Rainmaker – Disc 3 Santa Monica Benefit

Eye records are slowly winning me over. I wasn’t an immediate fan of their output, but recently I have found their releases far more enjoyable and rewarding. Despite occasional sound issues and packaging errors (the proofreading is at at the same level as this blog -nil), I still find they have unearthed some great shows that we would not have otherwise heard. The realization came to me the other day that of late I have listened to far more of their releases than anyone else’s. The last twelve months they have had some outstanding releases and become a label worth taking notice of.

The Boston Metro concert I wrote of last week was a tidy release, and the Rainmaker release from the same week is of equal standing. The Rainmaker package brings together three complete performances (two concerts, and a full rehearsal) as well as a couple of rehearsals and jams that are incomplete, but of interest to the serious collector. Two of these performances are well-known in the bootleg community – the Minnesota Dance Theater benefit, and the rehearsal that precedes it. Both have appeared on numerous labels, and I have covered them previously in this blog. The most interesting part of Rainmaker is the third show –  a benefit concert for special needs students at the height of the Purple Rain tour. This concert has plenty to recommend it from the outset. It is a Purple Rain concert – Prince’s most popular album played at the height of his fame with his most beloved band. It is also another example of Prince’s altruism, worthy of praise and credit. What I think is best about this concert is that it is a Purple Rain concert trimmed of all the fat and excess. It clocks in at barely and hour, and is a highlights package of the nightly show. There is no meandering middle section, and no time for the concert to sag and lose momentum. It is a punchy show from the first moments to the last, with the songs shorter and coming in rapid succession. The piano section is still intact, although considerable shorter, but the concert has been shorn of the shower scene and the conversation with God. If I am brutally honest; it is all the better for it as Prince delivers a high octane performance of his very best material to date.

25 February 1985, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica

Prince sets out his stall early with a dynamic rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy.” It is crisp, both the performance and the recording, and many aspects are clearly heard on the disc. The drum machine is very prominent on one side, counter balanced by Wendy and Prince’s equally dramatic guitar work. With little audience noise the recording is almost sterile sounding, the instruments standing out on their own with very little other sonic decoration. With the bones of the song laid bare like this, it becomes an interesting listen for those that like to see what lies at the heart of the performance.

Similar ground is covered by “Delirious.” The drum machine remains strong, the guitar stands alone (highlighting Wendy’s playing) while the rest of the song seems to occur elsewhere. The most notable feature is Eric Leeds and his undefinable saxophone sound. Although not consistently through the song, it nevertheless is instantly recognizable when heard and fleshes out the song into a more organic, three dimensional sound.

“Delirious” is matched by the equally frenetic “1999” that rolls in immediately after. Eric Leeds is again busying up the sound, and the keyboard refrain is  oddly muted in this context. However, it is an upbeat and lively performance that captures the joie de vivre present throughout the show, and without being demanding is a nice sign post of where Prince was at the time.

It is the following “Little Red Corvette” that not only brings a seriousness to the show, but also pushes Eric Leeds and his saxophone further to the front. The opening minute is particularly enticing as Eric casts a shadow across the introduction with his mournful intonations. He is very quiet on the track, but he is the one part of the song that has to be heard. The spirit of the song is perfectly encapsulated in the way he plays, and his contribution is every bit as emotive as Prince and his lyrical delivery.

“Take Me With U” comes as a complete package. Every member of the band has their place, and for the first time on the recording no one instrument stands out. It is the standard short run through of the song, giving you all pop you ever need in the first minute before the band jam briefly on the coda. It is a finely balanced performance, delivering much more than is suggested by its three and a half minute run time.

The performance of “4 The Tears In Your Eyes” is yet another reason this concert comes highly recommended. The soundboard recording serves the moment well, Prince is crystal clear while retaining a live feel. I am sold on the performance long before Wendy and Lisa’s vocals join in unison, closing out the song on a high as their vocals build and support the foundation that Prince has built.

The piano section is shorter than other shows on the Purple Rain tour, I thought this might detract from the moment, yet it it makes it all the more forceful and comes as another solid punch in a show full of hits. “Free” lays out the ground work, its simplicity underlined in this solo performance that brings out another layer of emotion. This emotion remains present for “Do Me, Baby,” and as the band join him Prince gives another pleading performance full of both lust and raw sex.

A single piano plays the opening hook for “When Doves Cry” before the band join for a full unadulterated performance.  There is plenty of time to appreciate the music, Prince lets the opening riff mature in the first minutes before he eventually begins to sing. Again, the recording matches the music, and Prince’s voice is stark in its emptiness on the recording, giving the song a sonic backdrop that matches the lyrical content. Wendy’s guitar break is drawn from the same well, and the song has a satisfying completeness to it that is unmatched anywhere else on the recording. The final flourishes of Brown Mark and Dr Fink put an emphatic full stop on yet another great moment.

The show has been concise so far, and that continues with “Baby I’m A Star.” It is ten minutes, but nowhere near as long as some of the other epic versions heard on tour. True to form (for this show at least), it is Eric Leeds who leads the band into the fray, his bright sax the flag that they rally around early on. It is a storming performance, the band condensing all the usual licks and tricks into a tight package that delivers just as much as other drawn out jams. For my money, it is Bobby Z and Brown Mark that are the heroes of the moment, their rhythm carrying the rest of the band through “Body Heat” before neatly returning us back on track for the finale of “Baby I’m A Star.” This has Prince and the band playing with a quiet fury that never once loses focus and sets us up for the epic climax of “Purple Rain.”

Keeping in context with the rest of the show, “Purple Rain” is nowhere near the drawn out guitar-fest that we hear elsewhere. First, it is adorned with some fine playing by Eric, the opening minutes being a celebration of his saxophone as he brings sparkle to an otherwise melancholy opening. The rest of the song follows the script of the album version, Prince singing his lines before the inevitable guitar onslaught. However, he doesn’t go through the stratosphere with his playing, instead playing within the scope of what is heard on record. “Purple Rain” can run for up to half an hour on the tour, here it is eleven minutes – again completely in keeping with the momentum and energy of the rest of the show.

I rate this show highly. It is to the point, and not a minute of the hour it runs is wasted. Although it is a sterile sounding soundboard, I would still take that over a scratchy audience recording any day. This is the Prince we love to hear, fire in his belly performing at the peak of his powers. When taking as a complete package with the other shows Eye records have bundled with it, it becomes even better. I am sure everyone has heard the other performances on this set, but if I was starting out in the bootleg leg world this would be a great start point. Eye records may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying this is a nice set that holds its own in any collection.

Thanks for joining me again,
next week I will return to the book launch of 21 Nights that I started a couple of weeks ago.
-Hamish

The Metro, Boston 1986

I was intending on writing about the second half of the 2008 bootleg that I took a listen to last week, but I have been overtaken by events in the fast moving world of Prince bootlegs. The last couple of weeks has seen the Eye records release of two great packages, the 1986 show at Boston, and “Rainmaker” that covers a some well known concerts of the Purple Rain era. Of the two I am more interesting in the 1986 concert as the other concerts have been circulating for some time in a variety of guises. I have audience recordings of the Boston concert, but I was excited to hear it in soundboard quality. As Prince himself once said “All that glitters, ain’t gold,” and this is true with this soundboard recording. Yes, it is a soundboard recording, but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. There is quality issues (especially on the first disc) and to my ears the tape speed isn’t quite right. The first disc in particular sounds slow, it’s most noticeable with the opening notes that immediately sound off. Again, the second disc is better, but still not quite perfect. I may sound pedantic on this point, but when you listen to as many bootlegs as I do, then you tend to notice little things like this, and it is worth noting. As always, there are positives – it is a soundboard recording we haven’t heard before, and even as it is, it is still a fine document of one of my favorite tours, the hit n run tour of 1986. That is something worth celebrating and I am quite prepared to put aside my bootleg snobbery for a couple of hours and wallow in this glorious show.

3rd April, 1986. The Metro, Boston

There is no surprises with the setlist early on. Prince doesn’t deviate from any of the other shows of the era, and anyone who has been listening to these bootlegs over the years will know exactly what to expect. The flighty and twitching “Around The World In A Day”  moves under the feet with ever changing soundscapes as an ethereal flute opening gives way to some Byrds-esque guitar before the sound unfolds with Prince’s chorus bringing the song to a firmer ground. Its a kinetic opener, even with the slight sound issues I previously mentioned.

The sound becomes bolder with “Christopher Tracy’s Parade.” There is more of the band to be heard, and even with muddled sound the recording captures the energy of the performance. What captures my ear the most is the horn section, here fully integrated into the band and providing early impetus. The song never fully develops though (due to the recording) and the remaining impression of it is the organ solo that is provided, one presumes, by Prince.

The sound strips back for “New Position,” the rhythm section outstanding with their funk and bump. Bobby Z and Brown Mark are often overlooked visually, but they more than make up for it their musical contributions, and this song is an early indication of how much their input makes a Prince concert what it is. Prince himself makes his mark, the one lyric that sounds very clear is when he asks Jerome to sing “P.U.S.S.Y.” It can be heard on album, but here is is very bold and obvious, it is the loudest moment on the song.

There is time for “I Wonder U,” although it doesn’t match anything heard in the first handful of songs. The crowd are bought back into the concert with “Raspberry Beret.” It’s not quite the riotous celebration heard on other bootlegs though. The crowd are present, but not to the same extent as other concerts. The payoff is that Prince sings most of the lines himself, something I greatly appreciate and enjoy.

I wish I could say the “Alexa De Paris” stands alone as a ornate monument surrounded by these slighter pop songs. However, the recording is again muddled with its mix, and although the individual parts sound great, when they all come together they don’t gel. There is some fierce-some guitar to be heard, but it is very low in the mix. If it was alone out front it would be scorching, but as it is it is no more than a smolder in the background, threatening to burst into flame but never reaching the point of combustion.

