Glam Slam, Yokohama 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studio 54 MGM 1999

With not many shows played in 1999 there isn’t much to listen to from that time. My collection is thin from 1999 and consequently so is the blog. I intend to right that wrong by taking in a couple of shows from that year. I have already taken in the Mill City festival, and today I will listen to a show from the beginning of the year at Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas. This from a Sabotage release, and also covers another couple of shows, but it is the show from January 2nd that interests me most. An eclectic mix of songs sees some strange bedfellows, I Would Die 4 U bumps up against Get Yo Groove On, and the show is short for a Prince show so I am hoping for something infused with plenty of energy. It looks good on paper, fingers crossed it delivers.

2nd January 1999, Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas

We ease into the show with an easy Push It Up. It takes some time to make itself known, but that’s no problem at all as I enjoy it right from the start. With a steady beat and the band chanting “push it up” the funk is slowly added by the slightest of guitar. With Prince intoning “The funk keep on rolling” he, in a couple of words, sums up the exact mood of the song, it does indeed roll. The song stays with a low roll and even as Prince sings the chorus it doesn’t rise to anything more, it stays low in the groove all the way. Things do become more lively with the introduction of Jam Of The Year, with the groove still locked down it’s the lyrics that raise the excitement levels and some added keys is certainly a plus.

Talkin Loud And Sayin Nothin has the band changing gears and cutting into their work, with Larry Graham doing his best to get things going. Hand waving, and some funky music has me feeling it, although Prince does pull things back a couple of times and breaking the flow. Mike Scott delivers a quick solo as the party begins in earnest with an action packed keyboard solo following close after. Its funky and something I would normally expect later in the gig, nevertheless it gets things moving early on and sounds great.

Rosie Gaines singing Carwash is perfectly in keeping with what has come before and it is seamless in setting the party vibe already set. It follows right on the heels of Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin, almost as a medley- the groove never stopping. It may sound dated, but it is of its time and is very 1999.

Likewise Let’s Work comes after, without pause or let up. It does lack some crispness, whether it be the recording or the performance I don’t know. After years of listening to Prince bootlegs I know that it does lack the fire and passion that was present in the performances of the song in the early eighties.

Delirious also harks back to the early days and it fares better at this show than the previous Let’s Work. It still has a brightness and a bounce that carries the day, and the best moment is the brief piano solo that appears midsong bringing a smile to my face. Rock N Roll Is Alive (And Lives In Minneapolis) is played as an instrumental coda, leaving the song finishing on an energized high.

 

There are plenty of great live versions of Purple Rain in circulation, this is not one of them. It has a dreariness about it, and sounds uninspired throughout. Even the guitar solo that is usually uplifting is instead laborious and for the first time in my life I find myself counting the minutes until it ends.

The gentle swells of Little Red Corvette restores my faith. With the guitar delicately emphasizing the rise and fall of the keyboard it has a gentleness to it that washes against me. It is a somewhat unusual arrangement, after an extended introduction Prince sings the opening verse and chorus before Mike Scott takes the solo and the song suddenly ends. Even in this truncated form it is still a classy few minutes and worth it just for those opening minutes alone.

I Would Die 4 U sees the crowd cheering and gleefully singing along. The next few minutes the songs come thick and fast, and this is a fine introduction that gets the crowd involved. It’s only played very short, and as such has a brightness to it that keeps things moving as Prince quickly introduces the band with Get Yo Groove On before the segue into I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.

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I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man has a pounding beat as Prince toys with some guitar playing. A minute of teasing and the song kicks into the familiar riff as Prince sings. Of course it’s all about the guitar, and it isn’t long before Prince dispenses with the singing and heads straight for the guitar solo. The solo isn’t as long as I want, and it slows to some interesting guitar noodling which shimmers and swirls before occasionally flickering into life.

