22 April 2004

11. shy (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
one of the things i've always found difficult to locate within prince's work is the influence of joni mitchell. he's mentioned it ininterviews, he's quoted her in songs ("dorothy parker"), as of late, he's covered her ("case of you" on one nite alone.)

"sometimes it snows in april" could be joni-influenced; it could just be a man with a guitar, like any other singer/songwriter of the 70s. something about "shy," though, from the overlooked gold experience seems to just shout "joni," though it's more like a wordless cry. i can't quite capture it in words: maybe it's there in the vocals, the way he scales octaves; maybe it's in the lyrics, an elusive account of a sexually-charged encounter. mostly, though, i think it exists in the guitar playing, in the numerous textures he elicits from his guitar, layering, juxtaposing. it brings to hejira to mind; it's a song i wish he'd reclaim and a reminder to all the young'uns that influence need not always manifest itself in slavish recreations.
late last week, i received e-mail from a gentleman wishing to inform me of the existence of his band jackdaw. as a slogan "brick-throwing celtic rock" isn't quite as intense as "face-pounding rock from dallas, texas," but few things are. (where have you johnny solinger?) i've received these before, but i'll discuss this one since, even if you received one, they were nice enough to personalize it with my name, unlike so many others. (and, besides, i like the idea that i'm an influential tastemaker -- oh, the places flattery will take you!)

he described the band's music as "the pogues filtered through the american working class experience." okay, good start, i like the pogues. [...] but then i think about that statement a little: yeah, i do like the pogues, but i don't really care for the brawling, distempered numbers, where the use of traditional instruments can't help but evoke images of darby o'gill & the little people, no matter how pissed (in both the us & uk sense) shane manages to sound. instead, i like the tracks that can only work because of these songs, the ones that counter the belligerent side of shane, the hard rock with the heart of gold numbers like "rainy night in soho," "fairytale of new york," and "misty morning, albert bridge."

b-but i like the waterboys! they're irish, right? (sort of?) make use of traditional instrumentation. but even here, i only really care for the lush songs, "whole of the moon," "this is the sea," the ones that are as immense as mike scott's dreams.

all that said, i think that if one does enjoy the pogues, i think he or she will like jackdaw. it seems as if they have a rather substantial following as it stands, whose advice guided me through my listenings (i'd recommend "broken cans" from armed and legged). i admire the decision to make their own way professionally; that they've generated such a following should attest to their ability. i wish them the best of luck, while adding that there's nothing wrong with adding a string section, when budgets allow of course.

find out for yourself.

21 April 2004

10. ripopgodazippa (from crystal ball compilation (disc 1), 1998, recorded in 1994)
earlier i had said that prince has had difficulties with reggae: if this were his sole representation of the genre, such a statement would be difficult to make. unlike "the sun, the moon, and stars," which i'll get too soon, prince doesn't attempt to toast on "ripopgodazippa." rather, his approach is laidback and relaxed, content to let the groove do much of the work, while he focuses on the finer things, so to speak. (trainspotters will doubtlessly recall "ripopgodazippa" was used, along with the gold experience's "319," in showgirls.)
some might disagree, but apparently blogger thinks i'm "active" enough to qualify for a free g-mail account: take advantage of it, if you haven't already.

as for actually making myself active, here's a new songs to download & sing, or: the "mix tape" playlist on my ipod. i suppose i can talk about the ipod eventually; later, i'll continue the prince comments; and i also eventually want to write about bobby darin & dion at length. semester ends in two weeks, but until then...
fiery furnaces, "chris michaels"
joy zipper, "baby you should know"
prince, "on the couch"
the vines, "winning days"
adem, "these are your friends"
pixies, "debaser" (live, 04.13.04)
the roots, "don't say nuthin'"
tv on the radio, "the wrong way"
ghostface, "save me dear"
sufjan stevens, "in the devil's territory"

16 April 2004

9. chaos & disorder (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
at one time, i knew the song whose live extended jam became "chaos & disorder," the song; goes to show how disconnected i've become from my former fanatic self. like a pete rock or dj premier, prince, in his prime, could toss off bonus beats (or riffs) that could form the core of a lesser artist's canon. perhaps a sign of the times (sorry), then, that prince resorted to re-using that riff for "chaos & disorder." i can't blame him: it's a great one, and the song itself is a nice "dance to the music"/"the jam" introduction of the band number, with prince's most clever use of samples ever.

btu perhaps the second-handedness of the song was a jab at warners and a wink to his fan, letting both know that this was contractual filler. among the dross to be found on chaos & disorder were two jewels -- a sign that, even when he wasn't trying, he could still come up with something quite potent: a surprise to fan and, quite possible, artist alike.

