a guest contribution from Derek Howie
I enoyed reading Jacques the Kipper’s recent tribute on Prince. He was my second biggest hero in music after Bowie and, like Jacques, it actually hit me harder than Bowie. Bowie bowed out with the masterpiece that is Blackstar, and it just seemed like the perfect end to a legendary career. Prince however had still so much to give. He had brought out 4 albums in just over 18 months and there was talk of more to come.
As he predicted, I do disagree with Jacques in that there is a lot of great stuff in the Vault. Some has leaked out over the years and there is a lot of fantastic songs there. Hopefully more will be released in a proper manner in the future and we will have more to enjoy.
As my tribute to one of the greatest live artists ever, I thought an Imaginary Live Compilation Album of Prince would show off the wee man’s versatility and brilliance throughout his career. A lot of his music sounded even better live.
I saw Prince play at the Hydro a couple of years ago and I still get a buzz from thinking back at how good it was. Hopefully this will give a flavour of what his concerts were like and you may find some songs that you will enjoy even if you aren’t his biggest fan. Enjoy.
1. Forever In My Life
Forever In My Life is from Prince’s arguably best album Sign O’ The Times. This version is from one of Prince’s legendary aftershows where, after a full concert, he would go to a more intimate club and funk out for another few hours for the lucky few who were able to get in, playing a lot less commercial stuff, and basically playing for himself.
This is taken from an aftershow At Paard Von Troje, Den Haag, Holland on 18th August 1988 and gives a good idea of the type of music he played at these gigs.
2. Days of Wild
This is the only recoding in this compilation that is actually on an otherwise studio album.
In late 1996 it was announced that a new album would be available by phone pre-order. I phoned up and ordered it from the States, and then forgot about it. The triple album, Crystal Ball eventually turned up in early 1998, with a couple of bonus albums, the acoustic The Truth and Kamasutra by the NPG Orchestra. The 5 discs were in a clear spherical container with no track-listing or booklet. It’s an album that I struggled with at the time but I’ve gone back and revisited it and now it’s one of my favourite Prince albums.
Crystal Ball is actually a compilation of songs from the Vault, mainly from 85-86 and 93-96.
Days of Wild is a live track recorded on 9 December 1995 at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios, where he often played concerts. The unreleased studio version was originally planned to be included on The Gold Experience album but was dropped before its final release.
3. Something In The Water
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is from the 1983 album “1999”. This instrumental version is from a soundcheck before his concert in the Orange Bowl Miami on 7th April 1985.
The recording of the soundcheck came to light earlier this year and is well worth listening to of you can get a recording of it. Needless to say, the 12 songs that he played during the 71 minute soundcheck didn’t feature in the concert itself. Prince and the Revolution just went out and showed what an incredible band they were.
His casual soundcheck is far better than most others’ actual concerts.
4. Erotic City
Erotic City was the b-side of the single Let’s Go Crazy, the second single to be released from Purple Rain on 18th July 1984.
The extended version of the song was due for inclusion on The Hits/B Sides compilation album, but it was removed by Prince, probably due to its explicit lyrics, and the abridged version was included instead.
This live version was recorded on Prince’s 26th birthday on 7th June 1984 at First Avenue, Minneapolis, which was the first live appearance of the song.
5. Old Friends 4 Sale
The song is from the criminally under-appreciated “The Vault… Old Friends 4 Sale” album in 1999. It’s Prince at his laid back best and gives an indication of some of his jazz influences. The album was delivered by Prince to Warner Bros three years earlier along with “Chaos and Disorder” but they held onto it. Prince didn’t promote or tour the album and talked about it being a contractual obligation but it does it a disservice.
The song itself was from 1985 but was in Prince’s legendary vault along with many, many other great pieces of music, and it’s hoped that these will now start to filter out.
This recording is from a 2012 “Welcome To Chicago” rehearsal.
6. Empty Room
A live version of Empty Room was on the 2004 live album C-Note album, although it was initially released as a members-only download from the NPG Music Club at the start of the previous year. C-Note is made up of 4 largely instrumental soundchecks and Empty Room.
This version was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival on 18th July 2009.
The studio version of the song remains officially unreleased.
7. Joy In Repetition
This song was released on the 1990 album Graffiti Bridge and also included on the 2002 live album “One Nite Alone… The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over.”
This version was the opening song to a concert at Inglewood Forum, LA on 28th April 2011. It’s my favourite bootleg and, to me, it’s Prince at his very best, although apologies for the long intro if it’s not your thing.
Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001, which resulted in him stopping swearing or singing explicitly about sex in the way that he had during the 80’s and 90’s. It’s noticeable that Prince changes the lyrics of this song to acknowledge that when he changes the lyrics from “4 letter words are seldom heard with such dignity and bite” to “4 letter words will not be heard not upon this stage tonight”.
The lyrics also include the line “Live music from a band plays a song called “Soul Psychodelicide””, which was a 59 minute song played at a jam session on 22nd July 1986, five days after Joy In Repetition was originally tracked.
8. Purple Rain
I guess I couldn’t not include Purple Rain, although I originally hadn’t planned to. It’s never been one of my favourite songs but as some of my inclusions are a bit more obscure, I thought I’d include one for the populist vote! It’s the title track from Prince’s best known album from 1984.
This version was recorded during Prince’s 21 night residency at the O2 in London on 21st September 2007.
9. Whole Of The Moon
A cover of the Waterboys single. Prince performed this with his backing band at the time 3rd Eye Girl.
The Waterboys included Purple Rain on their “The Live Adventures of The Waterboys” album and I wonder if this is Prince returning the favour.
The track was recorded at Prince’s Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis on 2nd May last year at his “Dance Rally 4 Peace”, following on from Freddie Gray’s death in police custody in Baltimore a few weeks earlier. Prince also released a single called “Baltimore” which also called for peace following the incident.
10. Nothing Compares 2 U
This is recorded during his recent Piano and a Microphone tour in the Sydney State Theatre on 21st February.
The quality of the recording isn’t the best but I felt I had to include it to show what his last tour was about. All the reviews were excellent and it’s nice to think that he went out on a high. He is best known for his guitar playing but it shows his musicianship that he was able to go on tour with only a piano and no backing band.
He was originally meant to be starting this tour in Western Europe late last year and had booked a night in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, but, to my great disappointment, it was postponed an hour before the tickets were due to go on sale due in part to tickets appearing on tout websites, but it was cancelled shortly afterwards following the tragedy at the Bataclan. Our loss was Australia and NZ’s gain and he did go on tour there earlier this year.
The song itself is obviously synonymous with Sinead O’Connor from 1990 but Prince had originally written it for The Family’s 1985 album “The Family.” This album is typical of Prince’s many protégés’ albums where he writes most of the songs, plays most of the instruments but is largely uncredited.
Following on from O’Connor’s success with the song, Prince started playing it regularly and a live version appeared on the 2003 compilation “The Hits 1”
Again Prince’s studio version remains officially unreleased but there are bootleg copies of it.
Bonus track – Purple Rain (reprise)
The last song of Prince’s last concert from the Fox Theatre, Atlanta on 14th April 2016.
“Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last.”