all those around him.

There is a lot of swing to be heard in “Kansas City.” I have heard Boni Boyer sing this plenty of times, but for my money Rosie Gaines does just as good a job. The recording isn’t quite good enough to contain her, there is a slight distortion on her vocals as she is at her strongest, she is just too powerful for an audience recording.

The highlight of the bootleg for me isn’t all these funk tunes, but the divine “Do Me, Baby.” After listening to Prince seduction ballads for thirty plus years, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that this is his finest. In my opinion, and it may well be an unpopular opinion, it eclipses even “Adore.” This recording is much more sympathetic to a softer song like this, and Levi’s guitar lines are just as emotive as the vocal performance by Prince. I find myself writing every week that “Do Me, Baby,” is the highlight of whatever show I am writing about, and I’m going to say it again about this concert. It towers over all the funk jams, making them lightweight in its solemn and earnest delivery. It is yet another outstanding rendition of one of Prince’s masterpieces.

I want “Gett Off” to finish the show like a punch to face, and although all the key elements are in place it lacks the killer blow that I desire. Prince’s gutsy guitar line elicits squeals of delight from the crowd, but this is the only moment where the song sounds dangerous and edgy. The rest of the song drifts along, even the drum beat sounds half hearted and weak. It is still likable, but it never threatens to reach the heights of the songs earlier in the evening.

So ends this curio from 1992. I wouldn’t recommend it based on the quality of the recording, but I would definitely recommend it based on the songs and the performance. It is a great funk workout for most of the show, and I think it nicely captures what this band was about, and lays down some of the groundwork for what will follow in the next couple of years.  Avoid if you’re a soundboard snob, otherwise I would say give it a listen.

Thanks for reading, I better go be a tourist for a couple of hours

Les Bains Douches aftershow 1992

The last two weeks I have listened to shows that most people would call great, and many consider classics. The show I will be listening to this week won’t be falling into those categories, it’s a rough audience recording of an aftershow from 1992. What makes it interesting for me is the fact that it is from 1992, a year in which there was very few aftershows, and the show itself opens with three songs from the Goldnigga album and indeed is the debut of two of these songs, Goldnigga and Black M.F. In The House. That makes me curious to hear it, especially as these songs set the tone and vibe for the next few years, even if at the time we didn’t realise it. Sometimes these odd little shows can be just as enjoyable as some of the more well known shows, and I expect to find at least a couple of interesting things about it, although I must admit I am no fan of Tony M.

12th July 1992, Les Bain Douches, Paris

Things start low and slow with a laid back bass that just sounds like summer right from the start. The crowd is the first singing we hear, with a chorus of “Get up, stand up” and soon after Tony M is on the mic encouraging the crowd and chanting “Sexy M.F”, and although I don’t like him, he fails to dampen my mood with the music behind him. Things evolve to the point where I begin to recognize Goldnigga, a song and album I rarely listen to when with others, but a guilty pleasure when I am in the car.  This is very ‘bootleg’ sounding, lots of audience noise and talking, it is still very enjoyable as it starts, and I can see myself playing this at a BBQ as people chat and talk over it. It’s a gentle laid back groove that runs, and Tony M stays relatively restrained on the mic while the guitar and keyboard weave in and out. It’s very much a guilty pleasure for me as I listen, and I think there is a lot of extra crowd chat as they don’t recognise the song, and its Tony M doing all the rapping. Nobody would ever call this great, but I enjoy it as a show opener. Wait a minute – did he just say “mackadocious’?!!

Black M.F. In The House also makes its live debut at this show, and it is a lot of fun, both for the band playing and me listening. Prince sounds like he is having a great old time doing the voices and lines in this song, and I smile along with him as he sings “What the hell?” at the beginning of the song. Tony M does try a little too hard, and I find his flow doesn’t come easy, he often sounds forced. He words come fast and loud, and it’s not easy to catch what he is singing about.  The guitar lines I find far more enjoyable, I love the funky guitar, while there is some lead guitar work too for those who like it loud. I feel a little guilty as I sing along (what would the neighbours think if they heard me singing “No black M.F’s in the house”?), and I imagine Prince is having a laugh at my expense. It is all played with a wink, and I like it as Prince calls “are you gonna play the piano or just bang on it son?” as the piano solo begins. A very fun and enjoyable song, there is a lot to like about it.

