San Francisco 1982

There have been two new releases recently and both of them are covering the same show. It always gives me a warm feeling when new soundboards surface, and this week has been a very good week for me. I have not heard the Eye records release, it is more complete than the 4DF release, but I have to say the 4DF release has a great cover, even if the show itself is not complete. I was going to wait for the Eye records release before I blogged about it, but to be honest patience is not one of my virtues, so I am going to give the 4DF release a listen in meantime. The show itself is not new to me, I have heard an audience recording, but nothing can beat that pristine sound of a soundboard recording like we have here. I am looking forward to a heavy dose of nostalgia and plenty of energy from this show. It’s a beautiful summers evening here, all the doors and windows are open, a cold drink in my hand, and the stereo cranked up, I am definitely in the right mood for this one.

14 February 1982, San Francisco Auditorium

This particular recording is missing the opening with The Second Coming, but that doesn’t concern me too much as we get right down to it from the start. The set lists from the Controversy tour don’t vary too much, so there aren’t any surprises when the first song is Uptown. I was wondering if I would feel jaded listening to a recording from a tour I know so well, but any reservations are well and truly laid to rest when that glorious clean soundboard recording is heard.  The sound leaps out of the speakers, and Princes youthful enthusiasm is evident for all to hear. Uptown sounds great, and one of the things that strikes me most is the bass sound. It’s not deep and heavy, but it has a fantastic popping sound to it, and the recording captures it perfectly. I like that the sound is much more even on this recording, and no one instrument dominates as you often hear on audience recordings.

Prince Controversy 2

After a short Uptown Prince calls “Are you ready” in his full sounding, deeper speaking voice and we spin off into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. The guitars seesaw behind him, and again I am struck by the balance of the recording, they are well behind his voice, and never too loud. I must say, Prince is sounding on top of his game, and his voice is playful and strong. As the guitars start their soloing there is some excellent bass pops that the recording picks up, and I am thankful I can hear this as it was meant to be heard. Prince calls “John!” right before the second section of the solos, I don’t know who it is directed at, or what it is about, but after listening to hundreds of bootlegs like this I sometimes find myself wondering about little moments like this. The song ends with a coda from Prince, and for me this is the real highlight. It’s not a howling guitar solo, just some fun licks on his guitar for a minute, but it adds to the sense of youth and playfulness.

When You Were Mine elicits no surprise from me, and again I rejoice in the quality of the recording, especially when I hear Prince’s vocals and every inflection in his voice. He sings, he speaks, he pouts, he emotes, and I can feel the whole performance through the recording. There is more playfulness near end of the song as Prince plays guitar runs and speaks during the breakdown. He draws it out, and I almost find myself screaming along with the ladies in the crowd. His voice is teasing and fun, and he backs it with guitar playing that sounds similar in nature. We are three songs in, and already I have decided that this is my ‘go to’ recording for the Controversy tour.

Prince Controversy

This thought continues as I Wanna Be Your Lover begins, it sparkles and shines, and it too has a youthfulness to it. The vocals of Prince and Lisa are bold and loud, the whole song sounding very strong throughout. I appreciate it for what it is, but being the fan I am, I am already anticipating the song that will follow.

Head is the centre piece of the concert, it runs for 13 minutes, and is everything you could possibly wish for.  The guitar is slippery, the keyboards heaving, and the bass and vocals are both dirty sounding. Like everything else on this recording, the balance is perfect, and there is many small details for me to enjoy as I listen close. I love the vocals of Lisa, as well as Prince. The energy of the show is very apparent, and as I said earlier, it really does jump out of the speakers at me. I don’t get the nostalgic feeling at all, it still sounds fresh and new to me, and I feel younger just for listening to it. I decide not to bother writing anything at all as the singing stops and the bass and guitar take over, it’s all too good and I want to wallow in the sound of it. Needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint at all.

The keyboards of Annie Christian gain a lot on this soundboard recording, they sound brighter and louder, while the guitar is more in the background. Prince’s vocal performance is energetic and the song itself gathers a lot of momentum as it goes, and there is a great release when Prince starts his guitar break. It’s only the last minute of the song when the guitar is more to the front than the keyboards, and I am enjoying the mix of this recording just as much as the performance itself.

I wonder how Dirty Mind is going to go, on some other Controversy shows it is the highlight for me, here we have had many highlights already and I wonder how it will compete. It gets off to a good start with a slightly longer intro, and Prince sounding more relaxed as he begins to sing. I don’t have to tell you, it’s energetic and lives up to my expectations. Prince’s “Somebody say yeah” shouts add a sense of urgency and energy to it all, and I really get a kick out of it when Prince asks “Does the groove feel alright?” I like that I can clearly hear Bobby Z play on this, and indeed I can everyone very well, it gives me a lot of new things to listen for.

It’s game over as Do Me Baby begins, seriously I am just about to turn off the lights and start some ‘night manoeuvres’ as it plays. It doesn’t have a long intro, but Princes vocals more than make up for it. It’s easy to forget that he is playing for 8000 people at the show, his vocals are dripping with lust and emotion, and the crowd is feeling it too as he stops and lets them sing a few lines for themselves. I would love to see this performance as well as hear it. Prince ad-libs mid-song, using his “Do you believe in love at first sight, do you believe in making love on the first night” -lines that I normally associate with Dirty Mind. The song runs for nigh on eight minutes, and I have already mentally filed it as a song I must revisit again soon.
Prince Controversy 1Controversy lacks the intensity of the previous half hour. The song is tight so I can’t fault it in any way, however it does feel like a step down from what we have just heard. I think it’s because I can’t hear the guitar as strongly as I like, and it’s very much a keyboard driven affair. I do hear the funky guitar later, and its sharpness adds some shape that I was missing earlier. It gets even better for me at the five minute mark when the guitars come right to the fore. Prince still sounds like he’s having a great time with his vocals, and the song ends on a high.

The 4DF recording ends with Let’s Work. Prince works the crowd, and there is lots of interaction between Prince and the band, as well as the audience. It’s a difficult song to sit and listen to, I feel music just as much as I hear it, and when I listen to this I have a strong urge to get up and dance. The bass and drum combination is tight as you might expect, and the wonderful thing is you can hear their interaction and togetherness clearly on this recording. There is a long breakdown in particular where they hold the groove down, and there is plenty of time to enjoy their talents. Listening to it here you can also hear how much of a horn line the keyboards are playing, it’s very easy to imagine those lines as horns playing, and you can see Prince is making the most of what he has available to him in terms of instruments and personnel.

Prince Controversy 4

My very first bootleg was a recording from the Controversy tour, and it’s still a favourite to this day. I never thought I would hear another show from that period that filled me with the same sense of enjoyment and energy, but this recording proved me wrong. This is an outstanding recording, the songs may not be new to my ears, but the quality of the show is very high, and a lot of things gain an extra dimension when I listen to them in soundboard quality. I have heard many shows, and now when I listen to bootlegs I find it’s the little things I notice and enjoy most, and having a show in this quality there is many little things that I pick up and enjoy. 33 years after the fact this recording is just as exciting as anything I heard when I was a teenager. I am hoping the full show on Eye records is every bit as good as what we have here.

Thanks for reading
-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
Head
Anotherloverholenyohead
Soul Power
Controversy
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.
Hamish

 

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert ’83

After claiming that I rarely listen to rehearsals, I find myself listening to another one today. Listening to the rehearsal for the 1984 Birthday show piqued my curiosity, so I pulled a rehearsal of another famous show- the 1983 benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre, at First Ave I will be listening to that show next week, but I thought I would take a look at the rehearsal first to round out the full picture.

