Quasimodo Berlin 1987

OK, I admit it, I didn’t do my homework this week. Things have been kinda busy of late and I never found the time to have a quiet moment and think about what recording I would like to listen to and write about. So twenty minutes ago I found myself looking at a blank screen wondering where on earth I should start. Without a particular bootleg in mind I considered what sort of show I would like to listen to and what songs I would like to hear, which brought me nicely to this weeks recording – an aftershow from Berlin 1987 featuring Housquake and Just My Imagination. The recording itself is short, less than 40 minutes, and to be honest its rough to listen to. By rough, I mean plenty of tape hiss and a muddy sound, but I have recently come to the realization that I am a hardcore fan and will listen to anything with a beat, so with that it mind read on…..

15th May 1987(am) Quasimodo, Berlin

The first part of the show is missing from the recording, there is no Madhouse or the opening two songs from Prince, and instead as it begins we catch the tail end of Redhouse. The guitar is sweet enough, but it isn’t setting the world aflame, this is the sound of it slowly winding down in the last minute of the song. The following words by Prince are completely lost in distortion, before things pick up with the horn refrain that becomes Bodyheat. Now we’re talking, despite the recording it sounds like a great show as the band lock into a riff that will cement the funk of Bodyheat. The horn riff is good, the solo it plays even better as the recording briefly clears and the show really begins to cook. Through the limitations of the recording I can hear something special as the band play the living daylights out of Bodyheat, there is no doubt that it would have been a monster to hear live. Did I say solo? I mean solo’s, as Eric Leeds plays freely over the top a couple of times, each time upping the ante as far as intensity and pure musicianship go. The keyboard heard near the end comes from another place entirely, and is the icing on top as the song finishes with some of the horns as heard in It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.

Led by a piano sound, Just My Imagination is different in this incarnation, and all the more soulful for it. With Eric Leeds giving it some extra life with his horn any other memories of the song are washed away as this version is heard in a completely different context. The spell is broken with Princes distorted vocals (its all the recording, not him) and although I can mentally fill it in and make it work, to be honest it’s a tough listen at this point. A shame as I can hear a fantastic gig unfolding before me, I just can’t hear it in a listenable quality.

Housequake is much more agreeable to the ears, although compared to other recordings its still rough. Prince’s vocals for the most part sound better, and the song is easily recognizable as Housequake. Eric adds his shine, but for most of the song it is the rhythm section that sounds the best -that is until his second solo, where I am forced to eat my words.

Prince Eric Leeds

The final It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night is yet another chance to enjoy the funk of Prince and the awe inspiring playing of Eric Leeds. Things improve sonically too, as the recording does become better midsong and the song can be heard in all it’s glory.  The moment right before Shelia E’s rap has me all in, as for a few moments the guitar sings out brightly in the darkness, so tight in it’s funk. The song becomes jam, and one of the better ones I’ve heard as it maintains it’s kinetic energy for the entire ten minutes. By the time the finishes I find I have forgotten and forgiven the recording limitations and I am enjoying purely the show.

Wow, that was shorter than I thought. It was also far better than I anticipated. There is no denying the recording was less than stellar, but the show itself was pure fire. Like everyone I trawl the internet looking for shows, and there seems to be the same shows circulating again and again among trading communities, leaving very poor recordings like this forgotten. I know that this type of recording appeals to a very small portion of the fan community, it is not an easy show to listen to. But part of the fun for me is listening to shows like this, with a faint hope in my heart that one day a better recording will surface of a show such as this. Final verdict:  Recording 3, Show  9.

 

Take care
Hamish

 

Wonderboy – Paris 1987

This weeks blog has taken much longer than usual to write. Not because I couldn’t find anything to say about this show, but rather that this show is just so good I listened to it several times before I could sit down and write a single word. I have listened to it four times in the last two days, each time playing air guitar along with it, and drumming on my desk as it played. The music is so lively and infectious, it’s been a struggle to get myself to sit still and listen, this is music that you feel as much as you hear and I have spent several good hours dancing around the room as it plays. The show itself is one of the most well known and much loved bootlegs in circulation, a magnificent soundboard recording from Paris during the Sign O The Times Tour. For many years I haven’t felt the need to listen to shows from this tour, after wearing out the VHS of the Sign O The Times movie when I was younger. Aftershows from this era I gave plenty of attention to without ever dipping deeper into the main shows themselves. This is generally hailed as one of his greatest tours, and listening now I can see why, everything about this show is fantastic, the music, the performance, costumes, and the songs themselves. There is not a single weak point in the whole show. And this bootleg is best bootleg of the tour, ranking it as one of the best of the best.

17th June 1987, Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, Paris

There is no better sound in the world than the throaty, guttural sound of Prince’s guitar opening to Sign O The Times. It completely changes the sound of the song from the record. Sure, the cold electronic beat is there, as is Princes headlining lyrics, but the guitar adds a new dynamic, giving a passionate response to those cold soundbites. It howls in anger, weeps with sadness, and gives a human reply to the chilling news Prince recites. Whatever I feel about those lyrics, Prince manages to capture with his guitar playing, and I spend most of the song playing air guitar, before I add some air drumming to the mix as the band drums themselves in at the end of the song.

SOTTa

The band are all on-board and to the front as we next hear Play In The Sunshine. The recording is beautiful, and it sounds as if the band is right here in the room with me. It’s a beautiful wall of sound, and my head spins listening to it all. Things are still coming thick and fast as Prince plays his guitar break, and listening to it thirty years on I am amazed how tight this band is, and how well this recording has aged. There is some sax in the left speaker that is so crystal clear, I could swear Eric Leeds is right in my ear.

We slow and I come back into the moment with Little Red Corvette. The band and vocals sound good, but  it’s the piano sound that is unique this time, and that is what I cling to as it plays. It’s an early carrot for those that have come to hear the hits, but Prince pulls the curtain on it with a sharp “Shut up already, damn!”

Housequake has been heard in many forms over the years, they are all good but nothing comes close to the original arrangement such as we have here. The song is great, the band is on fire, and the recording does it all justice. I want to sit and listen, I just can’t – the song is too good, and it’s all I can do to resist the urge to get up and dance again. Eric Leeds has never sounded so good, and again the sound in the left speaker is fantastic- this time a guitar is coming in crystal clear.

Eric Leeds is all over Girls and Boys. After the foreplay of a couple of verses and chorus, he gets his big moment and as a funky guitar plays, Eric plays a delightful solo that has me smiling every time I think about it. One of my favorite Prince songs, and in this live setting and with Eric on top of his game it’s a thing of beauty.

SOTTd

After Eric, it’s Atlanta’s turn as his trumpet croons us into Slow Love. Prince maybe the center of attention, but it’s the little things and the rest of the band that make this song what it is, be it Atlanta Bliss and his trumpet, the drums of Shelia that seem to accent every point, or the divine vocal of the girls in the band that provide a fullness to Princes vocal performance. It all comes together in a way that feels so natural and as if everything has it’s place and is as it should be. Prince’s vocals alone are worth the price of admission and feel as warm and inviting as a soft pillow.

I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man is so familiar, and yet I do still get that thrill of excitement when we hear the longer intro as played on the Sign O The Times tour. That talk, a twinkling of the piano, the horns all building to that moment when Shelia drives us forward into the song and the band is unleashed.  I am sure most people have like me seen this hundred’s of times on the Sign O The Times movie, and it’s hard not to sing along with it as it plays. It’s story-telling in a song at it’s best, and the drama of the song unfolds with the music as well as the lyrics, culminating in that moment when words can no longer express and Prince resorts to some of his most inspired and uplifting guitar playing. He swoops, he soars, he turns the solo into a celebration. Am I playing air-guitar right now? Yes, I am. The music pulls back and Prince plays some mournful guitar that has me furrowing my brow trying to listen to it and not miss a single note. As the band come back and drive us to the finish it feels like the song was a barely a couple of minutes long, when in fact it was closer to ten.

SOTTb

I do so love the organ at the beginning of Hot Thing. And it just get better from there, with firstly Levi and Prince doing their spoken interplay which sounds fun without being distracting. I must admit that having played the movie to death, its great to hear a different variation of this chat. The mix on the song is also very good, the guitar is more forward and a love the robotic funk of it. The song becomes fuller late in the piece when again the horn lines lift it beyond this cold, electronic sound and takes it to another level altogether.

The band really come into their own with Now’s The Time. At at this stage that we can see this band is it’s own animal, and what they are capable of it. Every band member contributes something, and all of them hold down their corner well. I couldn’t say if one is better than the other, although I will say I enjoyed Levi immensely in the brief bass solo he gives us. We close out the song with several minutes of Shelia playing a solo. It gathers momentum, much as any drum solo should, and at the end I give up my air-drumming along with it and cheer just as much as anyone else on the recording.

