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
Wendy and Lisa are Prince’s greatest collaborators and with him are responsible for some of his greatest work, whether credited or not. It was always going to be difficult for W&L to step out of Prince’s shadow but I don’t think fame and fortune were necessarily their goal. W&L are musicians at heart and Eroica, their third album, has a more mature feel about it as they seemed to have grown into their sound. It really is a listenable album from the view that there is depth to the music. Whether its the layered guitars on one track, or layered vocals on another or the little guitar licks that hop between the stereo channels there is always something interesting to listen to.
Standout track: Why Wait For Heaven – those guitars!
Harry was always the 1D member with a wild glint in his eye, exhibited in his many tattoo’s that hinted at a grittier side than his boy band membership might allow. That’s What Makes You Beautiful is actually a brilliant pop song but his new solo album is not quite pop, having a more indie-rock sound. I am surprised how much I am liking this album. Thankfully Sign of the Times is not a Prince cover but it is a pretty good song. Some have slated Sweet Creature for sounding too much like McCartney’s Blackbird, but I am sure there are other acoustic guitar songs that do too. The album kind of tails off a bit towards the end for me but after a few listens it’s a pretty good debut, although I could have done without the hotel room imagery. Thanks for that, Harry!
Standout track : Carolina , but Only Angel is great too!
Lianne La Havas just has one of those voices. It has a distinctive tone and depth that makes it hard to mistake her for anyone else. I was expecting not to like this album, her second, but found myself liking it almost instantly. Its not all funky beats, there are some guitar-based and rockier tracks where at times I am reminded of Skunk Anansie. She can let rip with her voice or bring it down to quietness, sometimes in the same song, but every time her soulful voice cuts through it all to stand out. Its easy to see what Prince saw in her with her contributions to his album Art Official Age, and as a songwriter she clearly has talent. I look forward to her next album, and will probably seek out the first one. Soulful, jazzy and a bit rocky at times – in a good way.
Standout track : Unstoppable – if the opening track doesn’t grab you nothing will.
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…