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert 1983

The rehearsal begins with Princes spoken word intro of Lets Go Crazy. The most striking thing about it is how deep his voice is as he speaks it, it’s not the voice I am used to from Purple Rain. He sounds very relaxed, and he does have fun with it as he says “there’s something else.. that’s right, something”. The second thing that hits me is when he says “so when you call up that nigger in Beverley Hills”. It seems a little out of character now, but I guess it is of its time. The rest of the song sounds light after the deep voice of the intro, even with the heavy sounding bass and guitar, the keyboards have a very bright sound that seems to permeate through the song. There is plenty of guitar in the song, but there is so much of everything else that it never really comes to the fore as you may expect. The final solo and howl is a little damp, and I have to remind myself that this isn’t a live situation, it is a rehearsal. And as such the song seems to stop dead, only a silence greets the final note.

Prince 1984 (2)

When You Were Mine sounds excellent in this situation. I warm to the song right away as the keys and guitar come in.  The playing is tight, and you can hear Prince give instruction to the sound guy. There is an innate energy in the song, even without the audience it shines. The ladies voices are very strong in my right ear, and I was going to comment more on it, but half way through Prince calls for sound adjustments, and they do disappear back into the mix. Another part of the song I enjoy early on is when Prince talks to the sound guy, and then the band play on for half a minute with no vocals. It’s got a good stripped down sound that I like. The ever reliable Doctor plays an enthusiastic solo, before the song comes to a sudden halt.

Prince’s delicate guitar playing draws me into A Case Of U, and I am in love almost right away. As the keys move easy beneath his guitar he sings beautifully. Even in rehearsal there is the touch of emotion that is needed to carry this song off. The lyrics match up great with his playing, and there is a fantastic little guitar run as the song nears the end. I would have a lot more to say about this song, but the final version played live at the show is so phenomenal, that even as good as this is, I know that there is better to come.

The introduction of Computer Blue is without the girl’s spoken piece, but that isn’t a big deal as the music is extremely cold and strong sounding. The keyboards provide some good runs, but it really is the guitar and bass on this track that makes it what it is. I had to listen to it twice, as I was so enraptured with the guitar sound the first time I missed everything else that was going on. One of the great thing about listening to Prince and his music, there is so much to listen to that I can always find new things every time I listen to a song. Prince’s vocals stray from what we know, especially as he sings “where is my baby” in a variety of styles, before ending with a throaty shriek. The change midsong is, as always, killer, and I never seem to tire of it. Here I can hear the keyboards much better than I remember, and they provide a nice layer of fills in my left ear. All the while Prince continues with his guitar break. It is par for the course, and somewhat quieter than I am used to. However just as I was thinking that he comes on with the second half of his guitar break which is much more improvised and freer, and I am happy to hear more of this from him. The song finishes with a great roll and howl that belies the fact it is a rehearsal.

Wendy Purple Era

Delirious is a complete 180 from what we have just heard and it takes me half a minute to adjust to the sudden pop bounce. The guitar vanishes at the start, and as one might expect there is a lot of light keyboards playing. Later I do hear a rhythm guitar but it is very low in the mix. I am normally dismissive of Delirious, but tonight I enjoy it a lot. It does have a lot of nostalgic value for me, and this arrangement is a lot of fun, with lots of crazy keyboard solos, and a rockabilly guitar all vying for attention later in the song. The song ends in a keyboard crescendo as Prince instructs Lisa to turn the keyboard effects up, and she in turn replies that her keyboard is dead. Then as the music simmers Prince sets his piano sound, playing as the sound comes to his liking.

It took me a long time to come around to Electric Intercourse, but its performances like this one that won me over. The bass in the right speaker is pitched just right, and Princes vocals are on point from the first line to the last. I think part of the attraction of this song is that it has never been overplayed, it still has a freshness to it, and this recording in particular catches that feeling. In fact it’s so fresh that at one point Wendy misses her cue, only to be chastised by Prince with a loud “Wake up Wendy!” The keyboard solo has a sweetness to it, and although it’s short I still give it a lot of appreciation. As the song progresses I find myself listening to Prince more and more carefully, and the way his vocal arrangement works with the girls, he definitely knows how he wants it to sound, and what is required.

We are back into more familiar territory next as Automatic begins. It has a dense sound to it, and feels somewhat like a sledge hammer following the delicate Electric Intercourse. It is a joy to listen to the synthesizers play off against each other, and it’s another one of Princes songs where he very much creates a mood with the sound of his music. The song sticks fairly close to the original, there is one stage where the keyboards get all weird and wonderful, before pulling out and Prince plays a staggered guitar break. Right after this it takes on a dance feel, and despite still having a dark sound I find myself beginning to move.

Prince 2007

Again there is a great contrast in the track list as Prince flips the mood with I Would Die 4 U. The song has a fresh and energetic sound, especially coming off Automatic. I like Princes vocals, but he does sound removed, almost as if his voice is coming from another room. It’s not that his vocals are low in the mix, just the effect on his voice. The song goes past at a fair clip, and it’s a real sweetener.

Baby I’m A Star suffers a little at the start as the tape has that ominous chewing sound that I grew up with. However it does recover by the times Princes vocals start, and it’s not a big deal. As with the previous song Prince does have the sound of being in an empty room. I like the sound of it, but it does feel as if he is coming from a distance. The rest of the band are fairly anonymous through the song, its Prince I am listening to, and the keyboard coming from the left speaker. Although unreleased at this stage, the band sound like they have the song well and truly down, and they play note perfect throughout. The Doctors solo is very enjoyable, and even though it’s as I have heard plenty of times, it’s still infused with a joyous sound.

Things once again slow down with Little Red Corvette. By this stage the band had played it many times, and it seems that they could play it in their sleep. It’s so spot on note perfect, I love it for its perfectionism. The introduction is kept short, and Prince sings the song in an upbeat voice, foregoing emotion for efficiency. Hitting the first verse he does ask for more echo, but the song never lets up, in fact the whole song seems to fly by, the guitar solo is upon us before I know it, and then the whole song wraps up a line later, with Prince dead panning “Thank you, good night”

The guitar opening of Purple Rain is what we hear next, and it differs from we know so well in that  it doesn’t have a flat drum beat. The beat has an echo on it, which gives it a double kick all the way through. I find it distracting, but I do enjoy the rest of the song. Prince sounds cold at the beginning, but he asks for more echo on the voice, and this gives him a much warmer sound as the song moves forward. I do also enjoy the extra verse that didn’t make the final cut, I can understand why it was cut though, as thematically it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. The song meanders after that verse, but things get back on track as Prince gets to “Purple Rain, Purple Rain” and then the epic sounding guitar solo. The solo is as expected, although for the first minute Princes guitar sounds thin, but this is rectified, and he takes on a bolder sound as the solo progresses. It’s an interesting solo, Prince is still playing with it, so apart from the opening, and the rest of it is new and interesting to hear.

DMSR has another ad-lib start as Prince kicks it off with “Holland, London, Paris, France” before some funky bass ups the ante. The bass playing hasn’t garnered much comment from me up until this point, but now I find I am paying close attention as Brown Mark rumbles along. Again when we reach the chorus Prince reverts to calling sitting names, this time throwing New York into the mix as well. There is a rhythm break for the guitar, but its low in the mix and I don’t hear it as well as I would like to. The song catches me off guard with a false ending, before it comes back in and there is a cool little piano solo. Prince calls “Give me some horns” and the keyboards provide a nice sounding line. With another call of “Telephone” we get a quirky keyboard run and Prince taking a mock call. The song is a showcase for the band, and Prince gives them several calls and leads to follow, and they respond well. There is another piano solo, with Prince chanting “Planet Rock, we don’t stop” as well as singing lines from George Clintons Loopzilla. Just as Prince calls break time I think its all over, but there is a couple more reprises. This is one of my favorite songs on the recording, the groove is excellent and it sounds like a lot of fun is being had.

Prince 1984

I cringe when I see the next track listed as ‘Band Tuning’. These are just the sort of things a dislike about rehearsals- minutes of the band tuning up and getting there sound right while very little happens musically. There is not much for me at this stage of the recording, so I am quietly happy when the tune up is over and we move to the next musical portion of the recording.