I should be tired of Let’s Go Crazy, the keyboard swell that signals the opening to it give it a new feel, and the rest of the performance is equally uplifting and it never once feels stale. The guitar sound is neutered, with this band and this show it doesn’t matter at all, this is a different band with their own sound and they make Let’s Go Crazy fit with their unique personality. I could take or leave the outro with Prince and the crowd exchanging “lets go, go ,go” but that’s a minor quibble that fades into memory as Princes last searing guitar notes are heard.

SOTTe

I have mixed emotions about Doves Cry. I am glad to hear it, and I do like the arrangement. My only issue it is only a couple of minutes, and the song doesn’t have a chance to breath and be itself. The lead line still gets my heart jump started, and I do love the way Prince intones the lyrics, and then its gone, just as I was beginning to feel it.

Purple Rain seems to be early in the setlist, and it highlights that this isn’t the full show, we are missing several songs, and the recording itself only just runs over an hour. Prince doesn’t play around with it, he heads straight for the solo after a verse and chorus. The solo is lively and energetic without ever offering up anything new. I still like it of course, and it’s the cue for me to engage in more air-guitar.

It’s always a surprise to hear 1999 after Purple Rain, just as I am coming down it raises me back up. Like everything at this show, it’s more horn infused and much more colourful sounding. There is a lot more sound crammed into the song, and I can hear most of the band having some input. True to form it ends this part of the show on a high, and signals the first break before encore.

And what an encore we get, with The Cross taking the concert and recording to yet another high. The comparisons between The Cross and Lou Reeds ‘Heroin’ are valid, but by the time The Cross reaches it’s zenith all comparisons are moot. I don’t know which is stronger, Prince’s vocals or his feverish guitar playing. He may be singing about god, but he plays guitar like a demon, and the final couple of minutes are electrifying. The way the guitar quiver and shakes and sounds in a frenzy against the more measured sound of the horns and the band, it doesn’t get any better than this.

SOTTc

With a simple call of “Encore” we fly into It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night. This show just gets better and better, and the band chew up It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night. I listened to this with headphones, and then without, and the recording is sublime. There is some fantastic noises and sounds that I pick up that I had never noticed before. The wondrous thing about Prince, in his live shows and in his recordings, is he gives you so much that even after all these years I am still hearing new things hidden away in the songs. Prince name checks Jill Jones with “The Jill Jones crawl” which I find pretty cool, asides from that it’s the music itself that I immerse myself in, its funky, thick with sound, and has me dancing where I am, I cannot help myself. The song is at full bloom, as the show is finishing at an all time high that even I couldn’t have predicted. There is even a chant of “I can’t get enough, of that funky stuff” and I couldn’t agree more. I am going to go out on limb, and say this is the best version of It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night that I have ever heard, and I’ve heard alot.

What a way to finish the show, I am breathless as it finishes, and I find it takes me a couple of minutes to cool off after, I was right into it. This recording is much revered in the Prince community, and I can well see why. Although incomplete, it still delivers a knock out, the performance is unbelievable, the recording is sublime, and it is truly one of the great bootlegs and worthy of all the love and praise that it gets. I know I am preaching to the converted, but this is one that every Prince fan has to have, it’s absolutely magnificent.

Phew, I am going for a lie down,
See you next time
-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

 

ONA Berlin

The One Night Alone tour is one that I listen to often, and one of his best. Although not everyone enjoys the Rainbow Children album, there is no denying that it is a strong artistic statement, and a lot stronger than the albums that preceded it. The tour itself shows that Prince has a lot of faith in his new music, and plays the bulk of it throughout these shows. I enjoy the intimate feel of these concerts, and some of the set lists are great. It’s somewhat surprising that I haven’t blogged about these shows previously, but today I will address the imbalance. The show I have chosen to listen to is from the European leg, and is ONA Berlin. There is a great many shows from this tour circulating so I had plenty of choices, but I had a feeling in the back of my mind that this one was one of the longer ones, and pretty darned good. Hopefully it’s as good as I remember.

Berlin 2002i

19th October, 2002 Berlin

After some cheers and clapping from the audience the show opens with a digital type of sound, before the steady bass line of Rainbow Children is heard and the band settle into a steady beat. There is some sax work, but my ears aren’t good enough to tell you if its Eric Leeds or Candy Dulfer, but I’m thinking it might be Candy. There is several cheers from the audience as the song continues in this vein for some minutes. Some people might be wanting Prince right from the go, but I am more than happy just to sit back and listen to this band play, it’s very classy and smooth. There is a louder cheer and I assume that Prince is onstage. That is confirmed when a few seconds later Prince is heard singing with the Darth Vader sounding effect on his voice. I don’t really listen to the lyrics, so I find I quite enjoy it, and I like the different sound it gives. The Prince voice we are accustomed to is heard a minute later when he says “are we in Berlin” before the first chorus of “Rainbow Children” The song is enhanced further when Prince says “can I play my guitar” and some nice guitar stabs are played. The guitar has a strong tone to it, and it gives the groove a bit more backbone. I really like this one a lot, it’s not something I listen to a lot on album, but I find myself returning again and again to the live version. It’s got a lot more stiffness and sharpness to it which I like. In this situation I find myself enjoying Renato Netos playing and it does add to that overall uncomfortable sound in the song, that feeling that everything is not quite settled. He does play for some time, both with an electric digital sound, and a more natural piano sound, and both are fine by me. There are two keyboards playing off each other, but once again my ears aren’t good enough to tell you which is Renato, and which is Prince. Perhaps I should have written about a DVD of this tour. The song changes direction again near the end with the electric guitar coming back. At 15 minutes it’s a great long introduction to the show.

Berlin 2002

Muse 2 The Pharaoh is more laid back, and feels like a ray of sunshine after some of the darker grooves of Rainbow Children. It’s good to hear Prince singing once again in his natural singing voice, and I find myself nodding my head along easily with the clapping of the crowd. Even the darker keyboard grooves don’t feel as dark as on album, surprisingly this is one song that isn’t darker and heavier in concert. Prince’s message is preachy, but often I forget to listen to what he is actually singing, and I just follow the music. His message is obviously very important to him, these two songs are first up and right in your face, but I don’t think the message derails the show at all.

His comments about real music by real musicians leads us directly into Pop Life. I hadn’t expected this song to pop up on this tour, but like some many other forgotten gems he played it regularly on this tour, and he does make it fit with his sound at that time, the keyboard solo by Renato Neto in particular is a nice bridge between his past and present sound, and listening to it I realize that it’s not anything new, I am just hearing it in a different context. The pop aspect of Pop Life is there, but the jazzy side of it also feels a little stronger in this setting. Just as I was thinking about that, Prince makes it far more explicit when he says “Life it ain’t too funky, unless it’s got that Jazz” and Candy Duffer takes a moment to play. Again it’s not too much of a stretch for the song, and it has a nice upbeat jazz ending, and Prince even throws in a little scream.

Berlin 2002a

Prince declares pop music is dead then the music of Xenophobia begins. The crowd is subdued as Prince asks them “who came to get their Purple Rain on? You at the wrong party” The horns enter and play with the heavier sounding groove before Greg Bower gets a moment to play, and although I think trombones are desperately uncool, I do enjoy it, especially when Prince gets the crowd to yell encouragement to him. John Blackwell also gets a moment to solo, and I can hear how well he is playing, but the recording doesn’t pick it up as well as I would have liked. I should imagine that it would be pretty bone shaking if I was there, but the recording doesn’t have the depth or heaviness to it. Prince prefaces his “Is it better to give or receive” speech with “who speaks English?” A wise move to check first I should think. The spoken section of the song is still enjoyable, even though I have heard it plenty of times. It never becomes grating and I like his casual interaction with the audience. Things heat up after the chat, with some guitar playing that becomes faster and more aggressive, before a big drum roll takes us back into the lead line. As the song ends there is some more of Prince talking, and there is a nice moment when he asks “did you miss me?” After the applause he quietly says “I missed you too” as the music of Money Doesn’t Matter 2 Night begins.

Berlin 2002c

I am no fan of the Diamonds and Pearls album, but I love Money Doesn’t Matter 2 Night. For one of Princes political songs it manages to strike a good balance between music and lyrics. The recording isn’t brilliant, but its good enough and I listen to it carefully. Candy Duffer gets the sax solo, and she plays it well, but always sounding slightly restrained. This band is a good match for the song, and it plays to their smooth jazz sound. And I am just pleased to hear it in the set list, it’s very much a song that needs to be played more often. The sax gets better and better through the song, and near the end it holds a nice steady long note which brings us to an end. A great song, and this is a very good version.