The is an outstanding start to “Controversy,” with scratch guitar to die for and the keyboards playing with a robo-funk coldness. The rest of the song sounds thin, and it has a weak ending with Princes overplayed “Where’s my cigarettes” shtick. All is forgiven with “Mutiny.” From the opening seconds it is has my nerves jangling, the music connecting my ears to my feet as my brain screams “dance!” The song itself would be enough, but when the sizzling saxophone of Eric Leeds is thrown into the mix, well then, it’s at that point that it becomes the epitome of Prince and the funk he was peddling at the time. Eric Leeds practically bursts into flames as he plays, and Prince does nothing to extinguish this fire as he has the band chant “St Paul, punk of the month” as Wendy and Lisa give clues to the hardcore with their “Dream Factory” chorus. The song is a tour de force for the extended Revolution; the rest of the concert and bootleg are irrelevant, this song alone is all you need as it covers all that was good and great about Prince and this band.

The following four songs maintain this thrill of excitement. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window,” “Lady Cab Driver,” “Automatic,” and “D.M.S.R” come in quick fire succession, increasing the tempo of the show and laying the ground work for what will unfold next.

It is “The Dance Electric” that comes next, and from the title alone you know this is going to be something special. Needless to say, it matches Mutiny for funkiness, and upstages it in raw, unfiltered intensity. It has a deep funk in its groove, and Prince injects impassioned guitar into the vein, giving the song an uncontrollable rush and head-spinning high. This is one of the great performances of this song on bootleg, an instant addiction the first time you hear it.

There is the inevitable come down in the form of “Under The Cherry Moon.” Its other worldliness is heightened as it is coming directly after “The Dance Electric,” and as a contrast it is isn’t just a come down, it’s a crash. I rate it highly, but I would have preferred to have it somewhere else rather than directly after “The Dance Electric.”

I don’t know whats going on with “Anotherloverholenyohead,” but Prince’s vocals are almost inaudible for the first verse. However, Wendy and Lisa are enthusiastically loud and the keyboard can be heard dominating the sound. This is another song where the sound quality is less than stellar, unfortunately a recurring issue. There are positives though, Lisa is enthralling with her piano break, everything else disappears as she plays, the world turning on her breathtaking feel for the keys.

“Soft And Wet” comes from another world, sonically and historically. It still proudly wears the disco coat of the era it was born in, and is shameless in the way it sparkles and glitters in this show. Dr. Fink’s solo is particularly nostalgic, and for a few minutes I forget this is 1986 as Prince and the band recreate the brown and orange world of the late 70s.

Prince stays in the era with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” which performs the same trick on steroids. Everything “Soft And Wet” was, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is, times five. It is stronger, funkier, and forceful throughout, not just suggesting you get up and dance but roughly shaking you to your feet and dragging you to the dance floor. The real action happens in the second half of the song, as the groove moves from the dance floor to a dark corner of the room for some nastiness. Even with the gleam of the horns, there is a dirtiness that can’t be shaken – definitely a recommendation.

“Head” leads us further down this path, the music becoming darker and murkier as Prince spreads a layer of sleaze across the performance. The song lives up to its name, but there is no climax, just more nastiness and Dr Fink adds his own smutty solo before the the scratch guitar hints at all sorts of unmentionable things. It would be the most sexual part of the show, if not for Prince talking about Morris Day and chopping down the Oak tree. This takes me out of the moment, and I do up my pants and move on to the next song.

There is an extended opening to “Pop Life” which gives us all a chance to regather our composure, before Prince delivers a sunny version of one of his greatest pop songs.It floats easy as a cloud, a feeling further enhanced with Eric Leeds’s flute solo that flutters and flits across the sky. It is far removed from the previous song, but it moves the concert forward and brings us back into the sun.

With Eric Leeds’s saxophone, and some slippery guitar to grease the wheels, “Girls And Boys” ticks two of the key boxes for what makes a great song. This is song is entirely representative of the era, it perfectly encapsulates the era and the music Prince was creating. Prince’s voice has a touch of arrogance, born of the confidence in the scope of work he has created,  while Eric Leeds’s saxophone ties the groove to the ground before taking flight late in the song. Elsewhere Dr.Fink, and the twin guitars of Wendy and Miko, give it all the funk you will ever need. It never reaches the same funky heights as some of the earlier songs, but it does neatly package up what the era was all about.

These two songs are the opening numbers of disc two, and they sound much better than the songs off the first disc. This standard is maintained for “Life Can Be So Nice.” It is a clean performance of the song, without being outstanding, but it does gain a few extra marks in my book with the improved sound quality. It doesn’t leap off the page as some of the other songs do, yet with all the instruments and vocals clearly heard it is a pleasant listen.

There is a buzz in the left speaker for the beginning of “Purple Rain,” that does initially detract from the moment. The rest of the opening is faultless however, especially the guitar of Prince that tiptoes briefly through the field of piano, creating a path for the listener to find their way into the song. It is this entrance and then the final exit that are the highlight of the song. The final guitar break sees Prince light up the darkness with its intensity, not just leading the listener through the final minutes but pushing them with an electrifying and emotive shriek.

I have never been completely sold on Prince’s performance of “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On,” and this concert isn’t going to change my mind. Its snappy and sharp, but undemanding and as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t add to the show and is unnecessary.

“A Love Bizarre” throws up the most interesting moment in the show. A minute into the song there is a glitch, one assumes with the drum machine or pads, and Bobby Z catches the moment with an effortless switch to a heavier, and more organic, live drum. The change comes in a split second, but one can clearly hear the change in the drum sound. The rest of the song lives up to other live performances from the year.  It may start with a veneer of pop over a funk groove, but it is the second half of the song where this veneer is stripped back to reveal what the song truly is, a hard-hitting beast of a song that gives Prince and the band plenty of time to ride the groove where ever they please. There is very little surprises to be heard, but as always the song delivers with its strident and bold riffs, highlighting the rhythm section of Brown Mark and Bobby, and newly acquired horn section.

It is a firestorm of guitar that opens “America.” The guitar has been prominent throughout the concert, and here Prince takes it to new levels with an electrifying performance. The guitar establishes a beachhead for the rest of the band to storm through, Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss immediately providing a twin horn attack that tears the song in half. The breakdown halts this attack, the momentum temporarily lost as Prince indulgently leads the crowd with some chants.The rhythm guitars bring some forward movement to the song, but it fails to live up to the opening salvo heard in the first five minutes.

Screams and shrieks greet “Kiss.” It does sound strangely flat on the recording, all the fizz and pop is missing. An appearance of the wooden leg doesn’t help, but the guitar break brings a welcome surge of energy, and the song sounds more lively after its appearance. The final coda restores my enthusiasm for the song, an element of fun is introduced and this brings a lightness to the song that serves it well.

The concert ends with a intricate rendition of “Love or $.” It is a monochrome and highly manicured performance, highlighted by the soundboard recording. The horns are again high in the mix, giving a hint of sparkle to the intertwining sounds that can be heard. The song never bursts out of the tight cocoon that the band weaves around it, often threatening to break out in a flutter of color it instead stays tight in the pocket until the very end.

Ignore any negative comments I may have made about the sound quality and take this show for what it is – a soundboard recording of Prince and The Revolution at their very best. This is only the first show after the Parade warm-up at First Ave, but the band is already firing on all cylinders as memories of Purple Rain rapidly vanish in the rear view mirror. I wouldn’t go so far as to give this a five star rating, but it is a concert and bootleg that you need to hear. Indulge yourself and hunt it out.

Thanks again, next week I will tackle the other recent Eye release before I finally return to the 2008 show I previous started.

-Hamish

 

Detroit 1982

It has been two years since I listened to a recording from the 1999 tour. I know this because I wrote a blog post last time I listened to a concert from that tour. So, with that in mind, it is well overdue for me to revisit the tour. I have written disparagingly of the tour, and subsequent bootlegs, previously. Not that the shows themselves are bad, but when compared to the wider selection of bootlegs available they lack some of the sparkle of other eras. The 1999 tour doesn’t have the naked intensity of the previous Controversy tour where Prince and the band are playing with the blazing fury of underdogs. Neither do the shows have the unpredictability and rotating setlists that Prince will rely on later in his career. What we have instead in a neatly packaged show that runs just over an hour, Prince choosing to present the 1999 album in the most efficient form, rather surprising given that it is a sprawling double album. There is no extended guitar solos, no songs thrown into the setlist, and no chance for something spontaneous to happen. Yet, the shows do have their own charm, and when I first started to collect bootlegs I listened to them often. The concert I have chosen to listen to today comes from early in the tour and is slightly more interesting for the unusual appearance of “Head” and “Uptown”. It is also one of the longer shows of the tour, so while not entirely representative of the 1999 tour, it does present an unique listen. It has been a while since I dipped this far back, and I am looking forward to listening with fresh ears and reliving my youth.

30th November, 1982. Masonic Temple Auditorium, Detroit

From the very moment that the spoken intro of “1999” begins I  am swept up by the quality of the recording. The introduction is merely used for the beginning of “Controversy” and for the me the most thrilling aspect is the wonderfully crisp and clean scratchy guitar of Prince. The quality of the recording is astounding, after listening to so many audience recordings recently this really is bliss. The song is powered along by the rhythm guitar and the solid platform provided by the drums and bass, they really are rock solid. The lightness comes with the vocals of Prince and the women singing, it is a song of layered contrasts that simply works. It’s a great start to what promises to be an outstanding bootleg.

Things stay on the dance floor with “Let’s Work”. It isn’t as insistent as “Controversy”, but there is no denying the groove that it has and like the previous song it keeps the show moving briskly along. The synth squiggles provided by Dr Fink give it a lift and with the rest of the keyboards it floats much easier than “Controversy”. The brief guitar break by Prince reeks of his purple touch, and paired with another keyboard solo it lifts the song far beyond what is heard on album.