Things get back to the music next as the band play a laid back Africa Talks To You. Its a nice groove, and there are some enjoyable keyboard played over the top of the groove. Prince ad-libs a bit too, which is fun. I especially like it when he calls out “You gotta purify yourself in lake Minnetonka. You can also hear him asking for Wendy’s guitar to be ready “that’s why we bought it for her”. The song does meander towards the end, before it peters out into some tom foolery.

Next is ten minutes of the band fooling around and generally having fun. Its primarily led by Dr Fink, who does a variety of voices as he sings a medley of tunes and plays a light organ.  I Could Have Danced All Night has me smiling, as he sings briefly with great gusto, before moving to Catch A Falling Star. There is all sorts of snippets played including Our House, and the James Bond theme. There is also a Popeye impersonation that is actually pretty good. Its really great to hear the band feeding off each other and being completely at ease. I don’t feel I ever have to listen to this track again, but it was fun to listen to once. The track ends appropriately enough with a Dolphin singing Stevie Nicks ‘Stand Back’. If you have heard it you will know exactly what I mean.

Things become business like again as Prince says “All right, lets go” and the organ of Lets Go Crazy begins again. This time it starts closer to what I am used to, but then Prince quickly takes it in a different tack with the final couple of lines of the intro, before the band begin right on cue. After the looseness of the previous few tracks its some what surprising how quickly they tighten up, they are right on the money for the rest of this track. Princes guitar is very faint as he solos, I can only just hear him. Even the latter solo is faint, and the rest of the band easily drown him out in the final crescendo.

After listening to this rehearsal and the one the other week, I think I should more time to rehearsals. I prefer this rehearsal to the last one, and I thought the last one was excellent. This one had the band playing the songs in a very fresh sounding way, and yet they were very tight as a unit. And also you could hear how much they were enjoying being a band and being together. If you only hear one rehearsal in your life, this would be the one I would choose. But then again I do have another couple of excellent propositions…

Next week I will be listening to one of the greats, the benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre.

Have a great week
Hamish

1984 Birthday show

Sometime ago I rather rashly stated that the 2002 Copenhagen recording was the greatest of all Prince Bootlegs. I have been forced to swallow my words many times since then as I listen to my collection and some of the gems contained therein. There are quite a few recordings that could lay claim to being ‘the greatest’ and today’s show I would guess to be atop of many peoples lists. The 1984 birthday show is something very special. It oozes quality at every level, a brilliant sparkling soundboard recording that sounds better than the recording on many of his albums, the quality of the performance itself, and of course those unforgettable songs played to the hilt just as Prince was to ascend to his greatest heights. Yes, this one well and truly lives up to the hype, and I’m itching to take another listen to it today.

7 June, 1984, First Avenue, Minneapolis

prince-1984-birthday

The recording starts with the PA sound, and it serves as a nice soft opening. It gives a better feel for what it would have been like to be there, and we don’t have a hard jump straight into a song. There is a classic spoken intro of an announcer saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Prince, and the Revolution’, and then we are off into it. 17 Days sounds just as good here as I have ever heard it. The recording is so sharp, to my ears it sounds even better than it did on vinyl. The first thing that strikes me is the bass. It’s got an elastic feel to it, and it’s a beautiful big groove that comes out of the speakers at me. It’s almost like riding a wave, it’s so full and washing over me. The second thing that I really notice is Princes vocals. His singing is so clean sounding, it’s hard to believe it’s in a live setting. Generally I try not to gush about what I am listening to, but in this case it’s very hard not just to sit back and listen to it and be a fan. It’s oh so good. Brown Mark just grooves along underneath, and there is some nice moments when I hear Wendy playing with him on the groove. By the time the song finishes I am wondering how they could have relegated something so good to a B side.

Our Destiny starts slowly. I am not immediately won over as Prince starts singing, but when that chorus hits me I am fully converted. The keyboards are the hero of this particular song, whether it be the twinkling sound under the verses, or the muscular stabs driving the choruses. Prince’s vocals are a little more casual for this one, and some of his character shines through. Also worth mentioning is the drums in this song. Not the obvious beat of the bass drum, but instead the rather glorious sounds played on the cymbals. They seem to add just the right feel at just the right moment, and serve nicely as punctuation to Princes vocals.

The band are obviously very well-rehearsed as they move easily into Roadhouse Garden. Like the previous song it is an unreleased classic.  There is an excellent crisp guitar picking away, and it gives a sharp sound while Prince and the girls sing some nice full vocals. Listening to it now I realize there isn’t really too much to the song, the keyboards are barely heard at all, there is a solid bass line, but most of the interest is coming from the guitar sound and the girls singing. Prince tells the audience “you going to have to excuse us, we just jamming’ and it does very much sound like one of the jams that the band plays endlessly at rehearsal. It does have a good feel to it, and at no point does one member of the band get the spotlight, it’s very much a band thing.

Prince takes time to chat to the audience next, and I like it when he takes a moment to tell them “you’ll came in here expecting to drive Princes red corvette, that’s not going to work. We just going to play a few numbers, some of them you’ll gonna know, most of them you won’t” Then follows one of my favourite moments of the show, Prince says “Wendy wants to live forever. Maybe she will” and the band rip into a storming version of All Day, All Night.  The bass line is heavy and right in my face, and the whole band ride on it and it’s got a feeling as if they are playing as one, as a single entity. Every aspect is so tight and interwoven, it is an absolute joy to listen to. I could quite happily just listen to an instrumental of this, I feel like getting up and dancing as the introduction plays on. Prince comes with the first verse, and he is sounding excellent, as he is throughout the show. I love the way the groove lets up just a little at the end of the chorus so the guitar and music can take a few little steps up. Bobby Z gets a moment, and plays some hard electronic sounding drum rolls, which add to the overall pulsating feel of the song. If fact the whole song feels like it galloping a long, and when it suddenly ends it’s like a sharp intake of breathe.

Prince birthday 1984 c

Things slow down next as Prince plays a gentler sounding Free. After the dense sounding All Day, All Night, it’s very sparse sound, and it serves the song well. Princes vocals are back to being the main focus, and he delivers beautifully. I thought the Free sounded light on the 1999 album, but here it is much stronger sounding. A lot of the corniness is stripped away, and it no longer has the over the top finish as heard on 1999. All in all I much prefer this arrangement, and I am glad we get to hear it. Prince ups the ante with his singing near the end, before the song closes with the solo piano again. This is not the best song on the recording, but it is a very pleasant surprise.

The drums take a few bars to find a steady beat for the next song as a funky sounding rhythm guitar begins to play. As good as it sounds, it is a little misleading as the song takes a sudden turn. Prince dedicates it to Shelia E, and the music takes on the smooth sound of Noon Rendezvous. Again, this is another song never released by Prince, and that’s a shame as it does have a very alluring sound to it. The guitar is playing just enough to draw me in, and the rest of the band create a smooth velvet sound. There is a guitar solo, but it’s in no way disruptive to the gentle groove, and it’s well tucked up inside the song. The second lead guitar break is slightly louder, and Prince is playing more of what I might expect from this time. The girls enter with the soft refrain of “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby”, but it’s not as drawn out as we hear in rehearsals, and the song ends soon after.

Things are much heavier almost right away, as a hard drum beat begins, and some rock lead guitar. It’s quite loose sounding, but after half a minute the band come on board and things immediately tighten up as they play Erotic City. Although not as bass driven as it sounds on record, it is still very strong sounding. Some of the sparseness of the record is sacrificed, but what we get instead is a lot more guitar, and a lot stronger vocals from Prince. It also sounds faster to my ears, and doesn’t sound as dirty and funky. It’s a fair trade-off, but only just. With the intonation of “all the critics love me” we get plenty more guitar of Prince, and I can hear Wendy step up the funky guitar she is playing. The band is heavily in the groove by this point and Prince becomes a lot wilder sounding on the guitar, but always returning to the All The Critics Love U riff. The keyboards also get stronger as the song progresses, and as time goes on it becomes denser and louder. It increases in intensity until it eventually comes to an end at the eight minute mark.