The intensity levels drop as Rosie Gaines takes the microphone for Redemption Song. It’s not a bad rendition, it’s just that it is not Prince. I try to get something out of it but it never sweeps me up. The song goes by without me feeling engaged or actively listening, it serves well as a backdrop without any demand.

Rosie stays on the microphone for Ain’t No Way, and this time I am much more engaged. Her voice with the keyboards underneath, gives it a soulful nostalgic sound and I wallow in the song for several minutes, enjoying all of it. With a full warm sound this is better than the previous Redemption Song and I find myself falling for Rosie all over again.

It’s no surprise that Prince and Rosie next take on Nothing Compares 2 U, and this lifts the show to another level as they belt it out for maximum effect. The organ solo is the heart of the song and gives it an emotional base. It is obviously hitting the right buttons with the audience as they actively sing through the song and give plenty of warm appreciation at the end of the song.

I forget that Come On was less than a year old at this stage, and at this performance Prince plays it in full, with plenty of loops and beats keeping it hopping. The singing comes across well on the recording, and it does have its own charm. I may not like it when Doug E Fresh does his thing, but I do enjoy hearing the crowd sing and chant along with him.

I was curious to hear 1999: The New Master live, until it actually started. It’s a mess, with beat boxing from Doug E. Fresh, and lots of rapping and crowd participation. Some people may like it, for me it’s not really what I want to hear from a Prince show. It does run for ten minutes which can make for hard listening, and I must admit late in the song I stopped paying attention as I wasn’t enjoying it in the slightest.

The loop of Gett Up has me perking up, but we stay with Doug E Fresh for the first minute before Prince hits the main riff and things get started. It’s not the greatest version, but there is no denying the ear-worm of a hook, and the guitar has me listening intently for the couple of minutes the song plays. The final couple of minutes it switches to Gett Off(housestyle), something I wouldn’t normally like but this evening I find myself liking it despite myself, and even Rosie’s scat raises a smile.

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The final Release Yourself is where Larry Graham and Rosie Gaines shine. The song is such that it is a natural fit for them, and with Larry’s bass rumbling underneath there is another chance for Rosie to sing. The song is yet another finale jam that runs for some time as an upbeat instrumental with plenty of organ and bass. When the singing does begin its as with the key players each taking a part, although Rosie is easily the strongest. Despite this, Larry is recorded best on the recording, a shame as Rosie is going for it near the end even though she is quieter on the recording. It is the finale and there is no surprise as it ends with a flourish.

I was overly optimistic when I set out to listen to this show. I knew 1999 wasn’t a great year for shows, yet I thought some of the songs would offer more. There was some good songs and moments in the show, but they weren’t strong enough to make up for the not so good songs. A run of shows like this and I would quickly lose interest in listening to bootlegs, luckily I know there are plenty more good shows from other years without having to dip into shows like this. An interesting enough experience, but no something I would want to do again any time soon.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

 

Big Chick Benefit Concert April 1990

This week was the 26th anniversary of the passing of Charles “Big Chick” Huntsberry. It is often commented on Prince’s lack of sympathy or empathy in regards to former friends and employees, here we have an example of him doing something very generous for the family of Big Chick, a benefit concert just a few weeks after his passing. It’s not a remembrance show, although Prince does talk about his passing, it is a benefit show with all proceeds going to the Huntsberry family. Admittedly the recording is not of the greatest quality, the main attraction for me being its significance as a benefit for Big Chick, as well as the live debut of songs from the Batman album, and then to top it all off the first live performance by Prince of Nothing Compares 2 U. Plenty there for me to enjoy, hopefully I can overlook the rough audience recording.

Prince-BigChick

30th April 1990, Rupert’s Nightclub, Minnesota

The recording opens with Prince speaking about Big Chick, this would be great but the recording is muffled early on and I don’t have the patience or ears to understand exactly what Prince is saying. With more time I could probably work it out better, but right now I am here for the music. It’s followed up with the DAT intro, which I feel ambivalent about in most circumstances. Tonight I find it quite enjoyable, and hearing all the snippets does fill me with an anticipation of what might follow.