The hit of the moment comes with the synth rise and fall ushering in “Little Red Corvette”. I do enjoy this version, but to be honest it is played straight down the line and the difference between this live version and studio arrangement is barely perceivable. Sometimes a good song is a good song, and it doesn’t need anything extra to make it work in the live setting. That is exactly what we have here, and although there isn’t anything new it is still every bit as good as anything else in the concert.

“Do Me, Baby” has an innate richness to it, and that richness is emphasized with the long chocolaty introduction that Prince lavishes upon it. One can almost hear the sweat dripping off him as the opening music hangs, stretches and draws out, teasing the listener in the promises it holds. We talk of music being timeless, or classic, and never has it been more true than in this case. It has a smoothness and soulfulness to it that could have come from anytime, one can almost picture Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye singing the same song. The rest of the song lives up to all that it promised and the following minutes are some of the finest seduction balladry that Prince has ever performed.

From seduction we need move on to something much more nasty – “Head”. It isn’t quite the barn burner I expect, Prince underplays the song and although the required funk is there it doesn’t get the time it needs to properly marinade into something substantial. Four minutes of “Head” is good, ten or eleven minutes would be better. It does,however, finish on a high with yet another outstanding solo from Dr Fink.

The second surprise comes with an rousing rendition of “Uptown”. This lifts the energy levels of the recording immensely and takes us back to the previous Controversy tour when Prince and the band where playing as if that had something to prove. It is short and vibrant, but it does herald in the second part of the show where the following five songs are played over an hour – giving you some idea of how much more of a jam the latter part of the show will be.

Things start slowly with a relaxed rendition of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”. It has an easy sashay, and is in complete contrast to the previous “Uptown”. Prince’s piano playing is the centre of attention, but even better is how much the song spotlights his vocals. Naked out on their own, one can hear the not just the range of the vocals, but also the inflections and character he sings with. He is able to channel plenty of personality into his vocals and this carries the story just as much as the words he is singing.

The coolest song of the set is “Lady Cab Driver”. It is one of the key songs that attracted me to Prince, and this performance lives up to all my expectations. There is a driving groove that is sharpened by the rhythm guitar that brings it into sharp focus. Prince’s vocals sit in the background, it the the funk of the song that is important, and nothing gets in the way of that. Dez may provide one of his trademark rock solos, but the song is pure groove and continues on in its own way all the while he is playing. The second half of the song is sensational with Brown Mark coming to the fore with his bass warm and full, while the guitar continues with a chug – upping the intensity from the smooth first half into something that is forceful and demands attention. It is a firm pointer to the longer jams that Prince and the band will play in future, and couldn’t be further from the neatly packaged songs played earlier in the concert. I can’t emphasis enough, this is the strongest song of the set and I would happily pluck it out for any mix tape I was putting together.

“International Lover” is good, but I have an urge to return to “Lady Cab Driver” a few more times. It is played to the hilt as the seduction piece it is, although Prince does tend to go over board with the cheese in this case. I like the music, and the overall sound, but I can’t get past the nutty things Prince is saying. Tune out the words and it’s a masterpiece, with the words it is a giant piece of cringe worthy cheese. That would be fine if it was only a few minutes, but we we have here is ten minutes of Prince laying it on thick, almost (but not quite) ruining the moment.

The opening fanfare of “1999” washes away a lot of this and as soon as the vocals begin all is forgiven. After listening to so many abridged versions of late it is refreshing to hear a full unadulterated version, Prince playing it as it was meant to be heard. The synths have more time to fill out the sound with a dense curtain and there is plenty of vocals to be heard all over the track. They are easy to hear on the soundboard recording, and one can admire that every member contributes to the band and to the highest standard.  The final minutes the song descends into a guitarfest that has my inner rocker all a flutter and by the final flurry and howl I am completely in my element.

It is “D.M.S.R.” that finishes the show, and what a way to finish. There has plenty of dance and funk on display already in the show and once again Prince and band deliver a platter of funky treats. The bass that moves the feet, the rhythm guitar cutting through, synth stabs that punctuate and accent the beat, and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along with (rather loudly in my case, I’m afraid). It is the synths and guitar that take control of the song and they drive it strongly though the final minutes as the music spiral ever upwards. This brings us to the end of the concert and it ends as it begun – with the spoken “I don’t want to hurt you, I only want to have some fun”, before the sound of an explosion puts an exclamation mark on it all.

I find my feelings on these types of shows are often the same. I say that the show doesn’t really appeal to me and is rather staid, then once I start listening I find the thrill and excitement sweeps through me and I am just as enamored by it all as I have always been. This bootleg can’t be, and shouldn’t be, compared to the long freewheeling shows of the 90’s and beyond. It doesn’t come close to the quiet intensity of an after show, yet this concert was just as enjoyable as anything else I have heard recently. This is the Prince that I first fell in love with all those years ago, and these concert reassert those feelings. A short and sweet concert that barrels quickly through the essential songs of the time, this is always going to be a bootleg we can return to again and again.

Thanks for reading,
-Hamish

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 2

The new Eye records release of the Uniondale shows was just too much to digest at one sitting, so today I return to the second show featured on the recording – Uniondale March 23rd, 1985. It does differ from the other Uniondale concert in several ways. There is a performance of Head that has me a gasp, as well as “Condition Of The Heart”, “Raspberry Beret” and “America” all making appearances, pointing towards the release of Around The World In a Day later in the year. Like the previous concert there are edits throughout, in particular “Raspberry Beret” is missing its second verse,  I am prepared to overlook that for now and enjoy the recording for what it is, a passionate delivery of one of Princes most beloved concert tours.

23rd March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

We’re now 32 years beyond the Purple Rain tour and yet I have still not tired of the “Let’s Go Crazy” opening. This rendition captures my imagination, the guitar touches on the raw sound that appeals to my punk rock roots and it has a similar energy. The recording is nice and clean, and this emphasizes the dirtiness of Princes guitar. I may have had reservations based on being overly familiar, yet I am sold on it from the start.

Likewise, “Delirious” gets a firm pass from me. It has never stood out to me as a great song, the performance though has me seeing it in a different like, especially as I can hear a wonderful funk guitar playing in the background. The soundboard recording is paying dividends and I get much more out of the song at this concert than I normally do. There is much more to it than I previously thought, and the bootleg nerd in me revels in all the small details I can hear.

There is a natural pairing of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette”. Although both from the same album they come from different places and “1999” is as much a celebration as “Little Red Corvette” is a sensitive moment in a concert that is otherwise bombastic. I am drawn to both of them, but at the end of the day it is “Little Red Corvette” that has me pushing the repeat button. There is plenty of great guitar work in “1999”, yet it is the synthesizer in “Little Red Corvette”  that places me at the concert. There is also some notable guitar work in “Little Red Corvette” as the song provides something for everyone and I think by the time it ends most people would be well satisfied with the preceding ten minutes.

I find “Take Me With U” to be highly enjoyable, although again, I gravitate towards the later section of the song as Prince dresses it up with some lead guitar and the hook of “All The Critics Love U In New York” Catchy and fun, this moment comes as a lightness before the following “Yankee Doodle” drags the show down.

I want the following “Do Me, Baby” to be great. I want it to ooze out my speakers and fill the room with love and lust. It shapes up well, but like most of these Purple Rain performances, it  is abridged and runs at only a couple of minutes. Despite its brief appearance, I still find it to be a highlight and it is certainly a lot better than “Yankee Doodle” that came before it.

The guitar is sharp and carries plenty of funk for  “Irresistible Bitch”. The guitar is subverted for the following “Possessed”, where the horn of Eric Leeds dominates. He is in fine form, and Prince introduces him to the crowd with a humorous “He just got out of college”. That comment belies the immense talent that Eric is as he interlaces his style all through the song, making it another standout.

The piano set at this show is a highlight and for me is the best part of the gig. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has some very ‘Princely’ ad-libs in the final minute, in particular I get a kick out of “How come you don’t screw me, anymore?”. However, this is merely the appetizer, it is “Condition Of The Heart” that serves as the main course in this delightful treat. He may wrap it up after a couple of minutes, but it leaves an aftertaste that lasts with me long after. Prince coyly introduces “Raspberry Beret” with “You wanna hear some more new songs? Can you keep a secret?”, before the now familiar piano riff plays. Princes vocals stand out alone in front of the music, I find this adds a lot to the song. It sparkles in its freshness and Prince is obviously relishing sharing his new music with the audience. Sadly, the second verse has been edited out, but what remains still sounds good.

“Head” is introduced as “Something nasty” and it is a piano driven, rhythm and funk monster. Prince works the crowd with his chants and piano riffs as it becomes a stop start jam. With Eric Leeds playing over Prince’s bare piano it becomes different from what one would normally expect, making it something special that is worth coming back too. Even with the rest of the band, the song comes as a stripped back groove. Eric does lead it off to a lighter and more ethereal place, giving the song a lightness I have never heard before.

The band are again the focus for “Lets Pretend We’re Married”, both Wendy and Eric get a shout out. Eric can be heard all over the song, but for my money Wendy is the star. Even though she only gets the briefest of solos, she is sounding fierce and raw, two attributes I look for first when listening to guitarists.

It is hardly worth mentioning “International Lover”, barely 20 seconds of singing and a minute of crowd cheering, but “God’ follows and that deserves a much closer listen. It’s a fine rendition, with Prince taking some time with this introspection. As much as I like the song, it doesn’t fit well with the overall concert and as it gives way to “Computer Blue” there is the feeling that it is misplaced.

I enjoy both halves of “Computer Blue”. Usually it is the guitar fueled first half that I give all my attention to, but in this case the song is well balanced and I find I give equal credence to the delicate piano playing in the second section. That is, of course, eventually overwhelmed by the heavier groove, but not before it has made a lasting impression on me.