Birthday 1984

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) has a great dark beginning. The cold keyboard initially starts before a brooding guitar riff from Prince. He asks the crowd “alright if I just play for a minute” as he then proceeds to do just that. It’s atmospheric in sound, and suitably slow and mournful. When Prince begins to sing he captures the lonely feel of the song perfectly, especially with his “does not compute, does not compute” There is even a moment when he sings “what’s the hang-up, bitch” which adds a hint of desperation and feeling to the song. The song is without the drum machine rhythm heard on record, but that barely matters as Prince is sounding so emotional, yet the music is cold and detached, much like the woman the protagonist in the song is singing to. Later in the song Prince lets his guitar do his talking. It’s not right in front in the mix, but it does sound very good, and worth listening carefully to. This song is played right out and every minute of it is worth listening to.

Birthday 1984 b

When Doves Cry is the standout track on this recording for me. Right from the first moment it has a clean sound, and the drum line is so familiar. Dr Fink plays the lead line a couple of times, before Prince comes to the microphone. At first he blows the first line, he mumbles “how can you…” before he catches himself and quickly covers with “come on, have you heard this before?”  It’s very fast and smooth, and a great recovery. He then asks the crowd to get on board, before calling for Dr Fink to play the lead line gain. He then implores the crowd further to “get down” before calling for the lead line once more before singing the first chorus. The longer intro actually works well, and I like hearing him talk to the crowd like this. Once the song starts, I notice that Wendy and Lisa are very strong on the vocals, they are much more prominent than heard on record. It’s not bad, just different. Wendy gets her moment to shine on guitar, and its good sounding, but perhaps not as clean sounding as everything else. The best is yet to come, as the band play on, Dr Fink plays a cool solo, and then there comes a great scratch guitar. I’m not sure if its Prince or Wendy, but it’s my favourite part of the song. It plays on and on, and I never tire of it. The band sing “Don’t cry” over and over as that beautiful guitar line just loops again and again. I don’t know how long it goes for, but it feels like forever, and it encapsulates the Prince sound I first knew and loved.  And just on a side note, my girlfriend told me she thought this part was boring and repetitive -looks like I might be single again soon! This last half is a song unto itself and the recording is excellent just based on this alone.

Birthday 1984 a

Of course there is the obligatory Happy Birthday sung by the audience, before the band turn up the funk levels with Irresistible Bitch. It’s not as dark as I have heard elsewhere, but it’s still a nice version. The band are playing incredibly tightly, and it’s the guitar that mostly holds my attention. It’s so crisp sounding, and the song revolves around the guitar riff. There is a keyboard solo that sounds good to my ears, but it’s a little low in the mix, I would have of liked to hear it much more. Near the end Prince stops and starts the band several times, and as always they are right on the button.

Prince birthday 1984d

Possessed is equally funky, but with a dash of pop thrown in the mix. After a Vegas sounding opening the band open up a rapid groove, again the rhythm is king here, the only melody coming from a simple keyboard line. Prince’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as they had been earlier in the show, he is a little more in the mix, but that’s not a negative at all, and the second verse I can understand his lyrics much better, so it maybe my problem more than his. There some further interesting keyboard jamming later, again it’s a too quiet for my taste and I have to listen carefully to appreciate all of it. Prince does a scat about ‘big ole soul sisters’  and its very tightly in the rhythm, so I give him a pass despite the corniness. I think that the band are going to play this one as a long funky jam, so I am very surprised when it stops suddenly and Prince tells the crowd that they got to go.

There has been a lot of talk about this soundboard recording since it first surfaced, and I can fully understand why. This show is mindbogglingly good, and deserves all the praise heaped upon it. If someone was to tell me that this was the best recording, I would have very little argument with them. This one is excellent in every way, and a must listen for any sort of fan.

Thanks again for reading
See you next week
Hamish

 

 

Noon rendezvous rehearsal

I am rare to listen to rehearsals. I admit that they are great, and show off another side of Prince and his talent. But they don’t have the same intensity as a live show, and that’s what I enjoy most. However, without that intensity we do get some very cool arrangements of the songs, often being drawn out and just letting the band do what they do best -play! Today’s rehearsal is from May/June before the birthday show of 1984. There are a few rehearsals from this period, and I think this one exists in several variations, but this is my favourite and the one I play most.

noon-rendezvous

Noon Rendezvous Rehearsal May/June 1984

As I mentioned above, there is a couple of variations of this rehearsal circulating, the major difference being the sequence of tracks. I am listening to the FBG release, which opens with I’ve Gotta Shake This Feeling Baby (Purple Rain), and I have to say that right from the start it grabs me and any reservations I have about listening to a rehearsal are immediately laid to rest.  Over the familiar beat of Purple Rain, Prince lays down some very raw, yet beautiful guitar work. There is very little in the way of lyrics, just Prince singing “I’ve gotta shake this feeling baby” over the top of the Purple Rain music we know so well. He does ask for a longer echo at the start, but I can’t hear where it is applied. The rest of the band are a solid base on which Prince lays his guitar work. Some of the phrases and melodies he plays are familiar, and some are new to me. The best parts are for me when he reins in the guitar and plays it tightly in the song. The quality of the recording is very good, and all the other instruments can be heard clearly, especially the piano, which I enjoy. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this, and what a complete surprise it is to me. I was planning to sit down one evening to write this blog post, but truth be told I played this several days in a row, dumb struck, jaw on the floor, before I finally was able to find the words. It’s a great listen, imagine the second half of the Purple Rain song doubled in length, and that pretty much what we have here.

The treats keep coming as without pause the band play an electrifying version of Noon Rendezvous. Although the music does have a gentle sound to it, what is attention grabbing is once again the raw guitar sound of Prince in the mix. The lead guitar isn’t over powering, but it does give it a rock edge. The guitar does pull out and Princes singing is light and ethereal, and blends in well with the overall feeling of the song. It is an intoxicating song, and before I know it Princes guitar sound is back in the mix as we get a brilliant lead break. For the longest time I couldn’t understand the fuss over this song, but in recent years it has really grown on me. I always loved the version on the 1984 birthday show, but I can’t quite decide if that one or this is my favourite. On any given day it may well be the one I am listening to here. As the song continues on and Prince is “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby” I am in heaven. And even better, this goes on and on, there is no audience, no time constraints and it feels the band is playing on and just enjoying the gentle groove. It’s just brilliant, and oh, did I mention it goes for almost 20 minutes?!

Prince 1984 (2)

There is then what I more associate with rehearsals, checking to get the sound right, some tinkling and crashing of instruments and the like, before a steady beat is taken up, the piano plays and then we settle into Free. Free consists of just a drum beat, a piano, and Prince and the girls singing. I find the drum a little plodding, but I do like Princes vocal performance on this one. He sings around the melody, and plays with it. And the girls sound excellent, and once again it only highlights how great Prince, Wendy and Lisa sounded together. The song doesn’t get played on as much as the previous two songs, and it remains reasonably faithful to what is on record, sans the big finish.

Things take a serious turn next as we hear the strong drum pattern of Erotic City, and some equally erotic sounding guitar from Prince. I wonder what kind of heavy arrangement he is going to play, the vocals begin and it reverts to it familiar sound. I rate this song just as highly as the first two songs on the recording, it’s fantastic. After sticking with the song for the first couple of verses, Prince then unleashes his guitar, as well as a line from All The Critic Love U. The guitar has a howling whining tone at this point, and it gives the song a harder, darker edge. The guitar becomes more intense as the song progresses, and Prince is really working it in the latter part of the song. As brilliant as it is, it’s almost relief when it finishes, it was so intense. Yet another highlight in a recording full of highlights.

