Prince & The Revolution – Pop Life / Hello (1985) (12″ Dance Remix by Sheila E.)

Prince & The Revolution – Pop Life b/w Hello
1985 Paisley Park  9 20357-0 A
12-inch Dance Remix by Sheila E.

Last Thursday would have been Prince Rogers Nelson’s 60th birthday. A fact which earned him his own category on the long-running American game show Jeopardy, incidentally quite popular with geezers of all ages. Perhaps we should be consoled that there will never be a starstruck clerk at the Four Seasons hotel forced to wait uncomfortably while Prince digs in his wallet for his AARP card to get that senior-citizen discount on his luxury suite. But nevertheless, we’ve all got a space to fill. Continue reading

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons (1989) (12″-remix)

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons
Vinyl rip in 24bit 192 khz |  Artwork at 300 dpi
Original release 1989
This Record Store Day release, April 22, 2017
Warner Brothers 21257-0

Scout’s honor, I swear I was already preparing this long before the news that Adam West, who introduced me and a lot of my generation to Batman and Eartha Kit with its campiest iteration, had passed away.  I was going to share it anyway because Prince would have turned  59 years old this last Wednesday,  and the 1989 Batman soundtrack  has such a mixed legacy that I imagined Robin Williams pranking him with it in the afterworld:  “Happy birthday, Prince.  I called the house DJ and asked him to play ‘Batdance’ on repeat all day long….”   The record was hyped up a lot as a “comeback” by the fickle music biz press, ironic considering that he had been putting out some of his most interesting and creative work with albums like Lovesexy and Sign O’ The Times, but those ambitious records did not take the world commercially by a Purple Rain-style storm.  When word got out that Tim Burton – who apparently was listening to those aforementioned albums while working on his Gothic reinvention of the Batman mythos – had asked Prince to put together a soundtrack, the hype machine began heralding that this high profile film was going to put Prince back in the “biggest star on earth” slot.   In the end the truth is probably best encapsulated by the phrase, “THROW IT!” from Shaun Of The Dead, when Prince’s Batman is separated from Shaun’s record collection, including several Prince LPs set aside as worth saving during a zombie apocalypse, and chosen instead to be used as a projectile weapon.  It’s a kind of distinction. Continue reading

Sheila E. – In The Glamorous Life (1984)

Sheila E. – In The Glamorous Life
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC and mp3 |  Art scans at 300 dpi
749MB (24/96) + 245MB (16/44) |  Direct Links  | Genre: pop / funk /  soul | 1984
Warner Brothers ~  1-25107

 

 Side 1:

    The Belle Of St. Mark (5:08)
    Shortberry Strawcake (4:44) 
    Noon Rendezvous (3:50)

    Side 2:

    Oliver’s House (6:20)
    Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar (3:50)
    The Glamorous Life (8:58)

All tracks written by Prince (credited to Sheila E.), except where noted.

The year of 1984 was a watershed one for Prince Rogers Nelson with its record-breaking Purple Rain soundtrack and tour, and the period surrounding it was also a time of  prodigious activity for his many proteges and acts where he wrote, recorded, and produced all the basic tracks – Vanity 6, The Time, Apollonia 6, Mazarati,  The Family, Jill Jones.  One of the most notable – and easily the most talented – of these proteges was Sheila E., who already had many years in the music business as Sheila Escovedo.  From the mid-70s, Sheila Escovedo’s talents as a percussionist had graced records from such established artists as Alphonso Johnson, Con Funk Shun, Johnny Hammond, and especially George Duke.  She also made a few albums with her father Pete Escovedo, and her uncle was percussionist Coke Escovedo, a pioneer in Latin-rock-jazz crossover through his contributions to the third Santana record (my personal favorite), the Santana/Buddy Miles band, Herbie Hancock, and his own group Azteca.  One could argue that Sheila’s Latin jazz chops are underused on these Warner/Paisley Park records, but I still find the standout tracks to be unique and emblematic of how Prince was able to constantly incorporate new sounds and influences.  As a musician, though, Sheila probably shines more as a member of the Lovsexy and  Sign O’ The Times-era ensembles led by his diminutive purple highness.  Last year I spent a lot of time listening to Prince bootlegs after he passed, and there are some soundboard rehearsal tapes from that period where Prince hasn’t even arrived to the studio yet, and the band is just running through material.  It’s not like I was a fly on the wall in those rehearsals, but there is some conversational banter that got caught on microphone.  I have this intuitive itch that Sheila was probably the person leading everyone through the changes.