Berlin 2002b

I was listening to A Case Of U last week from the 1983 First Ave show, and now 20 years after that I am hearing it again. This one is different in that it’s not Prince and his guitar, its Prince and his piano. The lyrics are however just as beautiful as ever. Some of the emotion is gone in the performance, but that has been replaced with a very professional smoothness. The rest of the band play quietly behind Prince, but they are loud enough that the lyrics are no longer front and centre. The piano playing does carry more emotion so it is somewhat of a trade-off. I am not convinced that this is a better version, but I can’t deny that it does have a charm to it. It does lose me near the end with the final coda and some quirky sounds. It sabotages the emotion and goodwill that the song had earlier built up.

Another long funk jam next with The Work (Part 1). It has a much more standard sort of sound to it, and to my ears sounds a lot like we hear on Musicology. Its lead by Prince and the horns, and for me it really picks up when Eric Leeds begins to solo. He doesn’t play too wild or loose, but his playing is unexpected and goes in directions I can’t predict. I was going to dismiss this song as not much but the couple of minutes of Eric playing make it all worthwhile. The song drops back a notch as Prince engages the crowd and gets a couple on stage for a dance contest. As I said earlier I do enjoy that he is casual and relaxed with his interactions with the crowd, but it doesn’t always make for great listening here at home. There was a moment that made me smile when Prince tells his audience to get on the two and four, and they go on the one and three. The rest of the audience becomes involved when Prince gets them to sing “Got a lot of work to do”  There is more chat with the crowd as Prince chastises one of them for celebrating their birthday, I feel it’s a little unfair in a public situation, but it is what it is. All in all it’s a fun song, and nice to see Prince at home on stage.

Berlin 2002d

Extraordinary is ordinary. It’s nice sounding, but to be honest it is a Prince ballad by numbers. I like the horn lines in it, and the piano playing is good, but vocally I feel like I have heard it all before. Candy saves the day for me, with some sweet sax that takes the song up a gear. She plays for a couple of minutes before an appreciative cheer from the audience. There is then a piano solo that doesn’t reach the same heights as Candy’s playing. When we return to Prince singing he seems to have found another gear, and I enjoy him singing out far more than I did at the start of the song.

I am far more into Mellow as he plays it. It engages me right from the start and hold me all the way through. I can’t remember the last time I heard this, but I think it’s something I should play more often. The band play smoothly along, with an edge added by the bass and keys. Prince sings around it a lot, and I also find myself drifting back again and again to listen to the flute. Prince’s voice is alluring and I listen to him carefully even though I don’t really know he is singing about. The best part of the song is when he sings alone, and it’s definitely a vocal highlight. A great moment in the show.

I expected 1+1+1=3 to be an extended jam, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as good, and as long as what we have here. Clocking in at over 20 minutes it has plenty of twists and turns. There are some great moments, and also some less than great moments. I like the main groove of the song, and the guitar line playing under it all. Its highlighted for half a minute when the band stop and leave the guitar playing along, before the kick drum comes back in and the song continues. Prince does sing several lines of Housequake, but I am never a fan of when he sings it over other songs. There is a funky moment as the crowd start chanting “we want the funk”. The band briefly stops as the chant continues, before the pounding beat of John Blackwell brings the song back. With some more guitar the band very briefly play Love Rollercoaster, another cover I don’t have much time for, but here it is very short with no singing, and much funkier for it. Later the funk guitar becomes less prevalent and a heavier groove comes from the band as Prince begins to play more lead guitar. There is a further highlight after this with some fantastic horn playing. The song then becomes just a great groove and the band stay on it. The whole thing then lurches into a deep wonderful sounding Berlin jam. The song ends with Prince spelling out Berlin a couple of times over an ominous sounding piano riff. What an amazing jam, and one I won’t tire of for some time.

Berlin 2002e

Dorothy Parker brings things down again. Without the full on audio assault the recording sounds thin on this one. Dorothy Parker is another song that fits in well with this band and its jazz sensibilities. It stretched out more than on album, and after a nice piano interlude Eric Leeds gets some time to solo before Renato comes back with another piano break. It’s inoffensive, but I never get the feeling that it’s anything more. I was hoping the band would go even further with it, but they play it relatively safe. There is big finish with John Blackwell on the drums before a final fade, and by the end I am thinking this is a wasted opportunity for this band to do what they do best. Of course the recording doesn’t do it any favours so perhaps I am being overly harsh.

I perk up when Strollin’ begins. The evening is definitely changing its feel as it progresses. There is a lead guitar break early on that I enjoy, and then the rest of the song is reasonably predictable. The piano break is however a nice touch, and something I hadn’t heard before. There is a sax solo that follows it, adding more colour even if I don’t really like it too much. I have heard much better versions of Strollin on earlier tours, and this one doesn’t compare to them. It’s nice to see it in the set list, a shame it’s not what I expected.

Berlin 2002g

Gotta Broken Heart Again gets off to a slow start, then draws me in once Prince begins to sing. He’s on form here, his vocals are smooth and velvety, until he eases back and Eric Leeds plays a gentle floating solo. Although I would say the recording is good, it is unbalanced, and that is quite apparent here as every time the drum plays it swamps all the other instruments. The best part of the song is when it is just Prince and his piano.

Prince next does his spoken word piece about his strange relationship with radio (I think you know where this is heading). He only speaks a few lines before the band kick into Strange Relationship, and I am very happy as this is one song that always sounds great live. It’s played with great gusto on this recording, and the bass and keyboards in particular are to the fore. Prince seems to derive a lot of energy from the song, and he sings with great enthusiasm. Rhonda gets her moment in the spotlight with the bass groove to end the song, and even though it sounds good, I know that live it would have been even better. I loved hearing it here, I just wish this was a soundboard. It could have gone for longer too, Prince keeps it on a tight leash here before the next song begins.

Berlin 2002h

Things take a guitar turn as Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty, crank this up” as his guitar intro to When You Were Mine begins. This song has never dated to my ears, it still has a freshness to it which is hard to ignore. Prince gives it a standard run through, and his guitar does sound nice and crisp all the way through. His vocals aren’t as full on as I have heard on other recordings but his guitar is what I am listening to on this one. He does play a brief solo as the song reaches the end, but its down in the mix, and I have to listen carefully to get the maximum enjoyment from it.

The guitar is turned up to 11 for the next song as Prince rips into Whole Lotta Love. The opening riff is absolutely iconic and Prince more than does it justice. His falsetto is a surprisingly good suit for the song, and he unleashes some screams and yells that Robert Plant would be proud of. This performance isn’t about the song though, it’s about Prince and his guitar playing ability.  The first couple of minutes is just the entree before Prince turns his guitar up and begins to go wild. This the solo I have been waiting for, it’s completely unhinged, and wild sounding. At two minutes long it actually sounds much longer as there is a lot going on in there, it really is like being in a storm. Near the end of his solo there is a frenzied yell from someone in the crowd who is obviously enjoying it as much as I am. Prince himself ends the solo with a scream, before returning to singing the verses. Princes singing over the breakdown is almost as good as the solo, and a great way to segue into the next song.

Berlin 2002j

The next song is Family Name, and the transition from Whole Lotta Love is dark and brooding as Prince gives a spoken intro about being disconnected from his past. The music does brighten as the band and horns play more, but sadly the song is dragged down by the lyrics. However I do manage to ignore them long enough to enjoy the music and the band. The bass heavy finish is overworked, and my overall feeling by the end is “I’m pleased that’s over”

Take Me With U is far more easy going, and much more familiar for the crowd, I can easily hear them singing during the song. There is a little distortion on the recording, but it’s only a few seconds worth. In all fairness I have probably heard this too many times over the years, and I am by now somewhat jaded. It is however very enjoyable, included the inevitable segue into Raspberry Beret.

Berlin 2002k

Over the opening chords Prince again speaks to the crowd, telling them “Music is art, for it to remain that way it must ask hard questions, and that’s what we’re trying to do tonight”. It has me scratching me head, several times he has talked about asking hard questions, buts it’s hard to know what those questions are. Raspberry Beret is a feel good sing along song for the crowd, they have plenty of chances to sing through the song, and Prince does call for the house lights to be turned on, adding further to the casual atmosphere. The song ends with the crowd singing one final line, and without pause Prince calls the next song.

The Everlasting Now follows, and once again the horns are to the front. Although I am not a great fan of the Everlasting Now, I do find myself dancing and singing along with it. I become even more animated when Prince plays his Santana medley midsong. It’s only for a couple of minutes, and a great couple of minutes they are. Not only Prince and his guitar, there is plenty of horns and keyboards thrown into the mix as well. Prince thanks the crowd as the band plays its way back into the Everlasting now. The latter part of the song is more jam like, and Eric Leeds has another solo. His is the last moment in the song, as his closes his solo, Prince calls “thank you and good night”

Berlin 2002l

Prince resumes with only a piano for company, and begins the next part of the set with an appropriate rendition of One Night Alone. It’s not a song I am overly familiar with, and I find myself really enjoying it on this recording. The lyrics are a nice fit for the beginning of the piano set and as Prince sings “are you ready for one night alone, with me” he segues easily into Adore.