Prince 1984

I am used to hearing guitar heavy arrangements of Something In The Water of late, but this one offers another dimension. Sure, it’s full of guitar as he has recently played it, but here he is backed by the Revolution, and they give it a cold remote feeling behind Princes guitar playing. Prince’s voice is in fine form, and although he doesn’t scream, he does at one point give a nice long howl. As the song gets to the refrain of ‘must be something in the water you drink’ the guitar again comes to the fore. I know Prince is a good guitarist, but even after being a fan for 30 years I still find myself shaking my head as I listen to some of these recordings. He plays some much, it’s everywhere, and he plays on and on. Even today I still think of him as a song and dance man and listening to his guitar playing is always a headbuster. I didn’t think this rehearsal could get any better but as the song moves past the 12 minute mark I realize that I underestimated this recording by a long way.

When Doves Cry begins very faithfully to what we know so well. After the main hook is played a couple of times, Prince is straight into singing the verses and chorus. Even though it is played as per record, it does have a harder sound to it. Obviously it’s not as polished, but I do love the sound of it here, it is a much stronger band sound. Later in the song we do hear Wendy’s rhythm guitar, which I always enjoy immensely. And my smile becomes even broader as Wendy launches into her guitar solo, it’s impossible not to enjoy her and her playing. After Dr Fink plays his equally cool solo, and Prince gives a fairly impassioned scream, he’s not holding anything back for this rehearsal. The rest of the song is pure groove, and for a few minutes I forget to write as I sit enraptured by the music.

Prince 1984c

A couple of James Brownesque grunts and ‘huh’ and the band play the equally James inspired Irresistible Bitch. For the first time on the recording I find it lacking the intensity of earlier. This is a great song live, but here it’s missing that sharpness and quickness. There is a Dr Fink solo, which has all the qualities you would expect from such a thing, and it’s at this point that I find my interest in the song reinvigorated somewhat. I am very impressed at how well drilled the band are, and how well they respond to Princes call. But I’m not really surprised as I know how much Prince rehearses his bands, and the Revolution are one of the greatest bands he has put together. I thought that this song would have been ripe for the long jam, but it’s played very straight, and Prince ends it sharply after a few stops and starts with the band.

As far as rehearsals go, this one has forced me to reassess my feelings about listening to them. This is far from a rock rehearsal, yet there is plenty of Princes guitar on all the tracks. If anything, it only served to highlight what a well-balanced and versatile band The Revolution were. They have plenty of funk, but rock when they have to. As I said in the beginning, I am rare to listen to rehearsals, but if I was going to take a listen this would be one of my first choices.

So that’s a rehearsal for the birthday show, I guess next week I better listen to the birthday show to see how it all plays out.

Take care
Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
Hamish

Purple Rain Atlanta

The Purple Rain tour is very well documented in the bootleg world. There were several very good shows I could have chosen, but I plumbed for one I have a DVD of. The Purple Rain shows are standard from show to show, they didn’t deviate too much from a set formula, and listening to them is sometimes a little repetitive. I especially tend to lose interest in the mid portion of the show when there is a lull in the proceedings. However I love watching the shows, the Purple Rain tour looked great- the costumes, the dancing, there was something exciting and exhilarating about the whole thing. It really was an event, not just another gig. So with that in mind, today I will be watching a show from Atlanta 1985, Prince playing his most successful album to an adoring audience.

January 4 1985, Omni Atlanta

I don’t mind admitting that even after 30 years I still feel a thrill of excitement when Prince says in darkness “Hello Atlanta, my name is Prince, and I’ve come to play with you.” The organ swells that we know so well, and the spoken intro of Lets Go Crazy gets screams of anticipation from the crowd, and when the single spot light hits Wendy for the main rift there is a further scream before the stage lights up and the show begins in an explosion of light, noise and flowers raining down. I have seen it I don’t know how many times, and I still get a kick and a rush from it. The song does not do much more than what we hear on record, there is no piano break in the middle, or drawn out solos, but it does lack any intensity or punch. And to my mind there is no greater sight in concert than seeing Prince playing the guitar lead here, leaning back, face contorted with the music, and his pink stole blowing in the wind over his shoulder. This will always be the Prince I reference when people ask me about being a fan. The song ends much as we have heard plenty of times before, Prince wailing on his guitar. He doesn’t solo too long or hard, but it’s still a perfect opener to the show.

Atlanta 1985

There is plenty of noise from the band next as they stall while Prince hands of his guitar and removes some clothes. Things suddenly take a pop turn as with a shout from Prince of “one two” the band strike up Delirious. I often dismiss Delirious as its not my cup of tea, but even my ice cold heart enjoys it here, its a lot of fun to watch Prince prancing and dancing around the stage. The music doesn’t do much for me, but the visuals more than carry it. As an up-tempo fun number it does it job and keeps the show moving a fast pace.

1999 next and its performed as we see it on the video clip. Prince dons his shiny purple trench coat and we really are back to the 1999 era. The vocals from the rest of the band aren’t great, but I’m going to blame the sound recording rather than them personally. Now days Prince often races through this one near the end of the shows, so it’s a joy here to hear it given the full treatment. And the vocals from the rest of the band do improve as it goes, and by the end of it I have nothing negative to say. It sounds better here than it did on the 1999 tour, and it has a little more energy to it. The band seem to enjoy playing it, and again its great to see them dancing and interacting together. Perhaps the last minute is my favorite, after the “mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” Prince plays a nice guitar break, them ramps its up as the song ends in a crescendo of sound, light and smoke.

Atlanta 1985 3

The other big hit from the 1999 album follows close behind, with the warm swells of Little Red Corvette beginning as the sound and fun of the last song fade. There is the sweet piano refrain played, which I know I have said before I love. Wendy does of course hand out flowers to the crowd before encouraging them to clap their hands. It’s contrived, and yet I find it very endearing. Prince begins to sing bathed in red light, and it’s obvious that this show couldn’t fail, everything seems to have a touch of class to it. Princes vocals are getting better and better with each song, and on Little Red Corvette when he sings “oowwwww owwww owwww” it’s a great concert moment for me. He does his dance while the guitar solo plays, and while I do enjoy it, I find that it distracts my attention from Wendy. One thing I will comment on about this show, is that Prince and Wendy are the centre of everything. The other band members don’t get the moments that Wendy gets, and she does have plenty of interplay with Prince. Sure, a large part of that is the fact she is the guitarist, but I would have liked to see Brown Mark and Prince more often, or perhaps Lisa given more time. Little Red Corvette ends with a sudden handclap, and the rolling drums from the start of Take Me With U Begins.

Prince is right in his element for this one. Right from the start of Take Me With U, he stomps back and forth across the stage, guitar to the fore. I can hear Princes vocals very well, but unfortunately the girl’s vocals are lost in the mix. I can hear them, but not loud and clear like I would want. However, all that is made irrelevant as after a quick verse and chorus everything just becomes a big beat and groove for Prince to play guitar god over. And play he does, the next minute is guitar playing Prince at his very best. There is no sweet delicate playing here, it comes at us fast and furious, and plenty of rock poses thrown in to boot. I should be cynical and point out how clichéd it all is, but in truth I lap up every single moment of this. I love this arrangement, and this performance. The only problem is it ends way too short for my liking.

Usually I skip right over the Yankee Doodle Dandle section when listening to Purple Rain shows. It doesn’t do anything for me musically and I find it annoying. I have never properly understood what is happening on stage at this time, and even watching the DVD I’m not sure what’s going on. Mercifully it is quite short, but in future I think I will go back to my normal ways and skip right past it.

The next section starts with Prince sitting at the keyboard, and I am much more comfortable again. I do enjoy watching him play the piano, it’s hard to believe it’s the same man who floored us with his impassioned guitar playing just a minute ago. The piano set begins with some very soft and delicate paying from Prince, and I enjoy this just as much as any song he plays. He does settle down and begin to play Free. Free works a lot better live than it is on record. It’s not as over the top and the piano playing is much better without being drowned in the other distractions.

Prince leaves the piano next and delivers up Do Me Baby. This performance is very nice, he has all his moves and vocal styling’s down, and comes across very smooth. It’s not the greatest sounding version I have heard, the instruments are too loud and Prince is fighting against them to be heard. But the showmanship more than makes up for it, this is to be seen as well as heard. It’s very short on this recording, I was expecting more from it. Not the greatest I have heard, but still a vital part of the show.