Oliver’s House, The Glamorous LIfe, and Shortberry Strawcake are the funk-infused numbers here, but the whole album holds together well.  Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar is a unique plea for courtesy in one’s indiscretions, and when played live it often got a preamble from Sheila that fell a bit more squarely on one side of the naughty/nice dichotomy she had going on.  The cover for this album is classic too, juxtaposing a flair for high fashion with trashy decadence – you barely even notice the guy passed out on the floor amid squalor, tucked behind the slightly-opened door of what appears to be a dilapidated mansion or luxury apartment building.   Is the black cat on the front steps his or hers, or does it belong to the street?  Or is it an animal familiar summoned by the sorcery of Sheila’s drumsticks, tucked discreetly into the right leg of her alluring outfit?

For those fond of trying to decipher backward masking on records (which Prince was a bit obsessed with at this time), I’ve isolated some of the unknown lyrics to the instrumental Shortberry Strawcake here:

There is an interesting anecdote about Jesse Johnson (of  The Time) having actually written the bulk of The Belle of St. Mark but Prince finishing it up and giving it to Sheila; this resulted in him giving Johnson a writing and performing credit on Shortberry Strawcake as consolation.  Perhaps the real truth is recorded in some production notes locked in The Vault.  Incidentally, some internet sources  take the credits as listed on the album jacket at face value.  They are, however, widely known to be false or misleading information to masque the degree to which this album and others were really Prince projects.

The following information is drawn from the Prince Vault @ http://princevault.com/index.php?title=Album:_The_Glamorous_Life

First steps

Prince urged Sheila E. to record a solo album starting in February 1984, when she came to visit him at Sunset Sound during initial sessions for the Around The World In A Day album, following a friendship which had begun almost six years earlier.

She wasn’t very comfortable singing lead vocals, although she had sung background vocals for other artists; Prince and Sheila E. began by recording Erotic City, which was used as the b-side of Let’s Go Crazy, before he had her record vocals over some tracks he had originally intended for Apollonia      6 .

Prince suggested she shorten her stage name from Sheila Escovedo to Sheila E., and took the finished tapes to his management company, who introduced Sheila E. to Warner Bros.

Recording process

The time between vocal recordings to the release of the album was swift; less than two months in total.

All songs on the album were recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, CA, USA. The Glamorous Life and Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar were recorded in late December 1983. The Belle Of St. Mark, Oliver’s House and Shortberry Strawcake were recorded in early January 1984. Noon Rendezvous was recorded in mid-February 1984.

Sheila E.’s vocals and percussion for all tracks were recorded in the first few days of April 1984. The Glamorous Life, Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar, The Belle Of St. Mark, Shortberry Strawcake and Oliver’s House were initially intended for Apollonia 6 until Prince began to work with Sheila E. in February 1984, at which time he set the songs aside for her.

Promotion

The album produced three singles, The Glamorous Life (which preceded the album), Noon Rendezvous, and The Belle Of St. Mark.
It reached number 28 on the US Billboard 200 Chart, and number 7 on the Billboard Soul LP’s Chart.

Personnel

    Sheila E. – vocals, percussion
   Prince – all instruments, except where noted (uncredited)
    Jill Jones – background vocals on The Belle Of St. Mark and Oliver’s House (as J.J.)
   David Coleman – cello on Oliver’s House and The Glamorous Life
  Novi Novog – violin on Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar
    Nick DeCaro – accordion on Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar
  Larry Williams – saxophone on The Glamorous Life

Production

    Prince – producer, arranger (album) (credited to Sheila E. and The Starr Company)
    Bill Jackson – mixing engineer
Peggy McCreary – mixing engineer (as “Peggy Mac”)
    Terry Christian – mixing engineer

The last entry in the Spring Funk Drive fundraising effort?  Well in terms of funds it has been a colossal failure but it was fun to attempt to create some momentum I guess

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Prince – Around The World In A Day (1985) (Paisley Park ~ 9 25286-1 ~ SRC Pressing)