For some reason I don’t immediately recognize it, and I am kicking myself once I pick up the lyrics. Adore has been over played in my house for years, yet it is still a song that I come back to. It was such a big part of my teenage years, and I still appreciate the sentiment and feeling in it, as well as the dash of humour. I find this version a little slight, it is gentle on the piano, and Prince doesn’t push the vocals too hard. The recording is nice and clear without all the band, and the piano set is the cleanest part of the recording. Prince plays a truncated version, there is a section where he scats – skipping some verses, before he brings it gentle to a close with a piano flourish and a final refrain.

Berlin 2002m

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World gets quite a cheer from the crowd, and I am sure more than a few of them are disappointed when Prince sings the opening line before moving on.

Condition Of The Heart really gets my pulse racing. Another long-time favourite, I am over joyed to hear it here. Someone in the audience agrees with me, and there is an audible “Yeah!” from the crowd. He doesn’t play a full version, electing to instead sing the first verse, and then play piano for a minute or so. I can’t complain too much about it, I love what we have here, and it takes me right back.

I could have predicted that Diamonds and Pearls would appear in the piano set, I just didn’t expect it to be quite as short as it is. As is his way, it only gets a brief play, it’s very nice but frustratingly short.

For me things get back on track with a full rendition of The Beautiful Ones. The band are back behind him as he plays, and it’s a shame that the recording loses Prince a shade behind the drums. I enjoy the piano and especially the singing, it’s disappointing the drum beat comes across just too loud in places. The horns play great, especially as a counter point against Princes vocals in the latter part of the song. Prince’s vocals sound a little tired near the end of the song, then again maybe I am being too harsh on one of my favourite songs.

Berlin 2002n

The crowd gives an appreciative cheer to Nothing Compares 2 U, and then goes on to trade lines with Prince through the song. After the first verse/chorus Candy Dulfer comes to the fore with an exquisite sax solo, before Prince comes back for the next verse. The audience is well warmed up by this stage, and singing in strong voice as the song comes to the end. A nice concert moment, and one captured well on the recording.

I was excited when I heard Condition Of The Heart, but I am even more so when I hear the beginning of The Ladder from the same album. This takes on more importance here, as mid-song Prince delivers a monologue that comes back to some of the themes he has already commented on earlier in the evening. The early part of the song is very faithful to what is heard on album, then with a call of “break it down NPG” Prince begins his speech. He speaks of the troubles worldwide (pre 9/11) He urges the crowd to stop looking at the differences between people and concentrate on the similarities. He talks for some time, before ending with “Naw, I didn’t come to preach, but I gotta get that out” and then gets the crowd on board for a singalong of the chorus. It’s actually very uplifting, and with Eric Leeds again playing it’s a classic concert moment.

I was thinking it would be a fantastic way to close the show, and then Prince goes on to play Starfish And Coffee. Although very short, it’s a very sweet song and again showcases another one of Princes famous piano songs.

Berlin 2002o

Sometimes It Snows In April follows, and I am loving how many of these old songs Prince is pulling out. He doesn’t over play it, with just him and the piano with the merest sound of the band behind him. His voice is as smooth as you could expect, and I just close my eyes and enjoy the moment. I am surprised that the crowd doesn’t try to sing along with the final few lines, they are respectfully silent to the end. Prince finishes the song to a round of applause, before beginning to play more on the piano.

He begins by telling the crowd “I always say I ain’t gonna play this song, and I always end up playing it anyway. I’m just trying to move on with my life” He then speaks for another couple of lines, before playing the opening chords of Purple Rain on the piano. There is a quiet cheer from the crowd and then the band comes in. Although not a great version, it is still very enjoyable. As the crowd sings the chorus you can hear him beginning to work the guitar, and it’s far more audible as the second verse begins. Then with a simple “good night” he begins to solo. As much as I sometimes tire of Purple Rain, I always find something to enjoy in the solo. This one proves true to form, it manages to be as I expect, but still with a twist or turn for me to latch onto. Prince rallies the crowd with a final speech before they sing as one voice “ooohh, ooohh, ooohh” The song and the show end with Prince “peace and be wild” before the final sounds of the keys and the strings à la the album recording.

I knew there was a good reason I remembered this one – it was a long long show. Covering almost 3 CD’s, it was worth the time invested in it to take a listen, my only recommendation would be don’t try and blog about it. The show was a good representation of the ONA tour, and I really got a lot of enjoyment out of listening to some of the songs thrown into the set-list. This configuration of the NPG was very versatile and worked well with some of his more jazz infused songs heard here and for that I applaud them. Even though it was a good recording rather than great, it never overly detracted from my enjoyment. It was worth every minute.

See you next time
Hamish

 

New Years Eve 1987 with Miles Davis

As far as Prince bootlegs go, 1987 is a stellar year.  Starting with the Sign O The Times warm up show at First Ave, through the tour itself, the excellent after shows of Le New Morning, Park café and Fineline café, there is a good variety of shows available and some of them are of outstanding quality. The year of 1987 is capped off with one more legendry boot, the New Year’s Paisley Park show, where the iconic Miles Davis joins Prince and the band onstage. Prince had experimented with jazz the previous two years, and one feels that having Miles on stage with him meant a lot to him and his art.  Miles doesn’t feature through the whole show, and the show itself isn’t as jazz infused as some of the other shows that year, but it’s still great to see his interaction with Prince and the band onstage. The show is an interesting mix, there is some standard renditions as we had heard throughout the tour, but things get more interesting near the end as the band indulge in a long jam that incorporates all sorts of songs.  The recording is missing the first few songs which is unfortunate, but what we do get more than makes up for it.

31 December, 1987, Paisley Park.

 

1987 New Year Prince 8

I have been a little hard on Shelia E and her drum solos in previous posts, but this show jumps in just as she is beginning one of her solos, and to be fair it is very good. Maybe it’s because I can see her playing, and the passion and efforts she puts into it.  We hear the very end of Jack U Off as the recording cuts in, and I assume it’s played very much as the Fineline Café gig I previously wrote about. The drum break starts off slow, it almost has a sound check quality to it as she works her away around the kit. But then it does pick up pace as it goes along, and I especially love the sound the snare has on it. Just as the drum solo reaches its peak the sound of Hot Thing cuts in, but I think this is just an error, and it it quickly stops as Shelia continues. There is a very passionate moment as she crashes away on the cymbals, forgoing sticks just to smash away with her hands. I love seeing that sort of thing, and it is the peak as the band rejoin for another quick refrain of Jack U Off lead by Eric Leeds. The song comes to a conclusion rather fittingly with the band gathered around the drum riser as Shelia drums the end.

1987 New Year Prince

Immediately after we do get Hot Thing. If you have seen the Sign O The Times movie then this one contains no surprises for you, as it is very faithful to what we have heard throughout the Sign O The Times tour. Prince engages in plenty of dancing, and even rips off Cats dress as seen in the Sign O The Times movie. The band is sounding tight, there is not a loose moment in the whole song. I can’t get excited about it, its much as I have heard before,  but the onstage fun with Cat and Prince is worthwhile and does brighten it up.

1987 New Year Prince 1

The bass line of If I Was Your Girlfriend sounds fantastic as it begins. This song is a masterpiece, and like all the best Prince performances he draws it out, milking every second. The intro with the drum beat, hypnotic bass and organ goes for a good few minutes, and I could listen to it all night long. Prince sings it looking very casual with one hand in the pocket, but his delivery is sublime. There is a nice sound to it, a little echo which lends it the lonely sound. Prince is full of character as he speaks the lines midsong about going to the movies etc, but he returns to his excellent singing voice without skipping a beat. Again, as per Sign Of The Time movie, he picks out Cat midsong and lures her away. With the main focus removed I find my self enjoying Eric and Dr Finks playing, until it pulls back to the bare beat and the song finishes.

1987 New Year Prince 2

The organ refrain that begins Let’s Go Crazy is one that I always associate with this tour. As one keyboard holds a long sustained note, the other plays a sound that rocks back and forth. Its something I have heard between other songs about this time, and its something I like. Prince then picks up his guitar and we get a traditional sounding Lets Go Crazy. The first half of it fails to connect with me, but Prince ditches the usual song about half way and begins a long guitar break. This also starts leaving me cold, but the second part of the break is certainly a lot better and he plays some wild sounding licks. I don’t enjoy the “go go go” chants with the crowd, its a little tired and the audience doesn’t seem to respond very well to them either. Perhaps Prince realises this, because he shakes his head, and says “No no” before the band pick up again and Prince gives us the classic ending to Lets Go Crazy, head thrown back and guitar howling.