What follows is a recording drop out, and then a sharp rendition of The Future. The Future is one of those songs that I have come to gradually over the years, and even though there are a few more drops in the recording as the song plays, it does sound better as it goes. Princes vocals are smooth sounding, and the keyboard swells fill me with a warmth on this cold evening. I do have to turn it up loud to fully appreciate the music, and I do at struggle times as it crackles and pops in my ears. The show is sounding good, even though it feels like I am listening through the wall, the crowd is loud and vocal and I can hear plenty of cheers.

1999 is a crowd pleaser, and I do like this version with it played over the same drum beat as The Future. There is plenty of room for the band to make themselves heard, and I recognise Rosie’s voice through the noise of it all, and that always brings a smile to my face. It’s a pleasant change to hear 1999 early in the show, too often it is relegated to the party near the end of the show in recent memory.

I’m not a great fan of Housequake in this incarnation. It’s too plastic sounding to my ears, it has been neutered to fit in the beat of these opening songs. A lot of the smaller sounds and subtle pieces that I can hear in it are stripped out, and it’s the pounding beat and the vocals that I can hear most, although we could attribute that to the quality of the recording.

1990 Prince 2

I know that Sexy Dancer would follow, but I don’t derive any pleasure from being right. It’s very truncated, and a mere coda to the trilogy of songs that opened the show. The happy side effect of it being on this recording is now I want to dig back in the crates and give the original a spin. It’s a very good song that deserves a better airing than what it gets at this show.

My love/hate relationship with Kiss live follows next, and I decide to give it a good listen before I judge this one. The verdict is a solid pass, it retains the key elements of the album recording and Prince injects an element of fun into it. Another aspect that I like is that it isn’t overworked and it retains the simple charm of the original. So we are all good in the performance side of things, the downer again being the recording that drops a few seconds midsong. This is coupled with a muffled sound, so it neutralizes all the great aspects of this live performance. The magnificent Rosie Gaines is in fine voice later in the song and she delivers a big sounding Let’s Jam, well it would be big sounding if we were there, as once again we are let down by the recording.

Purple Rain has the slow sentimental sound that is purpose built for a show like this. Prince talks about Big Chick, frustratingly I can’t make out what he is saying – but I do hear what the people near the taper are talking about- typically my luck. Prince gives us the Purple Rain ‘highlights’ version, that is an opening verse, a chorus and then some of his trademark guitar work. I decide that I must be mellowing in my old age, a younger me would rail against this sort of thing and demand the full uncut masterpiece, but tonight I am quite content to sit and enjoy it as he plays. It’s actually very soothing as I sip my cup of tea and wallow in his guitar sound.

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We stay on the Purple Rain trip as Prince breaks out Take Me With U. It’s all a lot of fun, and the crowd participation and energy is noticeable. It’s strange, for a song I often consider lightweight, it has something to it that people can’t help but respond to. Even here at home I am swaying and singing along.

Alphabet St comes next, fast and furious with the crowd becoming more enthused as the show progresses. I would have liked to hear the guitar better, on the other hand the drums and bass are sounding better, and the recording does seem to pick them up the best.  This is the same as the live version played through the Nude tour, with the It Takes Two middle section with Rosie owning the microphone. Back in the early 90’s I wasn’t exactly enamoured by this arrangement, 25 years on and I find I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Prince sounds energetic as he spits his lyrics, and I have nothing but good things to say about Rosie and her fantastic voice.

The live debut of The Question Of U next, a song I seem to be listening to plenty of times in the last few months. This one has more guitar in the intro and I am more than happy to sit back and soak it up. There is a moment where I wonder if Prince will sing at all, before he finally comes to the microphone and begins to sing his Electric Man lyrics. This works well for me, I liked hearing The Question Of U lyrics without lyrics, and the Electric Man lyrics, although slightly silly, have an intensity to them that really works for me. I could have done with more of both songs, instead it feels like I only get half of each which leaves me wanting more.