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Prince & The Revolution – Around The World In A Day
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC & mp3 | 300 dpi LP Artwork
904 MB (24/96) + 323 MB (16/44) + 113 MB (320) |  Direct Links | Genre: Prince | 1985
Warner Brothers / Paisley Park ~ 9 25286-1 ~ SRC Pressing

I bought this album the same week it was released with money I earned from my paper route as a ten year-old kid.  In a previous post, I described this album as a “the gateway drug” to a universe of unheard sounds that would shape my musical tastes in unexpected ways for years to come.  It may not have have been Prince’s most consistent record from start to finish, but it was a bold and unpredictable artistic statement from somebody who could have just released Purple Rain II and made everybody happy.  The critics loved to hate this album.  His fans have always known better. Continue reading

Prince and the Revolution – America b/w Girl (1985) (12″ extended single)

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PRINCE and the REVOLUTION – AMERICA / GIRL (12″ extended single)

Side One:  America (21:46)

Side Two: Girl (7:36)

ARC (Allied Recording Company) pressing
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1X
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; ClickRepair on “Girl” only, set to “1”; clicks and pops removed individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

It’s almost Independence Day in the USA.  So, a twenty-one minute jam on the funkiest single from the Around the World In A Day, because why not.  Playing until the tape reel ran out, there are some fun solos from Prince and Dr. Fink, but the group had yet to incorporate the horn parts that would become part of the instrumental workout on the road, and so this is probably less interesting than it could have been.   As the tempo never varies, I’ve found this makes a good track for when you need something epic to power a good run or workout of your own (and those versions of “A Love Supreme” or “Echoes” you have your iPhone usually result in you standing still and staring off into space).   You can hear the live treatment that this song got, which was about half as long as this, on any number of high-quality bootlegs.  They mostly seem to follow the pattern in this video clip, minus the somewhat sloppy drum solo played by P.

 

03 - Label A_2Being a godless commie my own self, I always wanted to think of this song as an ironic comment on patriotism.  Given what we now know about his truly deep religious convictions (which he insisted were sincere from the beginning), I’m not entirely sure any more.  It seems possible he may in fact be implying that Jimmy failing to pledge allegiance to the flag has some causal relationship to him now living on a mushroom cloud.  Little sister, making minimum wage and living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage, may still be better off than those Reds, who most definitely didn’t have anything this fun to dance to.  Taking it all at face value, this has to be the funkiest Cold Warrior anthem you’re likely to hear, at least until James Brown released “Living In America” in December of 1985 and sang the pugilistic praises of all-night diners and black coffee.  Prince obviously drew a lot of inspiration from James, especially on this song (and especially specially on the live rendition).  Was everyone just feeling particularly red, white, and blue in 85, or was there some sinister CIA program to accelerate Perestroika by covering the globe with feverish funk celebrating capitalist freedoms?  There’s a history dissertation idea in there for some of you grad students out there, you can thank me later in your acknowledgements.

04 - Label B_2“Girl” is not my favorite B-side from Prince, but it’s certainly not terrible either, and the extended version makes the track more, um, charming.  Dig, if you will, the picture of Kraftwerk abducting Barry White, forcing him to breath through a helium tank, and ordering him to compose and perform an erotic proclamation of lust for their new record (“Please Barry, show us how you humans make with the sexy music”), and you’ll have some idea of “Girl.”  Well, except that the mechanical rhythm that chugs along underneath the track is generated by a couple low notes on a Hammond organ rather than a synth.  The spoken parts of the extended tune, which simulate one half of an intimate conversation of some kind, are Prince at his most blush-inducing.   It features the line, “”All I have to do is think about you, and I can have an orgasm.  Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  Marry me.” Just like the track Temptation from this same album, it’s stuff that’s so over the top that only he could pull it off without appearing completely silly.  Okay so maybe a little silly, but we know the man could laugh at himself, because he apparently approved of Dave Chappelle’s depiction of him dry-humping a basketball.

The extended mix also features collaborator and love-interest Susan Melvoin reciting the lyrics backwards with “boy” switched out for “girl.”  It is only just barely audible with all the other stuff going on in the mix, and so for fun I’ve isolated it for all those people who have trouble playing digital audio backwards.  This is just the right channel (where her voice is) and with EQ applied to accentuate just the voice.