Atlanta 1985 7

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore has Prince back at the piano, and initially its his piano playing that excites me the most. He does interact with the crowd to get them clapping along, but it’s the vocals and piano playing that are the most important things here. There is showmanship, but its all in his vocals and the looks at the crowd. That changes however when he does the whole “I’m gonna stand over here until you make up your mind” The crowd shriek and yell in delight, but I have heard it too many times by now to get excited. The song progresses to the point where Prince really plays with his vocals and demonstrates just how good a singer he really is. Like everything its just a few moments, but its enough. This guy really can do everything.

Things pick up when Prince starts with a spoken intro to Lets Pretend We’re Married. We now know that the spoken intro would later become the song Temptation, but at the time it was new to our ears. Prince teases us with the vocals, some piano playing and at one stage throwing off his jacket. Finally the teasing ends and Prince kicks into the song. His piano playing is very expressive and it’s a nice full sound he generates from the piano. The song played as we know it is only very short, it’s all about the tease at the start. There is a good energy to it, and Prince delights me, and the crowd, by leaping off his stool and playing standing up.

Father’s Song gets only a minute, but it’s my favorite moment at the piano, and of the whole show. In almost complete darkness Prince plays the refrain, and it’s filled with a melancholia that stays with me long after the performance. Sometimes the shortest moments are the best moments.

Atlanta 1985 4

The lights come back up a little as Prince begins to play God alone at the piano. With smoke swirling at his feet it does have a heavenly appearance. This is tempered somewhat by his vocals early on being fuzzy on the recording. After the first few lines this does improve, and I can better sit back and enjoy the song. The song does sound good, and Prince delivers some great screams near the end of the song. He loses me shortly after with his conversation with the audience being played out on stage and the bath sequence. Listening to the show, this part goes for too long, and even watching it I find myself just wishing it would end. Yes, it was cool the first time I saw the bath sequence, but now I just want it to end so we can get back to the music.

The purple part of the concert starts next as Lisa asks Wendy “is the water warm enough”. The next seven songs are all off the Purple Rain album and it’s quite a performance. First Prince rises from the stage to play Computer Blue. The song starts with plenty of keyboards. I usually associate this song with guitars, but the keys are nice and strong and form a nice thick sound for the guitars to play against. Prince starts off singing and playing well, and he gets louder and louder from there. His solos aren’t spectacular- they are as you hear on the album, but once again it’s the performance of the song that has t be seen. Firstly Wendy gives Prince simulated fellatio while he solos, then later in the song Prince puts down his guitar and dances. He dancing isn’t delicate, but he does capture the mood of the song. And visually its looks quite striking, especially when he dances next to the rest of the band.

Atlanta 1985 5

In a seedy red light Prince next sings Darling Nikki. An audience favorite, I am sure most of them just want a chance to sing the x-rated lyrics. There is several opportunities’ for the audience to sing various lines, asides from that the arrangement is as heard on record. The fun part comes later in the song when the good Dr plays his solo and the band all look like they are having a good time. I also appreciate the end of the song when the backwards music we hear on album is played forward and we hear Princes ‘hidden message’

The Beautiful Ones is, well, beautiful. Up high and in softy blue and red light Princes plays piano and sings the emotional high point of the Purple Rain album (asides from the Purple Rain song itself) Princes piano playing is good, buts its the other keyboards dong all the work, and Dr Fink and Lisa fill out the sound with plenty of swells and swirls. Prince leaves his piano for some delicate dancing, and to concentrate on his vocals. This is his best vocal delivery of the night, there is no distracting talking to the crowd, no guitar playing, its all pure vocal delivery. He looks suitable moved and drops to his knees to deliver some passionate screams and whoops. He eventually rolls on to his back for a final howl before the keyboards play us out with a couple more swells.

Atlanta 1985 6

Doves Cry gets the full treatment next. There is a brilliant long intro, with just the bare beat and the piano lead line played over it. It builds plenty of anticipation in the crowd, and for me here at home. The lead line on the piano is the key element in this song for me, and even through I have been listening to it for most of my life it’s still something I enjoy immensely. Prince begins his lines, but has almost too quiet, and I don’t get the strong vibe as I hear on the record. The lyrics of Doves Cry are amongst the best he has written, and it’s a shame I can’t hear them better on this. I used to think that the bass line would detract from the song, but it’s actually quite funky to hear the song with a bit more bottom end in the mix. Prince introduces Wendy to play the guitar solo, and I must admit that I fall in love a little. She plays so well, and she looks dead cool while she is doing it. The final section of the song features a lot of dancing from Prince. He doesn’t always look cool, but I have to admire his efforts to entertain us.

There is then a very long pause as the crowd chant for more. Finally the band return and the next song is I Would Die 4 U. It has a lightness and pop sound to it and is enjoyable right from the start. Wendy’s vocals sound good next to Prince, and there is a nice moment when they share the microphone before Prince engages in some enthusiastic dancing. There is some very funky guitar playing later from Wendy while Prince sings a long with the crowd. It is reminiscent of the 12 inch version, and that is absolutely fine by me. However after only a few minutes it segues into Baby I’m A Star.

Baby I’m a Star is an absolute joy to watch. Musically it’s awesome, and having the extra players on stage means there is so much to take in. Early on its Eddie M who I enjoy the most, his saxophone playing gives the music an edge. Prince also takes the opportunity with the extended line up to indulge in some James Brown style dancing, and band leadership. As is par for the course there are plenty of stops and starts form the band. After such a choreographed show it’s wonderful to see the band playing here, and there is the feeling that anything might happen musically. Baby I’m A star as we know it disappears and the funky jam takes over. Its Eddie who really steals the show on this one, he is just killing it on the sax. There is a funny moment when Prince begins to take the band off, before stopping to the calls of the crowd. It’s staged, but has me smiling. Prince gives us a little of everything, he sings, he dances, and he takes the piano for a while too, always keeping the groove and the beat going.

Atlanta 1985 1

Finally the last song begins, in what I’m sure was the high point for everyone there. I have heard many arrangements and performances of Purple Rain over the years, some are great, and some not so great. But for me the definitive version will always be the one played on the Purple rain tour, starting with the beautiful chords played by Wendy. Here is no different, the song begins with Wendy alone playing the soft chords I have heard a thousand times before, and I’m not tired of it one bit. She does get a few minutes along to play and I feel the song slowly drawing me in. The appearance by Prince is understated, and he adds his lead lines into the song. Playing the Horner he plays his delicate pieces, not hurrying at all, but slowly building the song up. I think this is my favorite style of his playing, when he’s softly playing lead guitar. He keeps it fairly short and begins singing early on. At first his vocals are a little lost in the echo, but it soon sorts itself out after a few lines. He is singing here in his vulnerable voice, rather than the triumphant tone we sometimes hear in Purple Rain. After only the first verse and some softer guitar he leaves the stage and returns with the cloud guitar. He immediately plays a more hard rock and anthemic sounding solo before singing the next part of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocal performance, it’s not the notes he hits or the strength of his voice, it’s the emotional delivery and personality in his voice. Normally I would be writing about his guitar playing, but in this case it’s the vocals that have made the bigger impression on me. Prince does finally get to the guitar solo, but he doesn’t seem to pull anything special out for it. It’s played straight, and it’s only much later that he begins to let off some fireworks on the fret board. I have certainly heard other solos that have left me opened mouthed, but not this one. Despite that, my girlfriend tells me I did watch the TV transfixed while he was playing, so he must have had some sort of magic in there. He clambers to a high point to deliver one final blast before the keyboard twinkling ends the show.