1987 New Year Prince 3

Another Purple Rain era song follows with When Doves Cry. This one I find very satisfying, there is plenty of horn early on, before the stripped back verses. The keyboard is a little quiet for my tastes, but this is compensated by another great vocal delivery by Prince. I wouldn’t have guessed that the horns could add much to this, but they do slot in nicely to the song. There is a lot of dancing by Prince and the others later in the song, its an abridged version played here, we get a verse and a chorus, followed by a minute or so of dancing before it finishes up. Short and sweet as they say, but still very worthwhile.

1987 New Year Prince 4

Purple Rain itself gets a very full on treatment at this show, there is plenty of Dr Fink playing before Prince walks on stage with the cloud guitar, playing the melody of Auld Lang Syne. Its a great moment, and the sound of it played on Princes guitar sits very well on the keyboards of Purple rain. Prince says “one more” then plays it again on the guitar as the crowd wave their arms. Another call of “one more” and he gives it to us a third time, and every time is very good, and really worth hearing. Even as he plays it a forth time I am not tired of it, he improvises a little, and its the type of Prince playing that I like to see more off.The call of “Bring it down” and we strip back to the keyboards and drums softly playing. At this stage a technician hands Prince a rope to release balloons over the crowd, but there is a malfunction and it doesn’t come off. For years I only had an audio recording of this, and I didn’t know what was going on, especially when Prince says “Matthew, come get your rope”. But after seeing it, I understand much better. Prince then attempts to sing Auld Lang Syne but its nowhere near as good as his guitar playing of it, mostly because its apparent that he doesn’t know the words beyond the first couple of lines, fading to “la la la” after this. The crowd doesn’t save him, and when Prince sings again “Should old acquaintances be forgot” he ruefully smiles and say “(I) know that part”. There is then a few moments as the music progresses Prince goes to one side to release the balloons and there is a beautiful solo played by Miko. I always associate Miko with a slippery dirty funky sound, but this guitar break was a revelation to me, its just great. Its not a fast rock solo, just a sharp sounding crisp break. Prince takes command soon after this and we finally get the verses and choruses of Purple Rain, complete with Princes crunching guitar. The rest of his guitar solo is standard for Purple Rain, but it is very enjoyable indeed, even for someone like myself who has heard Purple Rain hundreds of times.

1999 seems strangely out of place. Its sounds clean, but there isn’t any fire in it. Prince keeps it very short, there is the opening verse, a chorus and then have the ‘party” chanting outro. The horns riff keeps it sharp, but apart from that there isn’t much for me.

1987 New Year Prince 5

We return to the rocking back and forth sound of the keyboards as the stage goes dark. This is played out for a minute, and as I said before I really like it as it sets the tone for what comes next. The beat of U Got The Look and the rhythm guitar sound as Prince takes a minute to ham it up with the crowd. He has his guitar but as he sings he doesn’t initially play it, so we just have as less strong rhythm guitar which negates some of the rockiness that I sometimes tire of in this song. After a couple of verse chorus he does begin to play in a loud crunching way as he climbs atop the piano. Its a very showman moment as the dancers go through their routines as Prince plays rock god over them all. And so the song ends in this manner, with Prince waving over the band, and a “thank you, good night”

1987 New Year Prince 6

There is a break about now, as the band leave the stage. Its a good few minutes they are gone, and knowing what is coming I can understand why.  What comes next is extraordinary, and I am not sure that writing about it can ever do it justice. They return to the stage for a 30 minute rendition of Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, with Miles Davis, and incorporating everything except the kitchen sink. Anyway I shall do my best to give a brief outline. The song begins as we heard on the Sign O The Times tour, and after the first part there is some fun dancing with Prince, before he takes to the drum stool as Shelia E delivers her rap. Her delivery is fast and accurate and I love watching the band dancing as she sings. Prince too is sounding good, and its fantastic to see him on the drums for an extended period. Soon after Cat dances everyone to the ground Prince steps down from the drums and its time for the keys to have a solo. The whole performance has a lot of joy to it, Prince sings to the crowd about his brand new dance, and Eric Leeds plays a little of Six before it quietens as Miles Davis enters and begins to play. How to describe this moment? To see Miles stalking across the stage and playing next to Miko is fantastic and I am a total fanboy throughout the whole time he is playing. Its not what he is playing, its just the sound of his horn and seeing him play with that band. Prince scats against his playing for a little, but I preferred just to hear Miles play alone for some more. As Miles continues Prince throws some cues to the band and they play around him. Miles steps back into the shadows as the snare comes down hard and Prince cues the band into the next section. He directs the band through several different dances and refrains before he speaks to the crowd  “someone tell me I ain’t got the funkiest band in show business, we will take on all comers” Finally we hear Boni and she blows her way through Chain Of Fools, and sounding powerful all the way.  The band is absolutely seamless and I have to agree with Princes sentiments about his band.  Boni gives way to any excellent solo by Eric Leeds before Prince indulges in some grooves on the organ. The band really hit their stride at this point, Eric is killing it on sax while the band keep the groove going. Prince stops the band to tell the crowd “we the best” before he cues them in again and they hit a faster groove. Prince does very little playing at this stage, he is in total control as band leader and runs the band through their paces and dancing around the stage. There is several stops and starts, and the band move effortlessly through several different grooves. My mouth is open the whole time, its mind blowing to watch, this band is unstoppable. Prince has me laughing when he tells the audience they are going to be jamming 20 more minutes “..on the same song!” He then proceeds to be true to his word as the band continue on and on. Prince has me laughing again when he say “you’ll expect an awful lot for $200.” Perhaps my favourite part of the jam is what comes next, Prince takes a couple of minutes playing at the piano. Just the sharp sound of the piano over the heavy groove, its the contrast that makes it all sound so good. The last five minutes Prince throws in everything you could imagine, there is lyrics and horn lines from all sorts thrown into the mix, and it all works until we return the Beautiful night riff that started all of this. With a final call of “Confusion” Prince brings the show and this brilliant jam to an end.

1987 New Year Prince 7

What a great way to end the year 1987. This recording is a favourite among prince fans, and I have to go with the general consensus on this one, it’s very much a must have. The band is on top of their game, coming off a fantastic year, and this show is the icing on the cake. The fact that Miles is there gives it just a little more shine, and I feel it means a lot to Prince having him there. This is one that I will come back to again and again. If anyone every doubted Princes genius just check this one out.

Take care

Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fineline Cafe, MPLS 1987

Following on from last week’s post about the excellent soundboard recording of the Munich Park Cafe show, I have decided to go with a similar show from later that year. The Fineline cafe show in Minneapolis shares many similarities with the Park Cafe show. Both are heavy with the sound of Eric Leeds, and both have long jazzy styled jams. Of the two, the Fineline show is a shade more conventional and a little less Madhouse sounding. Where they do differ greatly is the sound quality of the recording. Whereas the Park Cafe was a lovely warm sounding soundboard, this one is very much an average audience recording, complete with people talking over the music. However, it’s still worth a listen. This takes place just a few weeks before the New Year’s gig with Miles Davis, and one gets the feeling that this is a live rehearsal for that show. The band are very loose and free with their playing, and there is a lot of improvisation going on.

5th December 1987, Fineline Cafe, Minneapolis

The first song isn’t really a song at all. It’s a long instrumental that sounds part soundcheck, part warm up. It begins rather shapeless, with just some keyboard sounds, and some drum rolls. The drum does settle to a steady beat, but it’s quiet, and it takes quite a while for any sort of music to take shape around it. The bass does join in and things improve at the five minute mark when we hear the horn for the first time. The first part of this didn’t interest me, but I do enjoy the sound from here on in. The drumming becomes more intense as the song progresses, and there is some stabs from the keyboard that add urgency to it. However these fade back out again and the next minute of the song is very faint and barely moving at all. The last portion has some guitar playing against the drums, but it not enough to turn it into anything memorable. There is nothing offensive about this opening part of the show, but there’s nothing to really get excited about either.

Prince hornz 1987

Madhouses Eleven follows next, and it’s very much in keeping with the theme of this show. Eric holds the main riff nicely, and the band chug along behind just great. This song would benefit the most from a quality recording, and despite all the great playing it is let down by the recording.  It’s no surprise that Eric Leeds is the main focus of this song, but there is some nice guitar underneath played by Prince, and when Atlanta Bliss gets his chance to play he adds some sharpness to the deeper sound of Eric Leeds. There is a cheer from the crowd to acknowledge this, and then there is some rather funky lead guitar played by Prince. I can’t stress enough how good this could have been on a better recording, I can hear the music is great, but it’s just let down by the recording. There is some keyboard runs which I enjoy as well but they are a little lost in the recording. I did play it louder to try and get more out of it, but all I got was more chatter from the crowd.

