Glam Slam 27th June 1994

The years 1994 and 1995 are already well covered in this blog, some might go so far as to say they are over represented. With many of the setlists being similar, one may question why these concerts get so much coverage. It is true that the same music is heard again and again, but Prince and the band are discovering new sounds and textures, and with each song played as an extended version there is plenty of scope for surprising jams to be heard. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the performance on June 26th 1994. While researching the concert I read the Databank’s assessment that the show on the 27th was even better, and one of the best bootlegs of the era circulating. Which brings me to where I am today, headphones on, 4DF’s ‘Acknowledge Me’ in the player and I am all set to take a closer listen to what the Databank calls “one of the best of 1994”

27th June, 1994. Glam Slam Los Angeles

“The Star Spangled Banner” is the first song of the night, with its strong and forceful guitar tone Prince is making a clear signal of intent, the guitar will dominant early on. “The Ride” backs this up as it goes from it steady opening into a blazing solo that captures the listeners imagination even 20 years after the fact. Sometimes I find “The Ride” to be a plod, here it is anything but as the band turn it into a stonking celebration of Prince and his guitar abilities. As an opening number it slaps the faces of the audience, immediately snapping them into life.

Likewise, “The Jam” has a extra sense of energy and thrill to it. The recording is good at this stage, and the audience noise that is heard adds to the sense of the moment rather than detract from it. It all adds up to a version that I find I enjoy immensely, often I find I am waiting for “The Jam” to finish so we can get on to the other music, in this case I enjoy it just as much as anything else on the bootleg.

The first few songs have been good, but it is the following “Shhh” that makes this bootleg what it is. It is a sublime performance of a one of Prince most intense songs, the following minutes transport me to another world altogether. Princes vocals are spellbinding, and the guitar break is both haunting and incessantly angry at the same time. These eight minutes are the best of the recording and enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

I don’t think I have ever heard a bad version of “Days Of Wild”, and the performance here doesn’t break that winning streak. It is in its full head bobbing, heavy funk glory. However, it is the guitar break of Prince that has me grinning from ear to ear – it is sharp and forceful, cutting through the wild jungle of “Days Of Wild” like a flashing machete. The appendage of “Hair” is unnecessary in this performance, Prince has plenty of his own funk without having to dip his pen in someone else’s ink well. This is further highlighted when the bassline of “777-9311” suddenly appears, Princes own funk obliterating any memory of “Hair”

“Now” runs at a lengthy 13 minutes, turning into a long easy groove and jam. The second half is much more enjoyable, the band has a smooth way to them and the song flows easily from the speakers. Its is an easy groove that could go for hours, and even though not a lot seems to be happening it is still worth the listen. Especially catching is the chant of “Clap you hands somebody, somebody clap your hands”, which will be rattling around in my head for the rest of the day.

The next song is a live rarity. “Ripopgodazippa” was only played twice live, this performance is the second and last time. It doesn’t do anything more than is heard on the studio version, but it doesn’t have to as its seductive groove makes it another outstanding moment at this concert. Smoky and sexy, the late night groove fits perfectly in the setlist, and I can only wish that Prince had of played it more often. Again, it heightens the desirability of this bootleg and is another must listen.

Equally of the era is “Acknowledge Me”, from the opening notes it takes us directly back to 1994. The is a lively performance that stands up well to the other songs that have already appeared at the show, it doesn’t outshine anything else, but neither does it fade into the background. It’s a highly enjoyable moment that sets the baseline standard for the concert.

The following two songs are from the “Come” album and work as a nice pairing together. “Papa” is noisier than expected, it loses some of its message, but the music is undeniably good and carries the day. “Race” is a steady performance of a steady song.  It never catches fire at the concert, or on the recording, and although these run of songs are very good, this part of the show plateaus.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” restores the crowd’s enthusiasm and Prince’s performance gets a welcome cheer. The song is faultless and injects pop into a show that is otherwise a succession of funk jams. Its appearance is bright and the recording becomes energized again.

I would love to see the band get wild for “Get Wild”. It does sound like they are going all out,and even listening at home I can visualize what is happening on stage. The long jam keeps me interested, the bass and guitar parts hold me enraptured between the chanting and singing. My favorite moment though belongs to Tommy Barbarella who plays a fast and furious solo that bucks like a wild horse under his command. Every member makes an impression, and this is one of my favorite versions of “Get Wild” in circulation. This bootleg is rapidly approaching a 10/10.