Some of the heavier guitar from “Computer Blue” bleeds through to “Darling Nikki”. The guitar have an extra crunch to them which gives the song a different texture against the wall of synthesizer. The music is good enough that I forget the lyrical content, which is normally the main focus, and instead just sit back and swim in the groove of it. This is another song that is resurrected by the soundboard recording, new nuances can be picked out and the song heard in a new light in this context.

“The Beautiful Ones” may have an alluring beginning, but it is the epic finish that stands out. Prince works the audience and the song into a climax that sounds as intense on record as it must have been onstage. “The Beautiful Ones” gets plenty of credit for being beautiful, but it is the intensity of the moment that marks this one as a great performance.

It is “When Doves Cry” that follows, no surprises there. It begins and ends with a great guitar performance from Wendy, who nails her part with a rock solid drive. The opening riff and squeal throwing down the gauntlet, the song staying as a groove, before Wendy accepts the challenge with her guitar solo and a solid riff that carries the song to the end. It is much less pop than heard on record, but I for one love it even more for its relentless drive and cold percussive sound.

Three minutes of pure pop joy follows with “I Would Die 4 U”. Its lightness comes as a great contrast after “When Doves Cry” and the concert again soars as the band plays.

“Baby I’m A Star” is heavily edited. There are still moments to enjoy, just try not to think about what isn’t there. As always, Eric Leeds gives plenty over a great rhythm groove, the piano and guitar both propelling the song forward.  As much as I enjoy it, I can’t help but think about what isn’t there. An audience recording of the same show reveals it to run at a longer 13 minutes, so what we have here is barely half the song. Still lets be positive, better to enjoy what we do have and appreciate the soundboard recording.

The opening few minutes of “Purple Rain” are heaven to me. I could quite happily listen to introduction on loop for the rest of my life. I can’t put my finger on it, but it makes me feel warm, safe, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once. The rest of the is good, but it does have an obvious cut that is quite jarring (at least to my ears). I still give it a solid pass mark, however, as the song is as we know it and it is a lot more complete than the first show covered by this release.

The show ends with one final encore, a furious run through of “America”. The edits made to “Baby I’m A Star” are all but forgiven as the band jam on “America” for ten minutes. There is plenty of guitar work for those who like that sort of thing, tempered again by Eric Leeds who comes to the party with lots of honk and sass. Prince does stop the song at one point, apparently to chastise those fighting in the audience, although it can’t be anything too serious as its only briefly before the band pick right back up on their groove. The band are relentless and the guitars derive a lot of passion and drive from the strong groove. The basic sound is supplemented by a Shelia E solo, but the real star of the performance is the song itself. There is a much stronger synth sound, especially on the left, and it gives a solid backdrop for the guitar to play. The song passes by surprisingly quick and, before I know it, it ends and I’m sitting in silence.

Somebody said to me the other day that this is their release of the year. Even with the edits and tags, its hard not to disagree with them. Both shows are fantastic, and the soundboard brings the Purple Rain concerts into sharp focus. I am not normally a great fan of Eye records, but I must admit the packaging and material here is exception. One can only hope that there is plenty more where this one came from.

Until next time, take care
Hamish

 

 

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 1

There has plenty to enjoy in the world of bootlegs in the last few days. Anyone who follows the blog knows how much I enjoyed the Act I video that appeared last week. I am also equally enthused by the Eye records release covering two Purple Rain shows from Uniondale. One show is pretty exciting, but to have two (in soundboard quality), is beyond exciting. I am giddy with joy. I should wait until I have a clear head before I write about them, but right now all I want to do is celebrate the Purple Rain tour and the songs of the era. There are two shows on the release, that is a lot to digest, so I will be taking in one now and the other later in the week. OK, enough words, I’m dying to get this on and crank the volume to maximum.

20th March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

The quality of the soundboard recording is apparent from the opening number. “17 Days” is normally quite bassy on concert recordings and even though the bass is prominent, even highlighted at some points, it is the other instruments and players that the recording brings to the fore. I am won over from the start, Prince sounds great, the backing vocals are nice in clean in my ear and the saxophone work by Eddie M adds new textures to the song. I’m in seventh heaven and the rhythm guitar in the right speaker is just the type of sound I love to hear.

The introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” is the next thing heard on the recording, a song we all very familiar with, especially in the context of the Purple Rain shows. Being the second song, it does lose some of its impact, but that is secondary as again it is the quality of the sound that is of utmost importance. Each member of The Revolution is heard, and they do sound as if they are still as fresh as ever, even this late in the tour. The girls voices are sensational and even through the cacophony of noise I find I focus on them.

“Delirious” is a pleasant division, the piano playing by Prince is always a lot of fun, but it is the following “1999” that again highlights the soundboard recording. With the band taking turns to sing and all contributing to backing vocals, there is plenty to be heard for the careful listener. However, the best moments when I stop listening too hard and instead let the music carry me away. With “1999” blowing in my sails I sail back to my youth, Prince and The Revolution providing a soundtrack that has been with me all my life. “1999” may not be the first Prince song I would reach for to listen to, but tonight it hits my sweet spot and the minutes it plays I am in another time and place.

The introduction is key to “Little Red Corvette”. Over half the song is given over to the opening and it plays as a soundscape that sets the mood. The rest of the song is the standard run through, no bad thing in this case as at this stage it is still fresh and exciting with lyrics that  demonstrate Prince’s clever use of the double entendre.

There is plenty of keyboard in the left speaker for “Take Me With U”, although this is offset by a sharp guitar in the right which gives it balance. The final minute of the song could go either way, a dance number or a guitar frenzy. In this case it is the guitar version with Prince playing some catchy riffs. I do like it, but I am surprised it isn’t louder or more forceful. Criminally short, it’s one of those moments that leaves me hungry for more.

I’m going to skip over “Yankee Doodle”, it has never worked for me and here is the same. It’s a shame that it runs for almost six minutes, while the following “Do Me, Baby” gets a scant couple. “Do Me, Baby” ends just as it was building to something bigger, replaced by Wendy playing the funkiest of riffs. This brings in the funk part of the show as The Revolution groove through “Irresistible Bitch” and “Possessed”. “Possessed” is the longer of the two, a mostly instrumental jam that features plenty of Wendy on guitar and Eddie M or Eric Leeds on saxophone. The band do play a full rendition, but it sounds so good I could easy lap up another few minutes.

Prince is at the piano for “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”, another song that benefits from the soundboard recording. Eye may have messed up the sound on the Worcester recording, but in this case they have it just right. Prince is sounding right in the room with me and ever note from the piano hangs in the air. Even his cliched speech at the end sounds thrilling and reinvigorated.

The spoken lyrics of “Temptation” serves as an introduction to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, a song that kick starts the concert back to life. This show is recorded only a week and a half before the widely know Syracuse concert and many of Princes spoken parts are the same as that concert, as too are the arrangements of many of the songs. Such is the case with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and the following “International Lover”. Both could well have been lifted from the Syracuse show, they sound very close to those renditions. Due to this, I find this part of the show overly familiar, I enjoy these songs but could happily skip over Prince and his speaking to God without feeling I am missing anything.

The same can’t be said of the song “God”, I listen intently as Prince plays and sings what I feel is one of his most personal songs. The opening half of the song is deceiving, the passion and emotion all lies in the second half as Prince screams and shrieks his way to a climax.

It becomes a normal rock concert again as the band arrive with “Computer Blue”. It is a massacre, the guitar is Prince’s weapon of choice and he slays throughout the song, his guitar cutting great swaths through the song and lyrics. The best comes late in the song as the music changes and allows more room for his guitar to be heard alone. With an insistent drive the song comes to an end with Wendy and Lisa intoning their cold lines.

Things warm again for “Darling Nikki”, and although I can’t see it, in my mind the stage is bathed in reds. Most people come for the lyrics, but what really attracts me is the dirty guitar sound along with the uplifting keyboards. There is a contrast between both which creates a tension, something I can’t help but pay attention to.

I’m not really one for the spoken introduction of “The Beautiful Ones”, but the song itself has me hooked. Prince casts a spell, the vocals and music coming together in a wonderful display of song writing. Prince has written many ballads, but none compare to this masterpiece. His performance here is as good as any other, he is at the peak of his powers and the song is one of the best of the concert, if not the very best. I am a rock guy, so I don’t say that lightly, normally I am drawn to the guitar led numbers, but “The Beautiful Ones” has me in complete awe of Prince’s vocal prowess and sweeping keyboards that bath the song in soft emotion, only punctuated by Princes howls in the final moments as he ramps up the intensity.

Maybe I haven’t heard “When Doves Cry” for a while, but I don’t remember the opening guitar sounding so darn good. The guitar may lure me in, but it is the keyboard hook that lodges itself firmly in my ear and even after 30+ years I still find it as catchy as hell. Prince’s lyrics come and go and I find it is Wendy and her guitar that I am listening to most. Not just the rhythm guitar either, the solo she plays is passionate without resorting to a howl or wail. She conveys plenty of emotion while keeping the solo neatly manicured. The best is saved for last however, and the final minutes has the bass and guitar creating a funky groove that could go for days.

There is one final pop moment before the show moves to long jams. “I Would Die 4 U” never lets me down in this respect, the drum machine and keyboards creating a backdrop for Prince and Wendy to drop their melodies. It is short as always, yet just as important as any other song on the night.

“Baby I’m a Star” is the penultimate song, and it comes as a final blow out for the band. It is the saxophone that is the real hero here, as the band play their brand of funk it is to the fore providing fast and furious runs over top of the groove. I can’t stress enough, it is fantastic. Eric Leeds or Eddie M, I can’t tell, but I cling to it the whole way, it sounds beautiful to my ears. The concert is coming to an end soon enough, but what a way to finish.

The final song is obviously “Purple Rain”, although unfortunately all we get on this recording is two and a half minutes of introduction. Normally I would gush about this part of the song, although robbed of the full version it does diminish the beauty of this opening stanza. With soft, emotive guitar, it promises much more, we can only wonder what might have been.