 

So whether you are enjoying beers and barbecue in the Land of the Free or just enjoying yourself in one of the lesser countries of the world, here’s a little extended paisley magic for your collection.

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Prince and The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy / Erotic City (1984) (12″-inch extended single)

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02 - Back_2

 Prince and The Revolution

1984 Warner Bros. Records – 9 20246-0 A

A     Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)     7:35
B     Erotic City (“Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive”)    7:24

Matrix / Runout (Side A): [SRC logo] 0-20246-A-SRI I-2
Matrix / Runout (Side B): [SRC logo] 0-20246-B SR2

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (Let’s Go Crazy only, manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

 

On days like this, I sometimes post here just to keep busy.

This is really an iconic extended single for Prince.  On the first side, you have the rousing anthem that persuaded rock fans like my brother that His Royal Badness was a force to be reckoned with, while on the flip side you had pure and nasty electro funk.

Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)

“Let’s Go Crazy” is celebrated for good reasons. By 1984, popular songs based around guitar riffs which were also danceable were few and far between in the almost thoroughly segregated music scene of the US, yet here was a manic message of elevators and purple banana peels urging everyone to let go and shake what the good Lord gave them.  It’s Little Richard backed by Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm with a Juno synth and a Linn drum machine.  One of the many things I like about this song is a detail that is easy to forget when I haven’t heard it for a while: the way the guitar solo in the middle is mixed lower than nearly everything else going on around it.  It’s a brilliant strategy of psychological rock-warfare that must have led billions of listeners to reach for the volume knob at just the right moment.  This extended mix throws in a different pentatonic minor progression with a discordant piano plonking away and a portion of the opening spoken prologue repeated, then suddenly dropping into a groove that sounds like… Minneapolis soca?  There is some almost-Caribbean percussion going on in the left channel (Sheila, is that you?) that makes me imagine people celebrating más in their winter coats outside First Avenue.   And as he did for most of his career, Prince manages to cover all this ground while sounding completely natural rather than self-consciously eclectic, to the point where we aren’t even surprised when we flip the record over and have our minds blown by the non-album track “Erotic City.”  That’s not to say he didn’t know he was pushing all kinds of boundaries – not just by testing the limits of Reagan-era prudish hypocrisy, but musically.  We have to assume the the club owner in Purple Rain wasn’t the only person who must have told Prince, after one fashion or another, “Your music makes no sense to nobody but yourself.”  Well eventually even he “gets” it in the end.

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“Erotic City” is noteworthy for lots of things.  It is the first recorded Prince track to feature Sheila E. (unless she did in fact play the percussion on Side A but I don’t think there she is credited).  Although I have not been able to bring myself to watch it yet, she apparently brought down the house at the BET awards this past weekend in a medley that opened with ‘Housequake’ and ended with this track.  I plan to watch it, I just have to work myself up to it. I don’t “do” award shows, and plan to avoid some of the tribute material if possible, so I’m hoping to find just the clips of Eryka Badu, Bilal, and this medley if I can find them out there without having to suffer through the rest.

Erotic City

In the version that was unleashed on the world in 1984, she sings the second vocal part.  She has insisted that she is actually singing “funk” and not “fuck”.. Maybe some of the time, but I find it doubtful, and that’s definitely not what Prince is singing.  Anyway it didn’t stop the track from getting some airplay on R&B stations and becoming a legendary weapon in many a club DJ’s arsenal.  When Prince inducted Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, he claimed he went home and wrote this tune immediately after seeing them play a show in the early 80s.  I can believe that.  The electro bass groove drives things for well over a minute before any vocals come in.  The guitar on this song was recorded with the tape at half-speed to give it a sped-up, hyper-space sound (if you played the 45 rpm disc at 33 and 1/3, the guitar would almost sound normal).  There is additional vocal overdubbing done at half speed too, and for brief moments the mix is suddenly filled with feral, over-sexed chipmunks.  This was a favorite encore number for Prince and I’m glad to be able to share it here.  But don’t forget to visit the Fun With Vinyl blog where there are still a couple days left of Paisley June.  DJ Ritchie there has all the extended singles you will ever want, and there are lots of them, so go have a listen!

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