That sentiment carries over to “Santana Medley” that comes next. I thought everything else so far had been great, but Prince finds a way to take the concert through the stratosphere with an epic rendition of the “Santana Medley” This is the moment where the recording almost spontaneously bursts into flames as Prince plays a soulful, yet furious guitar break. It continues to evolve and a couple of times Prince slips back into the shadows before reemerging with another solo that could strip paint from the walls. I listen intently as it spirals and turns, the world rotating around Prince for the minutes that he plays.

“Billy Jack Bitch” is a direct statement and one of the least veiled songs Prince has ever written. Prince takes on the media head on in a none too subtle attack on those that write about him. The live performance is not as venomous as the studio recording and some of Prince’s anger is dissipated by the music, in particular the swirling keyboards that provide a depth and backdrop to Prince’s sharp lyrics. It lives up to some of the other funkier moments in the concert and the final horn stabs drive the point home with a timeless funk sound.

The last song of the show is “Johnny”. Princes rap is much more relaxed, perhaps due to the recording, or perhaps reflecting his mood at this concert. The lyrics may be dated and nowhere as funny as they were at the time, yet the song still stands on its own two feet – especially as Prince’s guitar emerges from the groove with a snake charming solo that has me hanging on every note. The keyboard solo later in the song is every bit its equal and its easy to disappear into the groove and music at this point.  It is entirely fitting that the show ends with the crowd chanting “NPG” – this is very much a band performance and this final song sees them at their very finest.

This is a great release, in a year that is well covered by bootlegs, this one stands out. The quality of the recording is outstanding for an audience recording, but it is the show itself that garners the most praise. These songs are familiar to all Prince fans, and have been heard plenty of times over the years, yet here they are infused with an extra sparkle and energy. I can’t account for why that might be, all I know is that the show sounds fantastic and this is exactly the sort of bootlegs that ignites my passion. 10/10

 

Glam Slam West 1994

I have already covered a few shows from 1994, yet I still find myself drawn to the year again and again. With Prince playing with a looseness and freshness, the concerts of this era always sound lively when listening, even if the setlists are often very similar. The concert I am listening to today comes from a recommendation from someone who was there. It was apparently quite a night and even though the setlist doesn’t reveal anything too surprising, the performance is outstanding: there is a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder and Mavis Staples that makes the recording compulsory listening. Both add soul and link Prince back to the past, cementing his place on Mt Olympics with the other music gods. With plenty of twists and turns in the music, there is plenty to appreciate with a closer listen, but like everyone, it’s these guest appearances that are the real reason I want to hear this.

26th June 1994, Glam Slam, Los Angeles

I am immediately surprised by the opening “The Jam”. A song that I often find pedestrian and overly long, in this case it is upbeat and captures my attention from the start. This is helped in large part by Morris Haynes who is first to play and gives us a solo in his typical style. The song moves quickly, no one person plays too long, and with a Michael Bland drum solo appearing midsong I find the recording has an early momentum to it. The final Sonny T bass solo isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it does bring the song to a stomping finish.

I have heard “I Believe In You” across a variety of concerts and the version played at this concert is one of the more memorable versions I have heard. The opening minutes don’t offer much, it is once Prince turns his guitar up that the song becomes something much more muscular and forceful. He plays with finesse rather than a fury, something that demonstrates his ability far more than a flurry of notes would. Without overworking the guitar, Prince’s break elevates the song and adds a backbone to a song that was previously meandering.

As “Interactive” begins I am transported back to 1994 and the Interactive video game in an instant. Such is the power of music to bring back memories. The version at this show doesn’t begin strongly, it is the second part of the song where all the thrills and excitement await. Prince’s guitar leads the way, with a minute of incisive and sharp playing that leaves me dizzy. It may be only a minute, but it is a thrilling ride showing Prince at his best.

“Days Of Wild” is a 13 minute jam the encapsulates all that was good and great about Prince and the NPG in 1994. The band jam easily across the song, the insistent funk staying to the fore as they throw a variety of sounds over the top of it. The heavy squelch holds the bottom, something that I usually enjoy most, but in this case there is so much else happening I find I hardly notice it. Prince is in fine form, joking with the band as he runs them through their paces. The bass playing late in the song is the definite highlight – firstly a light solo that has me swooning here at home, then switching to “777-9311”, at which point I almost faint in child-like excitement. The song is a 10 in my book, and by the time the guitar comes with waves of bluster and bravado I am considering scoring it an 11.

As an album track “Now” is neither here nor there. Live, however, it is another great moment, and like the preceding “Days Of Wild”, it gets a 13 minute jam. As an all-in performance the song becomes a glorious live celebration, the crowd can be heard chanting a whooping in appreciation throughout. I particularly like the breakdown midsong, as the music slows and the long groove of Morris Hayes carries the song for some minutes. The song continues as a laid back groove for quite sometime, even with Prince on the microphone and guitar it still doesn’t ignite back into a song again until well past the ten minute mark. As Prince sings “Superstitious” the music stays low, his lone guitar signalling the end of the song.