Last time Eye records released a Purple Rain soundboard I was left bitterly disappointed. Not so this time. Prince and the band give an energetic performance that carries through well to the recording. As a record of a Purple Rain show this is a great document. However, it is not perfect. Any “Prince nerd” would notice that Eye have edited out parts of songs, the circulating audience recording of the same show clearly demonstrating the cuts that Eye have made.It’s not just one or two songs either, about a third of the songs have some sort of edit made on them.  An archivist would find this extremely irritating, a passionate fan less so. It is easy enough to over look this, sit back and just soak up the music of Prince at the zenith of his fame. It’s great to have another soundboard in the collection and I look forward to having a listen to the second show in the next few days.

Thanks again
take care
-Hamish

Purple Rain -full show Worcester Massachusetts

Several weeks ago I wrote about a leak from part of a Purple Rain show from Worcester Massachusetts. At the time, I spoke highly of it and that I hoped for the full show to be released. Now that day is upon us and Eye records have obliged with a release of the show. After high expectations, I am disappointed in hearing the full show – it is a let-down. Although a soundboard, the sound quality is poor throughout. Not poor as an audience recording, I can hear Prince and the music perfectly well, but the overall sound is weak and all life has been sucked out of the recording. I did take the time to give it a good listen, and my thoughts are below.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The opening Let’s Go Crazy is a suitable introduction for what will follow. Prince is sounding good, as is The Revolution, although the recording is lacking any depth and feeling. Let’s Go Crazy is dominated by Prince and his guitar, everything else is in the background, and although it’s an exciting opening for the show the recording captures none of this excitement and at times sounds simply as a rehearsal for the show. Cold and sterile, I feel all my energy drain away as I listen.

PandW

Delirious is better, it does a better job of conveying the feelings of a live show, although the sound is still deadened. The keyboards and horns have a fun sound to them, and bring a sparkle to the show that Let’s Go Crazy Was Missing.

The crowd is heard for the first time on 1999, again though most of the song sounds like a cold rehearsal. There is some funky guitar in the mix that I latch onto to listen, but the rest of the song fails to excite me. I know there is better to come, yet I find I am still struggling to get into the show in the early stages. The highlight of 1999 comes as the very end as Prince delivers up some thrills on the guitar, but the recording is still thin, and it lacks the muscle of other shows I have heard.

The first minutes of Little Red Corvette sound as good as ever as the band play through the long intro, and the keyboards can be heard adding their wash to the sound. This is an early high point to the show, especially as I can hear the audience cheer at one point. It’s finally starting to sound like a live show. Prince matches the keyboards when he sings, and it begins to add up to the Purple Rain shows I know and love. Despite a thin start to the guitar solo, it still sounds good and the song ends on a high as Prince sings the chorus one final time.

prince-purple-rain-tour

The keyboards are also very strong for the opening of Take Me With U. They fill out the sound somewhat, although in contrast I can hear the bass but it lacks in any real depth due to the recording. Everything is in place, yet it all sounds weaker and watered down in the recording. The end coda lacks much of anything, and the song that started so brightly fizzles out by the end.

The next section of the show I have covered in an earlier blog post, here I will reiterate some of what I have already said previously. It is easily the best part of the show as the next thirty minutes Prince is on fire.

Next on the set list is a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even in this quality. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.

When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

prince-piano-85-2

With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.

Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.

Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

purple-prince

The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.

There comes next a segue into some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins. It’s tight, it’s funky, it’s Prince and The Revolution doing what they do best.

There is the inevitable Possessed right after, it’s not quite as tight as Irresistible Bitch, but it still has plenty of funk of its own. The keyboards give plenty early on, before the horn swells drive the second part of the song. The count of “25” by Prince is standard practice, and the band are right on the money. There is a moment of fun as Prince speaks to the band about catching them out tonight. There’s money on the line, and the band don’t fail to deliver. The horns and the stabs are throughout, as Prince sings “I’m going to get you tonight” before calling for “63”. I lost count, as did the band – Bobby Z gives a couple of extra beats as the songs gives way to a scream and several whoops, presumably from Prince as he has indeed caught the band out.

prince-p-rain

There is more fun in the air as Prince begins to play How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore and encourages the audience to sing if they can. The song itself is kept very short, at a single verse it barely registers, but it is the final song before the rest of the show is given over to Purple Rain songs.

God is as beautiful as to be expected, with Prince and the piano holding the audience enraptured in its charms as it plays. The band add some harmonies to the vocals which is a nice touch, the only downside being the quality of the recording- on a better sounding recording this would sound magnificent, as it is it lacks a thickness and full sound. It doesn’t matter too much as the next few minutes are given over to the bath sequence of the Purple Rain shows.

prince-purple-rain-bath

The fierceness that I have come to expect from Computer Blue is lacking, in part to the thin sound of the recording. The band though cannot be faulted, and I can hear the band playing a rough and tumble version with plenty of jagged guitar from Prince. The bass work from Brownmark is to the fore, a shame that the recording lacks the richness of the performance.

The segue into Darling Nikki is predictable and entirely enjoyable. Dr Fink is a real highlight as his keyboard squiggles are all over the latter part of the song. It shines brightly after the previous Computer Blue and up’s the tempo again as we head to the last quarter of the show.

prince-nikki

The introduction of The Beautiful Ones fades in and out, but once the song starts proper it is full blooded and Prince gives another heartfelt rendition. There are plenty of shrieks and screams near the end which aren’t served well by the recording, nevertheless they add a lot to the show and the audience can be heard responding well to what is obviously a highlight.

Another show stopper follows in the form of When Doves Cry. Dr Fink and Lisa are key players, but for me the highlight is Brownmark and his elastic sounding bass. He gets plenty of time to show us what he’s got, especially the final coda which is heavy on the bass, and despite everything going on over the top, it is the bass that I gravitate to.

I Would Die 4 U starts off with a pop bent, but the final minutes are all about the funk as it gets an extended treatment, with plenty of Wendy’s guitar to the fore. It wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but I always enjoy these live performances. Even with the coda tagged on, it still only runs three and a half minutes, and as it ends just as I am developing a hunger for much more.

prince-purple-rain-galsses

I am disappointed with Baby I’m A Star. Some nights it runs upwards of twenty minutes, this version is considerably shorter at eleven minutes, and even then there is a couple of minutes’ introduction. his is the point of the show where the band traditionally cut loose, so it comes as a surprise to see this shortened version. The tempo does accelerate halfway into it,  this gives it an unbalanced sound and as it increases in tempo I feel left behind by it all. With the horns adding their burst of excitement there is the sound of show business in the air, the band jam on but it never feels like a groove as I have heard elsewhere on the Purple Rain tour. The sax is easily the best thing about Baby I’m A Star, and we have plenty of time to enjoy it before the song loses its way with Prince’s final few minutes of train inspired groove.

It’s been a long time since I listened to a full Purple Rain show, and I find myself falling in love with the song again all over as the introduction plays and the piano gives it an extra touch of special. By the time I hear Prince’s guitar noodling I am already sold on it and I don’t care what type of performance will follow. The following Cloud guitar sound lets me down, but that barely matters as what I have already heard is good enough for me. The final solos by Prince are long and over the top, normally something I would greatly enjoy, but here they are undone by a thin sound and although they are likable they don’t quite deliver the knockout blow. It is however the type of finish that this show required, and I must admit I was smiling all the way through the song.

This wasn’t the show I was expecting. The middle section I had previously heard is easily the best part of the show, and this alone makes the show worth listening too. In fact, it makes the show much more interesting than other Purple Rain shows in circulation and if the recording was better quality it would be essential. As it is, it is a serviceable sound board recording that documents a potentially great show that loses its way towards the end and becomes just another Purple Rain show. And interesting experience that wasn’t what I wanted or expected, nevertheless it was worth the time to take a listen.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish

 

Purple Rain – Worcester Massachusetts

I recently heard the newly leaked soundboard recorded at Worcester during the Purple Rain tour. It’s only 35 minutes long, and the first time I heard it I had my mouth wide open the whole time, it is a jaw dropping performance and recording and I can only hope and pray that one day we will hear the whole show. I am not always the greatest cheer leader for the Purple Rain shows but this one has me completely revaluating my feelings about them. I have to say if I heard more shows like this one, my blog would only focus on the Purple Rain tour, I could seriously listen to this stuff all day long. I don’t normally go for only part shows, but I am more than willing to make an exception in this case.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The recording picks up mid-show, and what a way to start a recording – a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even if it is mono. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.

purple-prince

When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.

prince-piano-85-2

Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.

prince-piano-85

Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.

prince-piano-85

The last five minutes of the recording features some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins, although this is where the recording ends – leaving me hoping and praying that one day the rest of it will see the light of day.

This is only a small portion of the show, and from what we can hear this is one loose and funky show. Prince is sounding incredibly relaxed, and that transfers through to the music. This is a lightness and playful tone in the music which makes listening to this just as much fun as they sound like they are having making it. This is one of those recordings that has you hitting the replay button over and over. I’m confident that one day we’ll hear the full show, until that day comes this is going to be on constant rotation.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish

Dream Factory

It’s early winter morning here. The sun has yet to rise, and outside my window I can see the sparkle of frost on the lawn by moonlight. All is quiet as I sit here with my cup of tea, except for the sound of the Dream Factory album playing. Nothing moves and all is still as I sit here listening to it alone. Prince made a variety of great music over his career, some was for partying and sharing with others, and some was for private reflective moments. Then there was the music that he didn’t want us to hear at all, the unreleased tracks, the lost albums. It’s entirely appropriate that I sit here now listening to Dream Factory alone, as that is how I have heard it all my life. It wasn’t bumped at the clubs, or all over the radio, we didn’t talk about it at High School, and for most of us we didn’t hear it until much later. It is however one of Princes most important albums, one of his most creative albums, and one of my favorite albums. No, on second thoughts, it IS my favorite album.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dream factory, and July 18th marks the anniversary of my personal favorite configuration of the album. There are plenty of versions floating around, with the June 3rd 1986 being one of the most popular. My preference for the July 18th configuration comes from the fact that the Pimpsandwich edition has some beautiful covers that complements it wonderfully, and I feel that this tracklisting flows better than the one from June 3rd.

