A few weeks ago one of my musical dreams came true when I got to see The Revolution live. Of course that we’re missing one particular element of their original configuration but having these five individuals on stage performing the songs that they helped create was amazing. Back in ’86 when Wendy, Lisa, Bobby Z, Brown Mark and Dr. Fink last performed in the U.K. I wasn’t really a Prince fan (my first Prince gig was seeing the Lovesexy tour in ’88) and so I never thought about seeing them until they were gone. The Revolution were more than “the baddest band in the universe”, as Prince once delighted in proclaiming on stage. The Revolution era of Princes career is a particularity special one, as it is without doubt that without them we wouldn’t have seen the likes of the albums Purple Rain, Around The World in a Day or Parade as well as the multitude of other tracks that didn’t make those particular LP’s. Wendy & Lisa had a special collaborative relationship with Prince, providing many musical influences to his music that ranged from classical to pop. To my mind the Revolution era, with its origins around ’82, it’s semi-officialdom in ’83 (with “dna eht noituloveR” appearing on the 1999 album cover), and it’s official beginning in 1984 (with the addition of Wendy to the band), provided music unmatched in Prince’s career. It was always nice to dream that perhaps one day Prince would get the old band back together, and although it was indeed Prince who brought them together, it turned out to be for the worst ever reason.
Opening with the classic line “Ladies and gentlemen, The Revolution” (from the Purple Rain film) the crowd understandably went nuts, and from song one it was party time. If your a Prince fan, when you read the set list you will see why:
Take Me With U
Sometimes It Snows in April
Let’s Go Crazy
Head (Doctor Fink synthesizer solo)
Visions (Lisa Coleman piano solo)
When Doves Cry
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I’m a Star
Oh my god! What a set of songs. They played 17 Days for goodness sake! One of my all time favourite tracks. Just to hear them go through these songs, one after the other, tune perfect – what a joy! Of course there was tribute paid to the missing leader of the band with Wendy expressing the reasons for them getting back together as a catharsis, but this was a celebration no matter what the reason. It was such a special night and one I had waited for with great anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed and I imagine anyone else there felt the same. Wendy promised a return to London to play “deeper cuts” which makes the prospect of them coming back even more exciting. I can’t wait!
When the record company heard the pseudo-psychedelic ATWIAD for the first time apparently they weren’t impressed. Where was Purple Rain Part 2? While still touring with Purple Rain Prince was writing and recording ATWIAD and as always moved in a different direction to its predecessor. When I think of Prince albums ATWIAD seems to sit quietly in between Purple Rain and Parade, not always springing to mind when browsing my collection but this doesn’t reflect the quality of the album. You have undoubtedly heard of the singles but what defines it is its exploration of different sounds, instrumentation and composition that would characterise at least the next two albums. Where previously Prince would do it all, this is his more co-operative period with the Revolution, Wendy and Lisa in particular. If you have heard Purple Rain and like musicians that don’t stand still then you have to move on to ATWIAD.
Standout track : Condition of the Heart
The Purple Rain era was the zenith in Prince’s career in terms of commercial success and recognition which cemented Prince’s purple imagery in the public psyche. If you really have no idea about this album you get lots of screaming guitars as well as funky synthesiser laden tracks in a pop/rock/funk mix that only Prince could produce and provides his main source of radio airplay to this day. The 2015 Remaster is one of those releases where you are not quite sure what has been “improved”, other than the volume! I’m sure a close listen would pick out some changes but for me regardless its a solid album that is always a great listen. Its just a shame they wasted a disc in the “Deluxe” release with singles and B Sides that are available elsewhere when much better unreleased material is known about, but the unreleased stuff included is great!
Standout track: The Beautiful Ones
The bass line, drumbeats or breaks from a few of these tracks might seem familiar because they form the base of many hip hop tracks. As much as I like funk its that element that attracted me to this CD as I am a big fan of old school hip hop, but I mean proper old school – 1986 and older. A good funk track just finds its groove and takes you with it, and when it does you happily succumb. There is a good mix of loud funk with some smoother mellow tracks. I like collections like this where the tracks aren’t all well know and Mastercuts albums are great for this, particularly the original releases. If you fancy dipping your toe into any genre and there is an MC collection for it then its worth picking up, and you can usually get them pretty cheap too.
Standout track: Fatback Band- Wicki-Wacky – I love anything with a cowbell sound!
Produced by Minneapolis-based Jam & Lewis, Hearsay is Alexander O’Neal’s magnum opus and the source of his biggest singles in the 80’s. Hearsay was my first “concept” album, set at Alex’s party with “Interludes” in between the songs playing out events. Hearsay combines funk and soul in a pop package and there are some classic tunes on here. As with most parties you get the upbeat tracks at the beginning and the mellow stuff near the end, but it’s kind of the wrong way round for commuting into work! Alex just has one of those powerful voices and 30 years later (yes, 30! Can’t believe it!) its still a great listen from start to finish. I have seen him live a few times, and I remember seeing him walking to Hammersmith Apollo because the of the traffic jams. Awestruck, we snapped a photo but his minders presence dissuaded us from saying hello personally!
Standout Track : Never Knew Love Like This (with Cherrelle) – Yeah, there’s Fake and Criticize but this is a classic.
In 1995 Prince was having a big beef with his record company, and one of the results was this NPG album, Exodus featuring “unknown” masked vocalist Tora Tora. While this is an NPG album Prince runs solidly through it, and like most Prince-produced albums you get something that is different to any other Prince release. He was still quite sweary at this point in his career and there are plenty of mofo’s to be heard! The segues on this album are great and you get a feel for Prince’s sense of humour. Out of all his side projects this is one of my favourites and is a lot more accessible than the previous Goldnigga. Lots of funky tunes and some spacey references towards the end gives the feel of a Parliament/Funkadelic album, so if this is something you like this is worth a listen even if you’re not a Prince fan.
Standout track: Should be Count The Days, but as soon as Return of the Bump Squad kicks in…