Writing today’s entry was definitely a labor of love. The show was an excellent record of Prince at the peak of his powers, and despite the material and performance being very familiar to me I still loved all of it. There was a reason that Prince became a global superstar, and this is it. If you ever needed to see him during his purple period, this would be the place to start. Its not perfect, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

thanks for reading

-Hamish

 

First Avenue 1982

It blows my mind that this gig was recorded just five weeks after the Passaic gig that I listened to the other week. It’s got a completely different feel to it, show cases new material, resurrects some old material, but as always features some outstanding musicianship. Such is life in the world of Prince, things change pretty fast. This gig was recorded at First Avenue, between Controversy and 1999 tours, and yet it doesn’t really sound like either one of those tours. Most of the material played here does not appear on either tour, and the band has a chance to play out and really jam on some songs. As I seem to say every week, this is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to write about it.

-Please note, none of these photos are connected to the gig. They are just a few nice ones to give you something to look at between all the words.

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

I have listened to this gig so many times that I can recite the opening lines from the top of my head. After a brief prelude Prince opens the gig by telling the crowd that “This is not a concert, this is a dance, if you can dance to stuff, you’re a better man to me. The only reason we’re here is that there is no place else to go”. Bambi starts and it’s heavy right from the go. I know Bambi is always a heavy guitar driven song, but here it is even more so. The guitars’ don’t let up at all, even during the verses, and Princes vocals struggle to get out above the din. You can hear him fine, but the guitar noise and band are very rowdy and wild. There is a great heavy guitar chugging underneath and some wild guitars over the top. It definitely has a garage band feel to it, but a very talented garage band! Dez’s playing is excellent, as is Princes solos over the top. I have heard plenty of great versions of Bambi, but this one tops them all. It’s a fantastic way to start the gig, and already I feel breathless by the end of the first song. Prince does some guitar noodling after the bulk of the song, before the band enters for a final onslaught to finish.

prince 2

A steady beat, then the now familiar keyboard run of All The Critics love You In New York begins. Prince intones “This is a new song, probably won’t be out for another year or six” The steady beat goes on for a very long time before Prince begins to sing, and in that time there is some grinding guitar flashes. The sound is, obviously, much more heavier than on record, and it has a darker feel to it. The guitar is much dirtier sounding, and much louder. Prince is not as restrained as he sounds on record, especially as he sings “look out all you hippies, you aren’t as sharp as me” But mostly the song isn’t about the vocals, it’s very much a guitar song, with plenty of guitar played over the beat. It sounds great, and I can only wish that I could have been there. The guitars pull back for a moments, and Prince asks Dr Fink if he wants to solo. He duly obliges while Dez calls for a drink. The keyboard solo is fast, yet delicate. Sounds very good and clean. Prince then asks Dez, “Did you get your drink?” Dez responds yes and Prince asks does he want to play, then with a yell “Let him outta of his cage!” Dez plays a fantastic solo. Completely different from what Prince would come up with, it has a heavy rock sound about it. Its short, but very rock orientated. The guitars stay low for a bit, and the song sounds much more like what it does on album. The song only lasts another minute or two after this before it ends with a synth howl.

Keeping in tone with the evening so far, the next song is a guitar heavy When You Were Mine. There is more lead guitar on this then we normally hear, and it’s an interesting arrangement. The rhythm guitar sound that normally drives it is absent, and instead some long mournful notes on the lead guitar replace it. It’s still as upbeat as ever, but it does have a more rock sound to it. Dr Finks solo is more familiar territory, and after this the more familiar rhythm guitar we are used to returns. There is a break, with just Prince on his guitar and the crowd clapping, and he stretches it out for a couple of minutes like this. I like it here, when he sings a few lines, then knocks out the rhythm for a bit while the crowd clap along. The band all jump in back in for the final verse before it all races to the finish.

Prince

After thanking the crowd “Give yourself a hand, that was some mean clapping” Prince and the band get funky with Sexy Dancer. It’s a welcome break from the guitar noise of the first few songs. I love guitar, but I also enjoy the variation that Prince gives us. Sexy dancer is full sounding, propelled along by the bass and drum, but there is plenty of playing over the top. Again Dr Fink plays a great solo, and it’s really stretched out, he plays for a couple of minutes on it. It’s very enjoyable, and as I so often do, I find myself in admiration of the skills of the good Doctor. Dez follows up with a restrained but loud solo. It’s in complete contrast to the solo that Dr Fink plays, and yet complements the song well. The song ends with a Dez solo, and there is a pause in the action.

Prince tells the crowd he wants to play a slow song if they want to go get a drink. He calls for Sue Ann, and then plays Still Waiting. The recording still has a garage band sound to it, which doesn’t really suit this song. However Princes vocals sound very good, especially harmonizing with Sue Ann on the chorus. It’s in the quieter more delicate moments of the gig that the limitations of recordings like this are exposed. The song itself is very good, as we have come to expect from Prince, but I would want to hear a better recording of it. There is some very nice vocal work from Prince here, and some great interplay between him and the backing singers, especially in the breakdown. There is one weird vocal ad-lib from Prince, when he tells the crowd ‘I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” I didn’t notice it for years, but I can’t help but to hear it this time. Sue Ann gets a moment to sing solo, and she is remarkable good. She’s not the most distinctive singer I have ever heard, but she is nice and strong. Prince responds with some of his shrieking and screaming before the song comes to an end.

Prince 4

There is a pause, and then the band plays a heavy and slightly quicker version of Head. It’s not as dirty or nasty as I have heard elsewhere, but the guitars are nice and strong, and I do enjoy the grittiness of this recording. Prince lets the crowd sing a lot of it, choosing to sing every other line himself. The recording doesn’t pick up the crowd singing very well, but if I had have been there you would definitely of heard me! After the first verse there isn’t much singing, mostly a lot of keyboard, solos and groove. It’s not a bad thing at all, and I like it very much in this way. Prince picks up the mic for some more singing, but again he only sings every other line, letting the crowd fill in the spaces. Dr Finks solo is excellent as always before the music pulls back for a breakdown. There is some very enthusiastic singing of head from the crowd, as always, and then some nice funk guitar from the band. It then descends into the usual guitar solo and keyboard sounds that we have heard so many times before.

A couple of beats and Prince calls “Read my lips, Sexuality”. Things really take off here, the beat jumps up, and after several screams from the man himself the bass and scratch guitar jump in. It’s played fast, and the drums and bass provided a great energy. This song is a favorite of mine, and it’s a shame there is not more live recordings of it out there. As with the other songs, the sound is very full, and all the instruments are battling to be heard. The six band members sure do make a big noise! The bulk of the song is over before I know it, it was fast and furious throughout. The band all pull out, except Bobby Z, and Prince sings Sexuality as the crowd claps along. The crowd then takes up the singing of sexuality, while Prince takes a break. This section goes for as long as the main song itself, and it sounds as if the crowd is having a great time. Prince finishes by singing “Never let it be said, white folk ain’t got no soul”.

Prince 1

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to take a break, and then the Time plays a couple of songs. The recording covers the bands changing over, and it takes some minutes, with plenty of banter while it happens. Especially funny to me is when Prince tell the crowd “We share the same management, and they say they gotta play too”

The first song they play is Dance to The Beat. It’s up tempo, and fun, but it comes and goes before I can properly register it. It does sound like it would have been good to be there, but on the recording it doesn’t do much for me.

Much better is The Stick. The bass and the keyboards have a deep groove and the over all sound is something I really enjoy. This is The Time that I like the most. Jimmy Jam and Jesse both solo, before Morris calls for a mirror. The classic Time that we all know and love is in full effect.

The song ends, and Prince asks Morris if he can still play the drums. Once again there is plenty of banter, as Morris moves to the drums and Prince is running things again. They then play an enthusiastic version of party up. The band sound nice and loose, as does Princes singing. Again, it’s a sense of fun that I get when I listen to this recording. Prince calls for a break down and the band find a nice groove while the crowd begins to clap along. Prince tells the crowd “Give the drummer some” and then Morris plays a drum break. It’s not overly cohesive, but it does fit with the fun of the gig. Brownmark brings things back with some nice bass playing, and then Lisa puts some nice rhythmic keyboard work over top. There is then some really fantastic sounding guitar solo played over the top but to my great disappointment the recording fades out here and ends.