Dream Factory Pimpsandwich

 

Of course Dream Factory was never released, instead being pulled apart and used for Crystal Ball, before that project too was shelved and out of the ruins we got Sign O The Times. Many of the tracks on Dream Factory do appear on Sign O The Times, but it would be a mistake to think of Sign O The Times as being an upgrade of Dream Factory. Dream Factory works much better than Sign O The Times overall, it has a much more cohesive sound, and overall consistent vibe to it. A large part of this could be put down to The Revolution who contribute heavily to Dream Factory, as well as the track listing itself.

Sign O The Times opens with the title song itself, which adds a seriousness and a weight to what follows. Dream Factory opens with the much lighter sounding Visions, and it immediately changes the feel of the album. The Dream Factory is more colourful, more layered, and  having Lisa playing the opening solo piano track announces that this is a much more collaborative effort. Lisa plays as only Lisa can, layered chords as the other hand plays a light floating melody, it has an intimate sound, almost as if one has walked in unannounced on her practicing piano. This feeling of a band effort is reinforced by the following Dream Factory title song, it is bright and has twists and turns that hold your attention, and there is no mistaking the outside influences other band members have brought to the table. The downbeat verses are upstaged by a great chorus where all the band contribute their different sounds. It works, and it rattles around in my head long after it’s finished. Train continues with this sonic assault and cleverness, the music mimicking a train, something that sounds cool rather than corny. Again, the band is the thing, and this time the horns add another element to the mix.

There is a jump in sound and style from Parade to Sign O The Times. In Dream Factory we have the stepping stone between the two, Parade has its fingerprints over several songs, such as Dream Factory and In All My Dreams, while Sign O The Times looms on the horizon with the tracks from that album featured here. We get both sides of the same coin, and the album looks both backward and forwards in its sound and songwriting.

Dream factory tracklist

Dream Factory – Pimpsandwich

Even songs that we are familiar with from Sign O The Times get a new life in this context, and surrounded by these Revolution contributions they sound more together and belonging. Side One and side four are where Dream Factory differs the most from Sign O The Times, but the songs that fill side two and three still have a sense of belonging and place. Dorothy Parker and It both seem to shine a little brighter, and with Sign O The Times buried deeper in the album it loses some of its weight. Strange Relationship gains a fantastic sitar sounding introduction (courtesy of a Fairlight CMI) which elevates it to another level and you can again hear the band influence on Prince adding layers to it, rather than the funk work out that it is at it’s heart.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the album is the run of Sign O The Times, A Place In Heaven, Crystal Ball. On paper they look like a desperate mix, but together on album they are a showcase for the breadth and scope of Princes, and the bands, vision. We have light and dark in equal measure, and each song acts as a counter balance to the other. Crystal Ball is the most ambitious of the trio, it has Prince at his most creative stretching things to the limit, it doesn’t always work but today in the early morning it sounds pretty close to perfect. Its songs like this that show Prince was more than a song and dance man, he was also an artist and a visionary.

Although side 4 opens with The Cross, it could in some quarters be considered the weakest side of the album.  It’s at this stage that the comparisons to Sign O The Times don’t serve Dream factory well. Whereas side four of Sign O The Times featured The Cross, Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night and closes with the divine Adore, Dream Factory closes with The Cross, Last Heart, Witness 4 The Prosecution, Movie Star and All My Dreams.  The Cross is rightly hailed as a classic, and All My Dreams is a fantastic song that deserves more listens. The intervening songs are all good in their own right, but in such esteemed company they sound thin. They do have their charms, Last Heart with its late night pop sound, Witness 4 The Prosecution ticks all the rock boxes and sounds like something Prince could play in his sleep, and Movie Star is Prince playing with a knowing wink to us all, the lyrics themselves almost too clever for their own good. All My Dreams comes from a different place altogether and is in a league of it’s own. The vocal arrangements are beautifully textured, and Princes lead vocal sounds black and white against the music. It at times sounds like the theme song for a TV show, but it takes on a different tone mid song with some weirdness that adds interest without detracting from the song. Its fitting that the word ‘Dream’ should be in the title as it does have a dream like quality to it, and it summarizes the album nicely with the band contributing , and a piano solo that runs through the middle of the song that bookends the opening song on the album. By the time Prince croons “Don’t ever lose your dreams” a final time it does feel as if we are coming to the end of a journey with him, and in the case of The Revolution that is certainly true.

Dream Factory thunderball

Dream Factory – Thunderball

Dream factory is a natural extension of Parade, you can hear where it follows on from where Parade left off. Much more than that, it is an extension of The Revolution, and not only are they confident and strong with their contributions, Prince is also much more accepting and willing to use what they bring to the mix. The Revolution broke up a couple weeks after this configuration, but this is a fitting memorial to their greatness and how much a part they were of the Prince legend.  1986 is the greatest year of Princes career, we have plenty of evidence of that, and the Dream Factory is the key thread that pulls it all together. To properly understand the relationship between Prince and The Revolution, and the creativity they had together, you only have to listen to this album. This is the greatest thing they ever did together, and the pinnacle of their partnership. One of Princes greatest albums, this would not exist without The Revolution.

“The Revolution will be heard!”

Yokohama 9 September 1986- End of The Revolution

This week I am listening to one of the most important Prince bootlegs in circulation, the final show of the Parade tour that serves as the final performance of Prince and The Revolution. For historical significance alone it is a stand out, and the moment is well served with a performance and recording to match. People often deride audience recordings, but when done well they are a joy to listen to as in this case. The recording is surprisingly good for an audience recording, and the concert, although at Yokohama Stadium, has a small and warm sound – perfect for a moment like this. The recording has plenty to recommend it, and when we factor in the historical context, well then it becomes absolutely essential.

9th September 1986, Yokohama Japan

The couple of minutes of audience noise beforehand is a nice touch in my book, it adds to that sense of anticipation and expectation. There is some chat, a couple of cheers and if you close your eyes you can just about picture yourself there. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult not to read too much into what is happening, and when the announcer introduces the band I hear some melancholy in his voice, or like I say I am projecting my own sense of history onto the moment. Once again Around The World In A Day is a great introduction for the band, with the horns making themselves heard early on, along with the fantastic Brown Mark bumping and buzzing along the bottom. He has a beautiful fat sound to his playing and I am very happy to say it comes over well on the recording.

Parade 1986 1

I can hear Prince and the band well as Christopher Tracey’s Parade begins, although at first the girls’ voices aren’t heard well, they do however come further forward as the song goes, and it’s one of those “moments” when you can hear them singing with Prince. Prince does call “Tokyo!”, which has me scratching my head- I am prepared to give him a pass though, Yokohama is closer to Tokyo than Narita airport, and is only 40 minutes from Tokyo centre. And it is the end of the tour, so we can forgive technicalities.

New Position sounds unbelievably smooth and easy, and is testament to how tight the band were at this stage, there is a lot of new sounds and instruments in the mix, and somehow they weld it all together and make it work. The horns are the what you hear most, but for me there is just enough rhythm guitar in there to get my blood flowing.

There is a particularly psychedelic and alluring sound to I Wonder U, the flute giving it a floating quality that is offset by Wendy’s guitar. The band knit it together wonderfully, and as I said at the Paris show a few weeks ago it doesn’t matter that Prince isn’t there, this band and this music is strong enough to stand on its own without his powerful stage presence.

The next few songs come in a flurry of sound and excitement. Raspberry Beret is first out of the gate, as always it’s a crowd pleasing singalong, although to be fair on this occasion the crowd is fairly muted. On a more positive note I find Brown Marks bass again firmly in my ears and that is never a bad thing. The energy levels are kept high as it only runs for a couple of minutes before an equally quick run though Delirious, complete with a 1,2,3 count off in Japanese. It comes and goes in a blink of an eye before we get a quick snippet of the “oww wee oww” the segues into Controversy.

Parade 1986 2

Controversy is just fine, my only complaint being the briefness of it, but that is amply compensated when the count of “A,B, A, B ,C” comes and Prince is joined on stage by Shelia E.

This is the first of those magical concert moments that I look for, and as Prince and Shelia vocals playfully dance around each other I am in fanboy heaven. Shelia sounds cool, Wendy and Brown Mark sound even better, and for a long time I just sit back and listen to them respectively. The break down with the vocals is sublime, and the recording is good enough that I can pick out each person’s voice and identify them. Eric Leeds sprinkles his magic dust over the performance with a solo that lives up to the high standards he sets show after show. The funk just gets stronger from here on in, firstly in Wendy’s playing, then in Prince and the bands scat and a capella performance. When the music comes back it’s with all the intensity you might expect and wave after wave of horn blasts and calls of “Ice Cream!” carry me to unexpected heights.

Even though I am funk heaven at this stage, I am more than happy as the sultry sound of Do Me Baby begins. The bass has a great pop to it as the horns add a touch of sass to the intro. All this becomes irrelevant however as Prince sings, and listening to the lyrics and his delivery becomes and experience in itself. As the music rocks back and forth Prince croons and emotes as he has never emoted and crooned before, and I am sold on it. Maybe I feel like this for every live performance of this song, but tonight it smacks me right between the eyes and I am dangerously close to switching off the computer, going into the other room and sweeping my girl off her feet. And at the end of the day there is no higher recommendation of a slow jam song than that, it’s sublime through and through.