1992 Becy

We are all more familiar with Call The Law, and apart from Tony M it also has a couple of nice guitar breaks from Prince. There isn’t too much to the song and although I like the flow of the music, I don’t like the flow of Tony M. I find myself tuning him out, and wait for the music and moments between his raps.  I want to like the song more, but there’s not enough to it for me, and as Tony M chants us through to the end I find myself sneaking a peek to see what the next song will be.

It’s Skin Tight, although the opening is very heavy on audience noise and talk. It’s lazy sounding, and lacks the tension of other versions I have heard. The music is laid back, and the lyrics are very relaxed sounding. It never grabs my attention and forces me to listen to it, instead it bubbles away without every breaking into something. I love a long groove, but this one doesn’t excite me, and although I like the guitar in the second part of the song the sound quality is too poor for me to properly enjoy it.

I feel a little ripped off by Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa, it’s very short and ends with the recording picking up some audience members talking about how lucky they are to see Prince play, and how they might not get to see him again.

Gett Off (Housestyle) gets things moving along very well, and it’s great to hear the audience signing along rather than talking. The guitar work is crisp and fast, and I like that it breaks down a couple of times so I can really appreciate the playing. There is an ill-advised scat, but I happily listen to the music while this is going on. The keyboard runs later in the song are also notable, although like everything suffer from the quality of the recording.

1992 yellow

I am very happy when I hear Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, for a start it sounds much better than anything else on the recording, and secondly it adds a heavy dose of funk to the show.  There is some nice vocals from Prince, and some funky breaks for the guitar before the highlight for me- the organ solo. The band isn’t heavy on the groove like The J.B.’s, and they have their own strengths which they play to. We get an interesting bass solo, and then Prince stops to music to do some crowd control. First he has the crowd move back, and then points up that they (the audience)  “didn’t get all dressed up to get messed up” Michael B picks the beat back up, and the band rejoin seamlessly- testament to the quality of all Princes bands.

Prince tackles another classic next as the band change direction with a smoky late night sounding Villanova Junction. I have heard the original plenty of times, and here Prince very much plays it in his own unique way. The band slip into the back ground as Prince and his guitar lead from the front. He plays in a couple of different ways, first with a louder sharper sounding guitar tone, and then later with a lighter and higher sounding guitar. The guitar sounds overlap so I presume that it is Levi playing the second solo which I am enjoying. Prince plays a third break which ends the song, it’s shorter and is a nice full stop.

And so that brings us to Jughead. What can I say? If I could skip this one I would. There are plenty of songs that I rarely listen to, but this is the one song that I NEVER listen to, and one I actively avoid. It sounds almost enjoyable at this show. It’s not enjoyable sitting here at home listening, but I can see that being at the show it would get the crowd moving and inject some energy. The crowd can be heard participating and there is a party vibe to proceedings.

The last song of the show is Step 2 The Stage. I find there is very little for me to enjoy, the guitar loop is nice, but Tony M is the main attraction of the song, and by this stage I am tired of his sound. On the positive side, the groove is easily enjoyable, and as well as the guitar there is also an organ groove that I always enjoy. As the winds down with Tony M singing “Goldnigga in the house” I begin to collect my final thoughts on the show.

Despite my negativity about Tony M, and the poor quality of the recording, I found that I did actually enjoy the show. In particular I liked the first two thirds of the show, and although I didn’t enjoy Tony M so much, I did really like the rest of the band. The core of members of the NPG here will be with Prince for the next few years, and already I can see how they will all play their parts. I like Michael B on the drums, and I always enjoy Tommy Barbarella along with Sonny T and Levi Seacer Jnr. The core of one of my favourite NPG configurations is right there. On a better recording I would play this more often, as it is it will always remain a curio that I pull out only on rare occasions. It was interesting enough, but I don’t feel I have to listen to it again for a good long while.

Thanks again, have a great week