Prince’s guitar stays the main focus with “Mary Don’t You Weep”. He plays a sparkling opening before the lyrics begin, and then as the music changes he returns with a further cascade of guitar. The crowd contribute their part as Prince leads then through a chorus, before the keyboards come on board with a solo from Tommy that is easy on the ear. The response from Prince is great, some mellow and melodic guitar work that displays an intricacy and emotional core. It is his guitar that carries the song to its natural conclusion, flowing easily until it dries up.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is mature in it’s sound, it lacks some sparkle of the single release, yet this mustang mix is far more rewarding and holds up well on repeated listening. It is a complete performance, Prince is playing well within the band and to my ears it is more complete and well rounded. The song is marinated in a funky adult rhythm that hints to the growth of Prince at this time and new directions he is pursuing. The is no doubt though that the real highlight comes in the final minutes as Prince calls for Stevie Wonder to come to the stage, preparing us for what comes next.

There is some mutual love between the two as Stevie Wonder opens up on the microphone about the influence of Prince and all those that came before, thus providing context where Prince’s music fits into the big picture. The following song is anything that you might expect or wish for. There is plenty of Stevie’s singing as they play “Maybe Your baby”, plenty of funky keyboards, and plenty of Prince’s hot guitar playing. He doesn’t mess around with a smoldering solo here, it is all furnace and fire as he puts an exclamation point on all that Stevie provides. This moment of the bootleg promised the world, and boy did it deliver.

The high standard is maintained for the following “I’ll Take You There” with Mavis Staples leading from the front. As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive version with Mavis’s vocals, Princes guitar and the bass of Sonny T playing up a storm together. Mavis stands head and shoulders above all else though, and her contribution can’t be underestimated. I thought the appearance of Stevie was mind blowing, Mavis comes a very close second and almost upstages him.

“Dark” comes as a smooth ride after this, it would be a let down if it wasn’t just so easy and enjoyable to listen to.  Prince again becomes the main focus of the show as the music swirls and stabs around him, not quite concrete enough to latch onto yet the stabs providing a sharpness that gives the song some shape. It may not as monumental as some of the other performances on the recording, but I find it just as satisfying.

The song does become an upbeat instrumental which, although four minutes long, serves as an introduction for “Get Wild”. It does flicker and flame for sometime before Prince calls for Mayte and “Get Wild” kicks off in high gear. It’s not terribly interesting musically, as is his way Prince uses most of the song to engage with the audience, encouraging them to sing the chorus and get wild themselves. It sounds like a lot of fun, but on the bootleg it is a flat spot.

The show ends with a raw “Peach”, introduced by the comment “This is a cover version of a song by someone called Prince”.  Its fast, full and frenzied. Prince’s guitar is wonderfully dirty and leaves very little space for anything else in the song, exactly as it should be. Peach can get repetitive, but this performance is one of the better ones and it is a bright ending to what has been an excellent concert.

This recording delivered everything it promised. As to be expected, the guest appearances were phenomenal and the rest of the show was just as spirited. There are plenty of great bootlegs from the 1994 concerts, this one would be very high on my recommendations list. I am thankful that it was recommended to me and I would happily recommend it to anyone else.

 

Thanks again
Hamish

A rocky start with the Stones

There are some recordings that are considered more important than others. Some capture a band in peak form playing on those magical nights when you can almost feel the intensity and the sweat running down the walls. Others are crystal clear quality, every element caught in near perfection for us to enjoy. And then there are other recordings, capturing not a just a performance, but a moment in time when something significant happens. A part of history.

This recording, though not perfect, is one of these moments.

October 11th 1981 – Prince opening for the Rolling Stones.

 

thorogoodstones

Like Michael Jordan being cut from his high school team, and then rising to complete domination of the NBA, the story of Prince being booed off opening for the Stones has now passed into part of his personal mythos, part of his struggle and his legend. Would his ascent to the throne a top of pop music in the 80’s been quite as spectacular without adversary and this misstep from 1981?

Much has been written about the two gigs when Prince opened for the Stones. I am sure it been well covered, how Prince was roundly booed on both occasions and pelted with trash. Whether or not he was booed off the stage on October 11th is debatable, he certainly left mid-set. But the band do seem to finish their set, although it is brief and not without incident.

Its not very often I listen to this recording, although of historical interest, its not really something I would choose to put on and listen to. But as it is significant I thought I would give a brief review.