The band segues easily into a longer deeper groove as there is further improvisation from the keyboards and horns. The keyboard is enjoyable, and I could of done with some more of it, but the horn solo is the main dish here, and it doesn’t let me down. It’s not to everyone’s taste, as can be evidenced by the crowd talking throughout, but for me it’s worth listening to. Prince is very subdued in this first half hour of the show, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is a Prince show.

The band settle into another quiet bass groove and for the first time Prince really makes his presence felt with some howling electric guitar. Against the different backdrop of music his playing seems to draw more attention and I love what he is playing here. It is a version of Jimi Hendrix’s Villanova junction. And although it’s the shortest song we have heard tonight, it is the one that captures my ears the most and demands I listen to it.

Prince Eric Leeds

The band then begin to play Eleven again, the horn riff now embedded deep in my head. However it’s only for a minute and quickly fades to nothing.

The solo sound of Princes guitar playing leads us into the next song. He begins delicately, in contrast to the Villanova junction, and soon the gentle croon of the horns and keyboard wrap around us for a version of Just My Imagination. There are several classic performances of this song, and again this is another one of my favourites. Nothing is too sharp and Princes guitar lures me in, and soon I am cocooned in the warm sounding music. Princes does take his time, and delivers us plenty of guitar in the first half of the song, before it inexplicably fades out. Of course it’s the recording that fades out, not the band, but it’s one of those frustrating moments we sometimes get when listening to bootlegs. The recording does pick up again, and even though Prince is playing well, the recording itself has lost momentum for me. That aside though, Princes playing is so good at this stage, that I still find the last few minutes of the song to be amongst my favourite recordings of all time, Prince is playing with a quiet passion and intensity that I have rarely heard on any other recording. It’s far from perfect but for me it’s a moment of genius and something I will come back to again and again. And that is high praise indeed for a grubby sounding audience recording. It’s pretty hard to follow a Prince solo like that, but the keyboard gives it a good go. It’s not great, but it’s just as enjoyable as anything else on this recording.

The next song is listed as bass solo, and although I would call the first half a bass solo in the conventional sense, the second part of the song is little more than the bass and drum playing beats off one another. The first half though is again very enjoyable without ever reaching great. The bass has a good pop to it, and I did find myself bobbing along to it. But it was only a couple of minutes, and by the time I was just getting into it, it was fading out again. Still, it shows off another side to the band, and added some variety and colour to the gig.

SOTT 1987

Next is a straightforward rendition of Miles Davis’s Freddie Freeloader. It’s a firm pointer to what is coming in the next few weeks when he will join the band for the New Year’s show. It’s fairly low key, and gives the audience plenty of time to carry on their conversations. The audience does briefly quieten when Prince begins his guitar runs, but soon they lose interest and return to their chatting, much to the detriment of the recording. Lucky there is a few moment when Prince leans hard on the guitar and gets some loud sound from it which drowns out the audience, although briefly. And surprisingly after Prince has finished his moment there is a piano solo which the crowd are reasonably quiet for. It’s a perfectly acceptable jazzy flavoured solo with a couple of flourishes to colour it. Eric then returns with Atlanta Bliss and it’s the two horns that take us through the second part of the song, firstly the trumpet, and then the deep honk of Eric Leeds as a full stop.

I do a double take as I hear the melody of Jack U Off. But to his credit, it’s played with twist here, there is plenty of horns on it, and it’s got a much bluesier sound. It’s still up-tempo and quick, but has a more grown up feel to it with the horns on it. The guitar is barely heard at all, and there is a horn solo instead of a guitar solo. The keyboards too play a very fast break and I am really liking them a lot, before Prince picks up a guitar and the more familiar electric sound returns to the song. His guitar break isn’t as furious as on record, but it does have a looser feel to it, and it definitely a lot more mature.

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The drum solo that follows is almost obligatory sounding. It doesn’t in my opinion add anything to the show, and it almost seems that they are just giving the Shelia E something in payment for all the moments the rest of the band got to solo. Anyone who reads this regularly knows that I am not a great one for drum solos, and this one fails to change my standing on that. Sure, there are plenty of fine skills to admire, and I do find myself nodding along to it, but it’s not what I signed up for. So I listen appreciatively until the next song starts. Things surge again as the drum solo ends, and there is one more very fast and furious reprise of Jack U Off, lead by the horns. And when I say fast and furious I mean it, this one flies along at breakneck speed until the sudden ends gives us all a chance to catch our breath.

Chain Of Fools is recognisable right from the start as the guitar plays the main melody. The horns interject with the Cold Sweat riff, but this song is all about that guitar. The lead guitar plays out the melody then branches out into more interesting territory. It’s got a fantastic tone to it, and I can’t help but again wish that this was a soundboard. Oh well, it is what it is. Not to be outshone the horns then again come on-board, and they too add another dimension to it. They aren’t too sharp and play along over the main groove. There is some funky guitar at this stage, but it’s just holding the groove while the horns play. Its gets it moment again soon as the horns step back and some slow smokey guitar sounds are heard. What is really great about this gig is how the musicians play off each other. Whenever Prince plays a solo on the guitar, the horns come up with something in the same vein that pushes it even further. There is a deep smokey guitar solo, followed by a similar sounding horn solo that by the end of it has doubled the intensity. It’s a wonder to listen to.

Eric Leeds

The music pulls back a little and we very gentle move into Housequake. It’s not immediately apparently, as it’s a very gradual transition from Chain Of Fools. Eventually Prince is on the mic whispering “almost there, shut up already” It’s a cool moment, but even then the song doesn’t kick into Housequake proper. The deep groove continues, and it’s only after another minute we hear the kicking beat of Housequake. There is a further horn solo while the crowd can be heard chanting “shut up already” Even with the Housequake beat it would be hard to describe this as a version of Housequake. It’s an extension of the previous song, with some more horn and the Housequake beat only features a few times, before making a much stronger appearance near the end of the song. There is a horn refrain thrown in too, and I am greatly disappointed when the recording abruptly ends.

So, what to make of this show? Last week I gushed about the Park Cafe show, for all its quality and musicality. After relistening to this one, and considering, I would have to say that this one would be its equal, if it had have been recorded in the same manner. Unfortunately it’s not, the recording is nowhere near as good. So I can only go by what I have. This is one of a number of shows I have that are simply amazing, but recorded in poor condition. I highly rate this show, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the Park Cafe show, and can stomach an audience recording. This show is one of the reasons why I don’t dismiss audience recordings, there are some fantastic shows out there, if you can suffer through the dropouts, and chatter. This one is not for the faint hearted, but still highly recommended.

Next week I will finish this trilogy of shows, Park Cafe, Fineline cafe, with the New Year show with Miles Davis. These last two shows seem to point naturally enough in that direction, and an evening with Miles Davis seems a fitting way to end the year.

Share if you care

Hamish

 

 

 

Park Café Aftershow, Munich

Its days like this that make me the Prince fan that I am. Just when I think I have heard all that is good and great, a surprise recording surfaces that leaves me shaking my head at both the brilliance of Prince and quality of recording. The Park Cafe aftershow has been in high rotation at my place since it surfaced, and I am amazed that such a recording exists. After 28 years, for it to appear is like finding a lost treasure. The quality of the recording is high, and there is a couple of special things for us to enjoy and appreciate. Firstly it’s a Prince aftershow tacked onto the end of a Madhouse performance. That sound and style permeates through the show, and Prince gives us some of his more experimental and jazzy sounds. Also, his father makes an appearance, playing piano on one of the tracks. Although I am not blown away by his performance, I do acknowledge that to have a recording of Prince and his father playing together live is pretty cool. The recording starts with a few songs from the  Madhouse set. Normally I would skip over them when writing to concentrate on the Prince songs, but I will take the time to write about them today, as I think they are an important part of the recording.

21 May, 1987, Park Cafe, Munich

The first thing we hear on the recording is a crisp drum roll, before the piano and sax start on a nice circular motif, and we get an excellent sounding Two. I am immediately struck by the clarity of the recording, maybe I have been listening to too many audience recordings of late. It does sound good indeed, and I especially notice that I can hear the vibration and buzz of the cymbals in particular. After the initial circular loop of early in the song, Eric Leeds becomes more expressive. As much as I enjoy his playing in Princes shows, here I find even more to enjoy in his playing. He feels a little lighter and doesn’t seem to push as hard as he does on the Prince songs. There is a nice break midsong, where it is just him alone, and the crowd is noticeably appreciative. He does play well here, and after the band come back in behind Dr Fink plays and equally impressive and electric sounding keyboard solo. It’s a nice contrast to the piano we hear through the song, and I actually liked the synthy solo better than any other keyboard work I hear in the song. The songs ends soon after to a soft applause from the audience.