Parade 1986 5

Next up is the trifecta of How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, Automatic and D.M.S.R. I would have liked to hear more of them, asides from How Much Is That Doggie, and it’s a giant tease from Prince to have two killer tracks from 1999 to be relegated to a two-minute medley like this. As you know I like to look on the positive side of things, so I give thanks that they are in the setlist at all.

The ship rights itself as When Doves Cry plays, and the opening keyboard riff still gives me chills even after all these years. It has a clinical delivery as it should, and over the cool electronic music Prince sings dispassionately which only heightens the sense of loneliness I feel when I listen to this song. It’s a cold world indeed, and it’s only in the Princes singing of the chorus do we feel the humanity and hurt. I have covered a few different shows from 1986 now, and I always speak highly of Wendy’s solo during this song. Today is no different, and even though the recording neuters her sound a little I still get a thrill from her playing.

Parade 1986

Little Red Corvette has Prince alone at the piano, and is an emotional highlight. I want to write that it tugs at the heart strings, but I know the following few songs are going to top it in the emotional stakes, so I enjoy I enjoy it for what it is, a nice soft rendition of one of his classic songs.

The band joins in for Do U Lie, and it has a swing and sway to it, it’s got a lovely lilt and sounds like it has come from a completely different concert. I don’t have too long to wallow in it as Prince moves on, but it is another cool moment.

The Ladder is one of the songs I have been waiting to hear, and Prince doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The Ladder has the obligatory piano, but also a lot more. One of the things that strikes me most is the backing singers, and the way that the horns lift the song to the heavens. For a stadium show its wonderful how Prince makes it feel like he’s singing in the living room, there’s a lively intimacy in the recording and a classy touch by Prince at the end thanking the audience in Japanese.

Prince is alone again for Condition Of The Heart, and at this point it becomes very difficult for me to write objectively as this song has a special place in my heart. Prince delivers a performance that does the song credit and although short it gives me everything I could ever want.

Parade 1986 4

Under The Cherry Moon is breath-taking, and has some wonderful flourishes on the piano that give it that little bit extra. As much as I like Prince’s vocals, I find I tune out as I instead concentrate on the music. The music has a magical quality that is rarely heard, and as he Prince plays piano I sit mesmerized here at home, this is definitely a show for the ages.

The band and the funk returns with Anotherloverholenyohead. This show has been phenomenal thus far, and Anotherloverholenyohead maintains this high standard. It returns us to the heavier sound of the band, and the darker sound as Prince starts his “Another lover” talk midsong. The piano and the horns via for my attention, and for me it’s the piano that nails it, I don’t write about Lisa enough in this blog, but she is a treasure. She sounds magnificent as she plays her piece, and it is distinctly- and uniquely, her. And even better, she gets a good few minutes to play so there is plenty of time for me to lean back and swim in the music flowing from her fingers.

♥ Or $, now I didn’t expect that. Eric puts his mark on this one, but it’s again a complete band performance and I can’t single anyone out for praise, they all sound great singly and as a group.  From here on in the show becomes much more intense and focused, all medleys are dispensed with and we get some proper, heavy funk. Keeping with this direction the band funk up ♥ Or $ before turning their sights on Head.

I have always liked the slippery guitar sound in Head, in this case it has a sharper sound but nonetheless is still funky as all hell. There is some fun as Prince toys with the crowd, but the whole time it’s that guitar I am listening to, at least until Matt Fink sets things on fire with his synth solo. Electric Man gets an outing, with Prince surprisingly throwing some lyrics from Hot Thing, recorded barely a month previous. As Prince squeals and squirms I wish I could be there to see a performance that sounds electrifying. The guitar sounds ominous as the music rises near the end, and I find myself enjoying this just as much as Princes vocal performance.

Parade 1986 8

Pop Life banishes the darkness of Head in the opening moments as, after a twinkling opening, it bursts out of the speakers at me. For all the melody of it, I find its Brown Mark I listen to most, his bass adds an infectious bounce to the proceedings. Again Eric Leeds flute lends a different sound to the concert and with some beautiful backing vocals, the song stands up to repeated listens.

Prince sings “Do you want to dance with me” as Girls And Boys begins, much to the delight of the audience. Eric has traded his flute for the sax and adds the deep honk that I adore so much. Prince seems to get a second burst of energy around this point and I swear you can hear him singing and performing harder. He gives way to Eric and his solo and it’s about now that I sit up and take notice of Wendy and Lisa’s singing- soft yet beautiful.

The first minute of Life Can Be So Nice seems to come fast, and it’s at the chorus that I catch up and begin to get into it. It’s a game as Prince and the band play the crowded versus before pulling back for the chorus. Bobby Z does his thing, and he sounds great against the rhythm guitar. There seems to be a lot going on in my ears, and I have to listen closely to make sure I don’t miss a thing. The final fade out is my favourite part, not because its ending, but the way the band peels out and I can hear each of them.

Parade 1986 6

I am feeling jaded as 1999 plays, the song sounds fine, but is already dated against the colourful parade of music that Prince has played this evening. I do hear the crowd enjoying it, and there is some singing, so the song certainly has its place in the setlist despite my own personal tastes. It goes out with a bang as the horns and the rest of the band tear through the last minute, and the main show ends on a high.

There is an underwater sound as America starts, and I am my expectations are sky-high in anticipation as there is the dual guitar attack of Wendy and Miko getting all funky for the first few minutes. Prince joins the fray with his vocals and there is a fire to the performance that I feel the recording doesn’t quite capture. Eric is great, and Atlanta is even better as his trumpet scorches through the song as he plays. A lead guitar appears and the song is smoking hot by this stage. It’s almost unfair that Prince has Wendy, Miko and Eric on his team funking up the stage, as the solid bass of Brown Mark keeps us firmly on the dance floor. I was hoping for 20 minutes of this, but realistically the seven minutes we do get is amble, as I am sure those in the building had danced themselves into a frenzy in that time.

Kiss is nicely balanced, and I like that it has a stripped back sound with Prince and Wendy’s guitar taking the lead roles, nothing else bolted on or tampered with.  The lyrics sound a shade downbeat, I kind of like it that way, and the crowd come to the party with their boisterous “Kiss!” The ending is nice, with Prince thanking the crowd and a bare guitar playing for the last few moments that wraps it up in a bow before the next encore.

What comes next is, for me, the emotional and musical highlight of the show, a gut wrenching rendition of Sometimes It Snows In April. The opening with Wendy and Lisa playing is simply stunning, the delicate guitar sound and piano dancing a beautiful dance together, this is a special moment worth listening to again and again. As Prince sings things become even more emotional and his voice has a melancholy tone to it, and I think it is real rather than the performance. The three voices come together for the final lines and it’s hard to not think about the times these three had together. Prince ends the song thanking Wendy and Lisa, and thirty years on it sounds like a full stop.

Parade 1986 3

Purple Rain rises and falls as does the lump in my throat as I listen to it. Its plays as it does every time I hear it, a beautiful song that sounds so big and threatens to overwhelm all that has come before it. The guitars are warm, the piano clean, and Princes vocals heavy with emotion. The guitar solo starts with a quiver and a shake, before it becomes the howl we know so well. Having seen the video, I know how hard Prince was playing, and you can feel that on the recordings, he is pouring everything into to the guitar with a long sustained howl that ends with him throwing it to the floor before strapping on another guitar and giving us more of the same, before that too is thrown to the floor. As the crowd sing their part we do have half a minute of Prince playing the organ, and that is a real treat, it’s not high in the mix, but you can clearly hear it and it gives the song a final push before Prince thanks the crowd and leaves the stage, leaving the keyboards to play us out for the final minute.

As I have said throughout, it is impossible to divorce this recording from the context surrounding it, as great as the show and recording is, the historical significance of the moment looms large over it. I have heard people say that they cry listening to this, and I thought I was too far removed to have such feelings, but I must admit the last 15 minutes listening tonight I did have a tear in my eye. Having heard a fair number of fantastic recordings of The Revolution the last few years I found myself 30 years on listening to this thinking “why?”, they were beyond compare and seemed to still have more to give.
There are many words that spring to mind when considering this recording – essential, historical and emotional are at the front of the list. There is no two ways about it, this recording demands you listen to it. A fitting send off for The Revolution, this bootleg delivers on all counts and is an essential keystone of any collection.

Thanks for reading, I urge you to dig this one out and take a listen, celebrate The Revolution 30 years on, they were every bit as good as you remember.
Take care
Hamish

 

Le Zenith Paris 1986

After listening to some brilliant shows from the 1990’s the last few weeks, today I am going further back to that year of years, 1986. I have listened to many shows from 1986 already, so you might think there is nothing left to listen to that would be of interest. I have listened to some fine shows, that is true, but this particular show is of great interest as it is the live debut of It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, and the fact that it was recorded at this show and with the addition of overdubs is the version we all know so well from Sign O The Times. I have heard the song hundreds of times on Sign O The Times, and it gives me a thrill to hear it here in its untouched glory, The Revolution playing at their best. There is no one recording that does this show justice, so I am going to listen to a mixture of recordings. Firstly, a nice soundboard that covers 90% of the show, then an audience recording that covers the rest. In addition, I will also watch an audience video recording of the show, which doesn’t add much as it is quite hard on the eyes, but nevertheless is still worth seeing at least once, if not for seeing The Revolution chewing up Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.

25th August 1986, Le Zenith Paris

As always the opening of Around The World In A Day starts behind the curtain, but once that curtain opens Prince and the Revolution are on fire. The first verses calls you in, but then the music takes off as Prince is revealed and the spot lights hit the stage. Brown Mark sounds great early on, and his bass has a cool rolling quality to it mid-song.

Prince Paris parade

The horns that herald the beginning of Christopher Tracey’s Parade sound joyful in the extreme, and as Prince and Wendy sing there is a lovely summery feel to the show, and one expects that the whole evening will be an uplifting experience. Its bright and lively sounding, and I love the drum sound to it. Princes showmanship is excellent with some leaps and splits right from the start that sets the tone. However, the best moment is when he jumps behind the organ and starts playing, it’s so energetic sounding.