1990 Prince

Rosie takes control next with a cover of Ain’t No Way. I would be deliriously happy if this was a sound board, as it is in this form it’s still very good despite the distracting static and audience chatter. Rosie’s voice is so full and pure sounding that I am able to put aside these reservations and just focus on her, and for those couple of minutes she sounds heavenly.

Prince follows this in the only way he could, with a live performance that reclaims Nothing Compares 2 U from Sinead O’Connor. It’s a special moment as he plays it live for the first time, and my recently memories of him singing it with Shelby J are vanished as he puts his stamp on it. I close my eyes and cut out all other sound and just focus on Princes vocals, which are perfection. The piano break is great, and just what the song needs, it lifts it another notch and lights the leaden sound. This is the performance that brought me to this recording and it delivers.

Batdance sounds gloriously live, the guitar sounding particularly loud and funky. Like so many of these other songs it is its live debut. It’s hard to know what to make of it, I would have liked to see it as much as listen to it. One thing I know for certain is I am no fan of the Gameboyz and the sound of them chanting for a short time in the middle of the song. Things get better as Prince gets the crowd to participate, I do like that until the Gameboyz reappear vocally.

After this, things change dramatically as Scandalous gets an airing. I am all in for this one, it sounds exactly as it should, and I am surprised by how much audience chatter there is during such a fantastic song. There is just a hint of guitar in all the keyboard swells, and that gives it a sharper sound that plays well with the lush sound and Princes dripping vocals. Prince’s performance sounds great, sure there is a couple of drop outs in the recording, but Prince himself is marvellous through the whole song.

Baby I’m A Star, and we must be nearing the end of the show. Prince is well in his stride now, and I can feel the energy coming through the speakers at me, there is even a fantastic scream that has me excited on my side of things. The song degenerates into the jam often heard on the Nude tour with the Gameboyz providing rhythm and fun. The energy levels drop for some time in the middle of the song, and I find myself gazing into the distance for a few minutes before the things swing up again later in the song. For large parts of it I find it too ‘samey’ with not enough variation and individuality for my taste. The exception would be the piano break which I find pretty cool.1990 Prince Piano

We slip into a slow jam next, which is little more than an opportunity for Tony M to encourage the crowd to “make some noise” over a quieter slow beat. Thankfully it’s only a minute before we launch back into the Baby I’m A Star jam.

The jam takes off at this stage, and with Rosie belting out Respect I am well back in my comfort zone. Its a shame she isn’t utilised more, as he does with his modern day backing singers, she always delivers at this show, as she does with other shows from this time that I have listened to. The beat continues on, and we can hear the band throwing more into the mix as the song is obviously nearing an end.

There is a celebratory mood to the end of the show with plenty of clapping and cheering before we get a fun filled sounding Partyman, complete with long intro that sounds like it’s taken straight from the video. Despite the muffled sound, it’s hard not to enjoy this song, and I love listening to it here tonight. It starts off fun, then gets better from there with plenty of piano through the song giving it a jazzy sound. This jam works much better for me than the previous Baby I’m A Star jam, and it ends the show on a real high.

A benefit show for Big Chick, this was no morbid memorial, Prince played an enthusiastic and upbeat show and even though it was a poor recording the performance shone through. Make no mistake, the recording was hard listening at times, I wouldn’t recommend this to the more casual listener, but if you had the time and inclination it’s an interesting show. The songs debuted are played with gusto, and as always they are well rehearsed and betray no hint of being new to the band. I don’t know if I will be listening to this one again for a while, there is so many more recordings out there, but it was certainly an interesting diversion.

Thanks for reading, next week I am going back to a proper full show, I seem to be caught up too much in these one offs and after shows recently.

Take care
Hamish

Prince-Big Chick 3