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Three follows, as you might have guessed. It has a much more traditional sound to it, and is again lead by Eric Leeds playing some smoky sounding sax. The rest of the band don’t do too much behind him, they just lay a platform for his more relaxed noodling’s. It very much has a summer’s day feel to it, and I am transported away. But in the larger scheme of things, it is just a touch too traditional sounding for my tastes, and I do find myself drifting away by the end.

In A Sentimental Mood is very well named indeed, it is accurately described in the title. It’s all Eric Leeds, and the sound of his horn does sound suitably sentimental. I am impressed at his ability to convey sentimentality in his playing, even if I am not feeling that way inclined myself. It’s only a couple of minutes, but well worth the listen.

Sixteen is probably my favourite Madhouse song played on the night. I love the saxophone refrain, it conjures up all sorts of images of adventures past. There is something fun in the sound of it, and as much as I love Eric’s playing on it, I feel Dr Fink just edges him with another cool synth solo. The organic sound of the horn plays off great against the electric futuristic sound of Dr Finks keyboard.  The main refrain returns before Eric plays some crazy buzzing lines that really make me hot. Not to be outdone Dr Fink also plays some wild sounding passages, and the effect is dizzying. I am disappointed when like all good things it comes to an end.

A Conversation is the title of the next song, and at this point I am in heaven. The song begins with a soft drum roll, and then the drummer playing a light cymbal run. The sound is very familiar to me, it very much has the sound of the drum opening on the Small Club gig a year later. The drum sound on this recording has that classic familiar sound from these years. I become further interested when I hear the sound of a guitar. I presume now that it is Prince playing. His playing is very slight, just a few notes here and there. It’s Eric Leeds who starts it proper, with a couple of minutes of him playing alone over the sparse music. It has a very cool atmosphere to it, you can hear the music slowly build, a chord every now and then from the keyboard, slowly adding more and more layers. The bass has a simple yet alluring loop going underneath, and it gives Eric and the other players a good platform to play over. Most of Eric’s playing is sharp and steady, but occasionally he lets forth a blast that keeps me guessing. At the seven minute mark the much stronger guitar sound of Prince enters. His playing has an electric quality to it, and the closest thing I can compare it to would be the opening song of the Small Club gig. His guitar has the same tone and sharpness to it, but is more relaxed and held in check here. He doesn’t get too extravagant with his playing, and it heightens the tight feel of the song. Prince finishes his playing and some more synth sounds are played. As with the guitar, it’s not fast or furious, it’s quick and tight. The song moves up a notch from here, the drum takes on a more urgent pounding beat as the horn and piano start a groove, before the guitar again comes to the fore. This time the guitar is stronger and more insistent- the playing is quicker, louder and cold. After a time the guitar eases up as the sax hits a nice refrain, which sounds more like a hook you would expect to hear in a more traditional song. Prince’s voice is heard for the first time at this stage, as he calls for sax solo. The music is intense at this stage, but after the sax solo the sound pulls back and Princes introduces Atlanta Bliss for a trumpet solo. The jam has already taken several twists and turns but there is more to come as I hear the sound of a heavy funk guitar. It doesn’t last long, and I think it been put on the back burner, but soon after I hear it again, and it continues for much longer as the song wind downs. The song ends with a steady beat on the drums and a minute of funky guitar with more horn. The song finally stops and I want to walk outside, raise my arms and say “Oh GOD YES!!”  The 20 minutes of this song had everything I love, lots of changes in direction, a little experimental, a little jazzy. If this was all we got I would be a happy man, but there is so much more to come.

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It takes me a second to register where I have heard the horn riff from, as the next song starts. There is a dog bark sample which we know well, but it distracts me for a minute. Prince plays some Stevie Wonder sounding keyboards and I click that it is Strange Relationship. I thought the last song was great, but this one, although different in style, is its equal. The keyboards have an innate funky sound to them and really bounce. The horns and guitar are very well placed in the mix, and add colour without ever being out front. Strange Relationship is brilliant on record, but live it’s a monster. Prince curses as he says “I bet you wish this was a fuckin movie” and after so long of listening to the modern clean Prince it sounds like strong profanity indeed, The song becomes a jam as it reaches the “yeah, yeah” section, and there is a cool moment when Prince manages to drop the word ‘Leviticus” into the song. Now that is genius! A few moments after there is a very brief drum break, with a few quick rolls, before we go into more “yeah, yeahs” as the funky keys continue with Prince saying all kinds of crazy talk. He calls Levi for a half a minute, before he puts a snare on it, and there is some subtle funky guitar lines playing. It’s very much a typical Prince jam, with a few turn arounds, a false ending or two, and a long groove. The song continues with Prince and the band sing faster and faster until we speed into the next song.

Another long jam, this is also suitably called Groove In F (an argument). There is some tight bass and guitar work in the introduction before a horn loop begins. This beat is humming along quite quickly, its up-tempo all the way. The horn is replaced by the keyboard. It’s not over playing, just some long notes. I have already said that several things at this show were very typical Prince, and this definitely falls into that territory. It sounds like many of the rehearsal jams I have heard Prince and his band play. A nice quick beat and a horn refrain, with the keys filling out the other spaces. It’s different from the jams he plays live, where every player playing a solo, like I said it’s much more like the rehearsal jams we hear. There is a cool choppy sound I hear, but I can’t decide if it’s the bass or a keyboard, I need to hear it a few more time to decide- but that’s not going to be too taxing for me. There is a rhythm guitar running underneath, but the main sound of the song is the horns and the keyboard. The end catches me off guard, as it just suddenly stops and there is plenty of cheers from the crowd.

Prince1987c

There is then a longish break, with lots of calls for more, before the hand clapping settles into a steady rhythm. There is the sound of a drum playing along quietly, but I can’t decide if it’s onstage very quietly, of someone in the crowd is banging something. Eventually the crowd becomes more vocal, and it’s obvious we are about to get more. Prince is on the microphone, he apologizes to the crowd “Sorry I had to leave, it was too funky in here” There is some gentle patter, then the downbeat keyboard of Dorothy Parker takes us into the next part of the show. Princes singing is up-sounding here, and quite bright against the darker music. It works well for me, I do like it a lot. The horns also sound bright on the song, there is a very quick piano solo, which gets drawn out into a second section. It’s all very sharp, but short. Even with the sound of extra pieces thrown in, it still finishes at four minutes.

I fail to recognize Just My Imagination when it starts. It’s heavy on synth and piano, and has a great sound to it. The synth plays strongly, while a piano improvises over the top. It’s not what I expected when I first saw the song listed, but it exceeds my expectations. I love it as the band play on and on in this way. It’s almost disappointing when Prince begins to sing, as he sings it’s still the piano I am listening for. His singing is fine and delicate, but almost too delicate for the heavier keyboard and piano, and I tend to drift away from listening to his melody too much. The recording is very good, I notice here as his voice interacts with the backing vocals, I can pick them out from each other well. There is a fantastic horn solo right after Prince finishes the verses. As the music swells underneath it adds a nice sharp counter point to it. Eric Leeds is a great foil to Prince, and he is on top of his game at this show. The song fades out with another chorus refrain, before a heavy guitar comes to the front.

Prince calls Blues In G, and that is exactly what he delivers. It’s a sharper guitar than we normally get when he plays the blues. It’s playing a much higher and stronger sound, yet I can still hear the piano banging away underneath. Things take an interesting turn when Prince calls “ehhh!, substitution” and a very different piano sound is heard. It’s his father playing, and his style is sharply different from anything else we have heard this evening. While the bass walks along nicely, he keeps the piano banging and sings several verses. He does call for Little Steven, and we get a guitar solo. There is some interplay between the guitar and piano, but it doesn’t greatly excite me. The song goes on for another minute, but it never really connects with me. I rate this song very high for novelty value- featuring both John L Nelson and Little Steven, but musically it didn’t do anything for me. I hate to say it, but this is the weakest part of the recording.

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“What we gonna do now Prince?” Levi asks Prince.  “Whatever it is, it got to be funky” is the reply, as the familiar intro of Housequake begins. The horns are somewhat subdued on the song, and it is played straight. It does have a fun feel to it, but there isn’t anything new in it for me to listen to. I do enjoy the band interaction, the sound of the interplay between Prince and his singers is joyful to listen to. I don’t know what more I could want for it, it is a classic song, no doubt, but I always want a little more from it when I hear it live. After some of the jams we had earlier in the show, it’s surprising that this is so short, and Prince doesn’t play with it at all. It comes to an abrupt end with Prince closing the show with a simple “Thank you, bye bye”

It’s impossible for me to write about this show objectively. I have been playing it a lot, I love the fact that it’s a new leak, that it’s got novelty value, that it’s got some great jams and of course I love the fact that it is a soundboard. It will be sometime before I can look back and see how it fits in the wider Prince canon, until then it’s going to be constantly on my stereo. Is it one of the greats? -take a listen and decide for yourself.