Prince 3

This was one of the first recordings I ever brought, and I have listened to it many times over the years. In more recent years better releases of the same gig have appeared, and this has greatly added to my enjoyment of it. As I said earlier, I love the garage band sound of this, and the loose feel of the band. All The Critics Love You In New York is a standout for me, as is Sexuality. I was one very happy man at the end of listening to this.

Take care
Hamish

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
Hamish

Capitol Theatre, Passaic

I am very excited about today’s recording. I am going to be listening to Prince playing Passaic in 1982. What is really getting me excited though is I am watching this on a proshot DVD. Prince shows from this era are always very intense and enjoyable to listen to, but being able to see it as well as hear it adds so much more to the experience. I love the music, but I want to see the performance, see the dancing, see the funk face, see the band, see the moves, see the interaction on stage, see the audience reaction. Today I get all of that-let’s go!

30 January 1982, Capitol Theatre, Passaic

The show opens, as they did on this tour, with the sounds of Second Coming while the stage is in darkness. A soulful a capella number, it acts as a nice counterbalance for what is to follow.

Prince Capitol Theatre

The band explodes after this with a very fast drum roll from Bobby Z, and plenty of Prince “Awws”. The first song is Uptown, which I suppose could be taken as Princes agenda at the time. The band have a raw sound, and with Dez on guitar a real rock presence. Asides from Prince, Dez seems to be the focus of a lot of what is happening on stage, and it’s great to see the interaction between him and Prince.

Prince Capitol Theatre (2)

Why You Wanna Treat Me So bad has an introduction that seems to ramp up the energy levels in the building. The crowd can be seen hands in the air right from the go. The song pulls back, and Prince delivers the first verse, looking dead cool in his trench coat. The chorus sees Prince hamming it up with the crowd, pulling faces to the side of the stage. He seems to be putting a lot into this performance, puling faces, and eyes at the crowd one moment, then closing his eyes and singing passionately the next. The guitar break is the highlight of the song, and sees plenty of play back and forth with Prince and Dez. The playing is great, and as he starts playing Prince gives an expression that says he knows how good he, and he’s about to kill it. Prince dominates this song with his playing and its just as good as anything else I have heard on the tour, but Dez and Brownmark aren’t forgotten- they move plenty around the stage, and they make themselves heard on the recording. The song ends with Prince playing guitar and accompanying himself on the keyboard, it’s hard to describe but he does do it- playing his guitar one handed, before band come on board for a final crash and the finale of the song.

Prince Capitol Theatre (4)

The nice electronic sounds of the keyboards introduce the next song, I Wanna Be Your Lover. It’s always a favorite of mine, and here is a very good version, the crowd is clearly enjoying it too. Prince loses his trench coat and guitar for it, and gives a nice performance. The song only lasts a few minutes, but Prince works the stage very well, giving plenty of attention to everyone. I have heard heavier more energetic versions, but this one isn’t bad. I was expecting the latter part to be played out longer, but there is only a minute of groove before Prince picks up his guitar and the band segue into Head.

Head sounds suitably nasty right from the start. The drums seem a little quieter compared to other recordings from the tour, but the sound of the band playing this great. It’s particularly good to hear Lisa’s vocals are nice and clear on here. There are plenty of cheers from the crowd, they are obviously enjoying it as much as I am. Do I need to mention Dr Finks solo? You know I love it! It’s so good to be able to watch him bobbing and twitching as he plays. Right after the solo, there is break down and Prince encourages the crowd to sing a long. It doesn’t take much, they are more than happy to yell “head!” The best is yet to come, and there is another break down and some great bass sound from Brownmark. Then over just the bass and cymbals Prince indulges in some very good guitar work. Not fast at all, but very loud and clear. The song then lives up to its name, and Prince his reputation, when he engages in some very sexual acts with his guitar. It sounds crass, but I love it, and I know that this is why the teenage me became a fan. The guitar sound here is sometime whiny, sometime rhythmic, and yet always interesting. Although it goes for sometime, I just don’t have the words to describe it. But watching this was the highlight of the whole DVD for me. It ends with an orgasm, both visually and sonically.

Prince Capitol Theatre (5)

Dirty Mind is bounces along very nicely. I really like the sound of Dez’s guitar on this one, nice and rhythmic. Watching it, it’s apparently the Bobby Z is putting a lot into his playing, and really seems to be pounding the drums. Prince too is giving it plenty and can clearly be seen sweating. There is a lot of motion, but the music is always first, and it sounds just as good as it does on record. Prince plays a little keyboard himself, which is always great to see. There is an interlude mid song, but its not as long or drawn out as I like, nor does it have the intensity I have heard elsewhere.

Prince Capitol Theatre (6)

The more I write about these shows, the more I fall in love with some songs. Do Me Baby is one of those songs. It’s gone from being a song that I like, to being a song I love. There is a nice introduction to it on this recording, and Dez plays some very nice guitar with Prince looking over his shoulder. The song is a great show case for Prince, and his vocal delivery is fantastic. I love every minute on this recording. His shrieks and yells are what really make it for me, and they sound crystal clear. The spoken parts really get the ladies in the crowd excited, but it doesn’t do anything for me. The song ends with him shirtless and sweaty, and the crowds are lapping it up. It’s not really my sort of thing, but I must admit he’s in pretty good shape!

Prince Capitol Theatre (7)

Prince dons the trench coat again as the throb of Controversy begins. The band play faithfully to what is heard on record, but that’s no bad thing, the song is pretty well perfect to me already. Brownmark gets plenty of shine on this one, and it’s nice to see him get some spotlight and play. Prince is back on the guitar by now, and playing with plenty of vigor. Again his showmanship is outstanding, and the performance is mesmerizing. I have heard this song hundreds of times, but I find myself watching this performance transfixed. The crowd is apparently enjoying it just as much as I am, there is a lot of very energetic dancing to be seen, and people loosing themselves in the music. For a bit I think the song may turn into a long jam, but it finishes up in good time.

Prince Capitol Theatre (8)

Lets Works begins with Prince dancing on the raised section of the stage before sliding down his fireman’s pole to deliver the opening lines. The trench coat is gone now, and the gig seems to change gear somewhat. The song gives Prince plenty of opportunities to dance, and he dutifully obliges. At this stage he was no great dancer, and often he looks like he is doing calisthenics rather than dancing, but he is passionate about it, and the music does seem to genuinely move him. The song is played for fun, and the band seem to enjoy playing this one. The crowd obviously picks up on this vibe, and there is plenty of dancing and singing along from them also. There is a fun moment mid song when Dez sings lets work several times from the central microphone before Prince pushes him aside to take up the singing. The song ends in darkness as Prince says thank you and good night.

Prince Capitol Theatre (9)

Half a minute of chanting “we want Prince” and the lights come back on. Prince delivers a sly “Do you want some more” and the band career into Jack U Off. For me Jack U Off was a quirky little song, that didn’t quite seem to fit on Controversy, but here in the live setting, it is brilliant. Prince doesn’t play guitar, all the furious playing is coming from Dez. . Dez sounded impressive on the recording, but seeing him play – he is even more so. Prince himself seems to love singing this one, he has a big grin on his face throughout the song. The song is very short, as it is on the album, but there is a lot happening in those couple of minutes. I love seeing the interaction between the band, and the end of this is great, Prince gives five to a couple of people in the crowd, before heading over the Dez for some more skin. Then he is back to the mic for his “If anyone asks you, who you belong to?” He has such a big grin by now, and the crowd yells and screams his name. A final crescendo, Prince waves bye and the show comes to an end..

Prince Capitol Theatre (10)

My final thoughts on the recording are very short. I loved it from the first second until to last. Not very objective, I know, but that’s the truth. I have heard plenty Controversy recordings where the energy and intensity could be heard in the music, but in the show that energy and intensity can be seen in all aspects of the show. As far as Controversy shows go, this one is a must have.

Take care
-Hamish