New Position stays with this bright sound with Wendy playing the steel drum adding a new dimension to the live show. The purple Rain shows feel a million miles away as I watch Prince and the band work the stage, everyone seems to have an extra spring in their step. Three songs in and I am in love with 1986 all over again.

I Wonder U slows things down, and asides from highlighting Wendy on vocals we also get some cool sounds from Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss, as well as a fantastic guitar playing in my left ear. I don’t even know what to call this music, all I know is how much I get out of listening to it. For a couple of minutes I don’t even mind that Prince isn’t on the stage.

Prince Paris parade5

He is well and truly back as a flurry of horns open up Raspberry Beret. This was all over the radio when I was a younger man, and age has not diminished its freshness to me. It is one of the great ‘pop’ songs, and Prince plays it with the spirit and youthfulness it deserves. Like all the best moments it comes and goes before I know it, but I still enjoy every fleeting second.

Prince is all over the stage and showboating as they play Delirious and I wonder how can he have so much energy. The first part of the song was cool, and it looks like Prince is about to play some organ, but then they swing into my favourite part of the show.

This version of The Revolution sounds great as they play Controversy. With the twin rhythm guitar of Wendy and Miko they have a wonderful slippery funky sound, one that resonates in my ears all day long. Controversy is very short, before the segue into Love Bizarre, and I am perfectly happy with that as I know this medley so well, and it is usually the part of the show I skip to.

Prince Paris parade6

 

Love Bizarre, right from that first “A,B, A, B, C’ has the funk turned up to eleven. It’s in the sound of the guitars again, and until Eric Leeds appears this is what I listen to most. Eric Leeds solo is different to how I remember, and infinity enjoyable. However, the best bit comes next as Wendy and Miko stand back to back funking me up while Prince encourages the crowd to chant “Who’s house, Wendy’s house” The song goes off on an interesting tangent next with a bass heavy groove leading us into Prince and the band stomping around the stage before, ugh, “the wooden leg”. Whatever my feelings for the wooden-leg, the music is everything I could ever want and more, and it takes on a James Brown edge as the song comes to a close.

Prince Paris parade7

I can lean back and relax again as Do Me Baby begins, although it doesn’t have the long beautiful intro that I usually look forward to. The intro is shorter, and Prince is into his singing right from the start. The music swells and rises behind him, I can’t deny it sounds good, but for me it’s missing the wow factor that I have heard on other recordings. The small flourishes from Eric Leeds give it some extra shine, and these moments are a real high point for me, especially the little pieces I can hear him play as the song quietens. The last few minutes of the song are what make it for me, some of Princes soft singing as the music twinkles and sparkles behind him, it’s divine.

Prince Paris parade1

A diversion next as How Much Is That Doggie leads us into the brief lady Cab Driver which in itself quickly becomes Automatic. Compared to everything else in the show its stripped back, and that works well for this part of the medley with the sound of the guitar and bass carrying us along. The rest of the band make themselves heard at the chorus as it spins off into uncharted territories before settling on DMSR, Wendy and Miko’s guitar sound once again sounding glorious in my ears. Its short lived as we finally get a longer song.

Prince Paris parade8

When Doves Cry gets a bonus point in my book for being longer than the previous medley, and it’s played straight without too much extras in the sound. Like the other performances on the tour, it’s Wendy’s solo that gets all my attention and all my praise, she sounds amazing as her guitar comes hard and clear. As much as I love Princes vocals and performance, Wendy upstages him and it’s a wonderful moment. The intensity is ramped up as Prince climbs atop his piano to encourage audience more, the band responses with some great intense playing of their own. The last few minutes with Prince working away at the organ while the band play on is sublime.

We come back to earth as Prince takes his time at the piano to play something a little more laid back. That something is the heavenly Under The Cherry Moon, a song completely at odds with all that has come before, and all the more powerful for it. The playing is lovely as is Princes vocal delivery, this time restrained and beautifully interweaving with the piano. No words can properly do this moment justice, it has to be heard and savoir every note.

The sweet music is forgotten in an instant as the band strike up another favourite of mine, Anotherloverholenyohead. Prince and Wendy’s vocals are tightly together in this song, and I am reminded how well they worked together, not just playing but also singing. Other band members get their moments too, Atlanta Bliss and Eric Leeds play their piece, before the band begins the long playout with Prince engaging the audience in some calls. Lisa is superb, her piano playing is light and bright, and adds a sheen to the heavier bass sound of the song. It’s music that I find I have to listen to, you can’t let it slide by, and I find I enjoy every moment of the few minutes Lisa plays.

Prince Paris parade9

I had forgotten that 17 Days was coming, and I am oh so pleased to hear it next, especially as I haven’t mentioned Brown Mark yet. He is in his element, and his sticky sounding bass sucks me in. Prince tells the audience that they are recording show, and I am only too happy to be enjoying the fruits of that thirty years later. The horns and guitar pick it up and run with it, and it becomes a groove that goes on and on. Prince starts to chant “Head, head” and I smile with anticipation.

Nasty Prince is definitely in the house as he tells the mothers in the crowd “Cover your daughter’s eyes” at the beginning of Head. I know we are in for a good one, as there is a pause before the horns start and the funky guitar plays through. Even when the horns come in, and keyboard riff plays it’s still that guitar sound that stays with me. Head plays for ten minutes and I revel in every note of it, all of it deliciously dirty and funky. Dr Finks solo is best summed up by Prince himself when he says “If you ain’t gonna do that to a synthesizer, then don’t play one” The long ‘burn it up’ sequence at the end is intense as Prince hurls his top into the crowd before engaging in some slick dance moves. Prince writhing on the floor singing electric man as the song sinks even deeper into the grimy funk is a fitting end. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get any better than this.

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A shimmering sound comes like a glimmer of light in the darkness, and when Pop Life begins it’s like a door is suddenly opened and the show becomes uplifted and pure again. The pop of the bass is excellent, as is Princes crisp sounding vocals. It’s in complete contrast to what we have just heard, I can only imagine Prince making such stylistic changes in concert like this. Pop in sound as well as name, Eric Leeds playing flute is the icing on top, and we come to a soft ending with the girls singing “Pop Life”

Girls And Boys has the crowd involved again, with Prince encouraging them to dance as the intro runs for a couple of wonderful minutes, the guitar, bass, and keyboards all interweaving and creating a colourful yet funky tapestry. Prince on the organ is the highlight as the intro plays, and he gives us a good couple of minutes here. The vocals are simply amazing when Prince singing, the sound quality is just right on his vocals, and I feel like I am right there when he sings. I know I have been heavy with praise throughout this recording, and this song too has me floored – Eric is wonderful, Wendy’s vocals sweet, and the band is beyond words.

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“Oh Honey, put your shirt back on” Prince says as Life Can Be So Nice, and one can only speculate to what he was seeing from stage. Life Can Be So Nice is full of sound and the band inject a lot of themselves into it. Bobby Z and Wendy are the heroes for me, Bobby gets a shout for his break, and Wendy’s vocals are all over this and heavy in my left ear. There is an awkward moment on the video when the stage is invaded by an audience member who knocks Prince over, but he recovers quickly and carries on very professionally.

1999 is nice, in that it’s a beautiful sounding recording, and the band play it for the most part straight. The horns are an addition to what is heard on album, but they aren’t over bearing and add just enough colour. The guitar and vocals are very faithful to the album, and they are what I enjoy most in the performance. The “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” is playful and a nice way to finish the main show before we fade to darkness.

Now comes the moment I have been waiting for, the genesis of It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night. The single drum that begins is so familiar, yet also new and I know what is coming next as the horns play their refrain and the “ow, wee ow” chant begins. I don’t know what I was expecting, but for the most part it does sound like it does on record. We do get Prince playing his organ which is cool, as is seeing Wendy play that guitar riff while stomping at the front of the stage. I greatly enjoy Brown Marks playing, as well as Eric Leeds, but I think the real highlight is watching the video and seeing The Revolution at their very best creating something that we will listen to for the next thirty years. The rap is missing, and instead we get some wonderful bass, and a lot of crowd singing- in some ways I prefer it like this, it feels so real and natural. “Confusion” and a final horn blast closes out what has been a wonderful ten minutes of my life.

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Mountains comes on so quick, it’s like a breath of fresh air. The band look and sound incredibly relaxed, and in particular I get a laugh when Prince rolls around on the piano. The coda is when things become more intense and when it finishes it seems the song has gone by in a blink of the eye.

Kiss has Prince stalking the front of the stage, shirt off and looking every inch the rock star. The song is tight, and there aren’t any real flourishes added to it. Of course we get Prince dancing the wooden leg, but on the recording it’s Wendy who is the star for me, her solo isn’t out of the box but it is excellent. It’s her guitar alone in the final moments of the song too, and it’s a fitting end before one final encore.

That encore is of course Purple Rain, and I am very happy to say that although the recording of it isn’t great, the song itself is just swell. A short intro before Prince starts singing, and the crowd is very vocal as he reaches the chorus. He sings it all the way, and we get every verse before the sweeping, epic guitar solo. It builds up well, and the notes come furiously fast right before the crowds “ooww oh ooowww”, and he keeps on playing as they sing. The songs ends not long after this, but we do have a couple of minutes of the strings to cushion our fall back to earth.

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Over the last few years I have run out of words for the shows from the Parade Tour. This one is yet another fantastic one in the canon of shows from that year, and to see It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night brought to life right on the spot was beyond words. There was something magical in the air that night, and all these recordings catch some of that in one way or another. None of them are perfect but I am pleased we have some sort of record from that night. Here’s hoping in future something better will surface that can truly do this show justice.

Thanks again,
Hard to think of what would top that show, but I’m sure by next week I’ll have something new to listen to and talk about
Take care
Hamish