Prince - Live at Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, 1981

As you see from the two pictures above, Prince wasn’t the only opening act that day. All three acts are recorded, J. Geils Band, and George Thorogood both have three songs each on the recording I have. I don’t know if those are their complete sets, but it does help to put Princes’ five songs in perspective.

Stones81

 

Okay, enough of this talk, I’m here for the music, lets take a listen!

Like any audience recording it takes a few seconds to adjust to the grubby sound. At first its just noise, then sure enough the opening riff to Bambi can be made out. The first thing that struck me is how muscular and strong it sounds. Prince and Dez guitars sound like they are really cranked, and there playing is dead on. Bambi has always been a strong rock song, but here it sounds like they are really pushing it. The other thing that stands out on the playing of this song for me is how well Brown Mark is playing. Its one of his first gigs with them, and in front of 94,000 people. I had read him saying how nervous he felt, and scared when the stuff started flying, but in this song his playing sounds very confident.

When Prince starts singing its not in his usual falsetto. And I’m surprised, but the song really sounds better for it. Maybe its my rock background, but when he sings in his lower register on Bambi it really gets me. This is how a great rock song should sound – not that I’m not a fan of it on record! The crowd don’t sound too hostile at this stage, they sound like any other crowd that are waiting in the hot sun for the support band to finish so they can see the main event- that is disinterested and slightly restless.

Next up is one of my favourites from the early days When You Were Mine. Dez addresses the audience (I think its Dez) during the intro, acknowledging that they are waiting for the Stones. At this point of the recording a couple of the audience can be heard chatting. One guy says something like “one more song and then..” the rest of his sentence is lost. I always wonder what he was about to say. “one more song and then they’re off” or “One more song and then I’ll get a beer” ? Another guys says (and again its not clear so I’m guessing) “better in a small club”. The song kicks of, and for the first time we hear the keyboards. They are not real prominent like the album, again the guitars are cranked to 11 for the rock crowd. I really like the guitar sound on this version, they have a real buzz to them. Not the clean, new wave sound, but a more buzzing grunge sound. Again it appeals to my rock roots. The audience seem pretty boisterous through out, and there is a bit of a cheer when the song ends (Is it an ironic cheer?)

The band go straight into Jack U Off without pause. Its during this song that it becomes apparent on the recording that they are playing to a hostile audience. Midway through the song an audience member comments “Look at all that trash”. I don’t know how much trash was thrown at them in the first couple of songs (Hey, I’m only listening on my stereo, not watching it!), but now it seems like the missiles are really coming at them. The song ends with a loud and prolonged “boooooooo”

 

Rolling Stones 1981

 

Uptown next, and its notable for the conspicuous absence of Prince himself. After whatever has gone down in the first few songs, he’s cut his losses and left the stage. And here I have to give credit to the band. They stay on, in front of 94,000 Rolling Stones fans, and play on without Prince. Best of all, they still sound good, testament to how well rehearsed and professional they were. Surprisingly the song itself doesn’t suffer too much from a lack of vocals. In fact I kind of like this way. There is more room for the instruments to play, and Dez is sounding great on this one. I would like to hear more songs played like this. Normally Uptown is a bit overwhelmed by the lyrics and the message, but here the music itself really comes out. I would love to hear this song in particular in better quality.

Prince is back onboard for the final song, Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? (Is he singing it for the crowd?) Again he is singing lower, especially the chorus. I enjoy it this way, but maybe its because I am so used to how he normally sings it. The crowd noise isn’t so prominent in this song, maybe they have settled down about after his departure from stage. Unfortunately the taper announces halfway through the song that he’s had enough and stops the tape, so I guess I will never know how it ends. Its a shame, because normally the second half of Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad really takes off, would love to know how it went over with the Stones fans. I don’t know how the audience reaction when he finished, but I guess they went back to their beers and continued on.

Stones81

 

So it ends, one of Princes most famous gigs, but for all the wrong reasons. What my verdict? While the recording isn’t great, its a fascinating look at one of significant moment in Prince career. The songs are obviously played with the white Stones audience in mind, and its refreshing to hear them played this way. I have plenty of early recordings where Dez and Prince have their guitars right out front, but none more so than this. The recording has several shortcomings, but I am very grateful to the taper who recorded this moment for us all to enjoy. Its a nice little addition to the collection. Not a must have, but definitely a interesting curio.

Please comment below- Additions, alterations, criticism and praise. Any and all feed back welcome.

Next week I will be looking at something a little more recent- a Third Eye Girl recording.

-Hamish

Dr. Fink and Prince

 This picture has nothing to do with the gig- I just really like it!

Please share if you care 🙂