The last couple of weeks have been very good to us fans, so much to listen to recently. I feel reinvigorated, and have plenty more to write about.

Thanks for joining us on this journey
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

Warfield Theatre, 1988 Aftershow

I haven’t heard or read many people talking about this recording, but it is a gig and a recording I really like. Aftershows throw up a wide variety of songs, and no two are ever alike. This one has several songs that appear on numerous other recordings, but also a couple of others that aren’t played as often, and these are the ones that really make me excited about this recording. The recording is muted, but clear, but it is short- clocking in at just over an hour. But a very enjoyable hour it was indeed.

11 November 1988  Warfield theatre, San Francisco

Like many other Prince gigs, this starts with a steady beat. Just the drums playing a relatively simple beat. There is just a touch of bass, but I don’t recognize it at first, until there is a loud cheer from the crowd and Prince starts to sing Positivity. The keys enter at the same time, and even though it’s somewhat quiet, it’s an excellent start to the gig. It’s hard for me to give an unbiased opinion about this song. Lovesexy is regarded as the highest creative peak, in terms of albums, that Prince ever reached. And I know that for many people, their favorite song on the album is Anna Stesia. I love Anna Stesia too, but I also have an equal amount of love for Positivity. Its tone and mood captures my imagination, and there is all sort of interesting moments in it that excite me. So for me, to have it open this show is fantastic, and I am all in right from the start. The song gets better and better as it progresses. The keyboard gets louder, and more clunky. After a quiet first verse, Prince sings the second verse much more full throated, and it has a nice full sound to it. It’s more human and not as mechanical as it sounds on the record. There are plenty of cheers (some of them might be from me on the couch) as a long sax solo begins. Ah yes, Eric Leeds, no need to tell you again how much I love his playing. He finishes one solo, there is a brief pause by Prince, and then he calls for another solo from Eric. Not a word of complaint from me, I could listen to this stuff all day. The song then moves into a form more in line from the album, with plenty of Princes singing. He’s not as cool and laid back as you might expect, and the song is so much stronger. The bass too is not so buried in the mix, and it well heard in the last couple of minutes. With a “Hold on to your soul” the song comes to an end. What a brilliant opening to the show.

The muted chord progression of Dorothy Parker begins. I am only listening to the show, but already in my mind I picture it as a dark smoky type of gig. Both these songs have that sound to them. Dorothy Parker sounds good, there is some nice horn and piano playing, and a great moment when Prince ad-libs “Mind if I turn on the radio, Madhouse was on!” This is followed by a piano break, which has a cool jazzy feel to it, as you might imagine. The horns and piano are what this one is about, the horns never dominate, but they do add a lot of color. The song drops down a bit, and over a repetitive couple of chords the sax plays for a while. It’s a very cool couple of minutes, I can’t properly describe it, but to me it sounds like this picture looks……

Piet Mondrian broadway boogiewoogie

Prince sounds pretty relaxed as he thanks the crowd for coming out, and tells them “this beats hanging out at the hotel watching Letterman” He immediately begins Housequake, and this is again a very strong version. He sounds like his heart is really in it on this night, and his vocals are quite impassioned. The band is very cohesive on this one, and there is nothing loose or wild about it. The horn solo is brief and tight, and it played as heard on Sign O Times. It’s no bad thing at all, and this is one of my favorite renditions of this song. Not that there’s anything special about it, just its played with a lot of heart. Later in the song things become a little more exciting, there is a couple of ad-libs from Prince, and the band begin to swing off a shade more. It has a funky false ending, before Prince calls the band back for a finally couple of lines.

Prince then says “I think I want to play guitar” and we are treated to some beautiful lead guitar. He’s warming up, and playing some nice lead lines. With a hushed “one, two” the familiar sound of Just My Imagination begins. The first couple of minutes of guitar set the bar high, and it’s almost disappointing when the song begins proper. Princes’ singing is warm and inviting, and I find myself falling under his spell as I listen to this. The guitar break is equally alluring, and it draws me in slowly before Prince begins to crank up the pressure. This is one of my favorite renditions of Just My Imagination; the guitar break is passionate, but not too fast or furious. Prince sounds like he is holding back but it sounds great. I especially like what comes next- some very impassioned singing of Noon Rendezvous by Prince. It takes me a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but when I realize what it is I am blown away. I love it when he sings “I don’t care what you got on your feet baby, I just want to meet you, I just want to greet you, I just want to take off all your clothes and eat you”. Oh yes, we miss you a lot ‘Dirty Prince’. There is a loud cheer as the song ends, but I don’t think the audience realize just how great that was!

Prince 1988 1

There is the sound of some lead guitar next, before the more relaxed sound of I’ll Take You There begins. The crowd sound as if they are enjoying it, there is plenty of handclapping, and a couple of whoops as Boni sings. I like the little guitar I can hear, but what I enjoy most is the singing of Boni. Usually I find it hard to get into a song that Prince himself isn’t singing, but today I find myself enjoying this one a lot. There is a few minutes of the singers repeating “I’ll take you there” while some nice guitar is played underneath by Miko. Nothing too heavy or in your face, just some nice funky rhythm. Things pick up after this and Boni and the music both start pushing much harder. The song ends abruptly, but I think it’s my recording rather than the band itself.

‘Take this beat, I don’t mind’ starts us into I wish U Heaven part 3 (Take this beat). Another favorite of mine from this period, it’s played nice and upbeat, with plenty of funk. Prince is sounding like he is enjoying it a lot, and sings “I gave you Levi, you don’t want him” a few times, before there is a great break for the bass. It gets better and faster as it goes, and it shows off some of Levis talents nicely. Now the band really begins to jam. Boni sings and we move into Cold Sweat. It’s played as we have heard before, pretty much the same as The Small Club gig. The band and Boni more than do it justice here, and its part of a much longer medley.

Next “Ladies and Gentlemen, on the drums, Prince!” He plays an enjoyable drum break, nothing too spectacular but it shows off plenty of his skills. The bass joins in after a bit, and there is a brief jam. Again, it all sounds very good, but there is nothing spectacular. A sharp “on the two” ends Princes time on the drum before the very Shelia E percussive sound begins.

Shelia E’s solo here is one of the more enjoyable ones I have heard from her. It’s much more colorful, and percussive sounding rather than just a basic rock solo. She plays some cool sounding fast rhythms, and it’s definitely a head bobber for me. As much as I love Shelia, I don’t always enjoy her solos, but this one plays to all her strengths, and it’s great. For the first time I find myself thinking “I wish that went for longer”. The recording is worth listening to for this alone.

Prince 1988 2

There is a longer pause after this, and then Prince instructs Boni to “Hit an F chord”. A moment of twinkling on the piano as Prince sings the first lines of Lovesexy, and then the beat comes in and we get a proper full-on rendition of Lovesexy. It sounds great live, the guitars can be heard much more, as can the bass. There is a lot happening to listen to, but it still keeps a groove about it. The crowd starts singing “hey hey” with Princes encouragement, and for a few seconds I can close my eyes and imagine myself there. The music swirls around, and Prince sounds like he is having a great time. He sings ‘Hollyrock’ for a bit, and I get the feeling that this song is really going to be stretched out. The bass and drums are right in front (mostly due to the recording I think) and it gives the song a much harder sound. There is a false ending, and then Prince starts pushing the band in different directions. All sorts of sounds and lines are thrown into the song. I hear a snatch of Glamorous life, as well as A Love Bizarre before somewhat bizarrely Prince sings a line from ‘Born in the USA’. This is followed half a minute later by a line from ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. The band really start smoking after this, there is a definite upturn in intensity, and then Boni starts singing Chain Of Fools. Unfortunately the recording isn’t great, and I don’t hear her as well as I might, but she sounds good. At this point the saxophone makes a very welcome return, this time playing fast and furious. The band is chugging along at great speed now, and moves effortlessly into a Beautiful Night. I often underestimate this band, but when I hear shows like this I am in total awe. They are awesome in every sense of the word. With a shout of “Vegas” Prince brings it all to a halt and the recording ends.

Prince 1988

I am very surprised that this recording doesn’t get more love. I have heard very few people mention it, but I thought it was outstanding. True, it’s an audience recording, and that does detract from it a lot. But the performance is hot, the setlist has enough in there to make it interesting, and the band is very tight. If this was a better recording it would be magnificent, but even as an audience recording I still find it totally absorbing.

I am looking forward to next weeks recording, I already have a few ‘must listens’ lined up
-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