13 April 2004

oh, while i'm talking about prince, a friend of mine, and former prince obsessive like myself, was, contemporaneously, working on his own compilation, in light of musicology. for a second opinion, i list his version:

01 The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
02 Letitgo
03 Space
04 I Hate U
05 Gold
06 Dinner With Delores
07 Betcha By Golly Wow
08 Somebody's Somebody
09 The Holy River
10 Welcome 2 The Dawn
11 The One
12 Come On
13 The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
14 Man O' War
15 U Make My Sun Shine
16 The Daisy Chain
17 The Work
18 She Loves Me 4 Me
19 A Case Of U
20 Musicology
21 A Million Days

so he and i only agree on four tracks. again, perhaps more proof that this is a very rich period.
8. goodbye (from crystal ball compilation (disc 3), 1998, recorded in 1996)
"goodbye" was replaced by "the holy river" on emancipation, which strikes me as an unusual substitution. not because "the holy river" sucks -- indeed, it is great and i'll talk about it soon -- but because their subject matter is completely different. "goodbye" is a really beautiful ballad, a better philly soul ballad than his covers of either "betcha by golly wow" or "la la means i love you" turned out to be, one that would have to have been placed on disc 2. the problem with that is that disc 2 is so celebratory, prince so happy to have found his true love in mayte, that "goodbye" would have been jarring. (and it's far too amicable of a parting to be directed at his former "slave" masters at wb.)

now, i wonder if i pick "goodbye" over any of the ballads on emancipation because it didn't make that album, because it's not tainted with some of my own personal associations with it. but, ultimately, i believe it comes down to my own predilection for songs that are bittersweet, a feeling more akin to how i intend on viewing myself than the hosannas of songs like "saviour" and "flsmw."

12 April 2004

i really want to like the new fiery furnaces album, blueberry boat more, and yet i think a desire to separate themselves from the "the" pack has yielded too much of a (pretty) good thing -- thank goodness for the liberating power of sound editing programs. certainly, no one will mistake this for the white stripes, even if jack did add piano to their palette on elephant. indeed, what i mistake it for is the first two springsteen albums (because, at 76+ minutes, it's nearly as long as those two combined) translated into -- and i hesitate to use this word because i might be called upon to define the term and, as it is, when i use the word it's something of an inchoate concept... but, okay. PROG.

or even smiley smile, that is it possesses a goofy kind of charm and a mutated eclecticism, but that it also begs the question of what might have been.

or maybe it's just the magnolia of new york-based rock. make of that what you will.
7. "dinner with delores" (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
i remember seeing the video once, but this single disappeared about as quickly as the album it appeared on. not surprising, since it's a fragile thing: falsetto trills and cooing backing vocals, bound together in my mind by one of his most archetypal guitar solos, a solo that demonstrates, like santana, how important tone is to his playing. it's a song that ends with a good bye that sounds more like "good riddance," an apt sentiment considering that this was his last non-archival album for warner brothers. and, yet, as this era proves, there is such a thing as too much freedom (and, unsurprisingly, as with 1999's rave, he now finds himself leaning on a major once again -- each "comeback" is inextricably bound up with one of the big five.)

09 April 2004

6. papa (from come lp, 1994)
"papa" is an oddity in prince's catalog, which is saying a lot because that catalog covers so much ground. it's short, mostly spoken, with a blues motif more akin to robert johnson than any of his electrified followers. prince utters the line, "don't abuse children, otherwise they turn out like me," which leads to a brief, but powerful full-out rock coda. the whole song is incredibly harrowing and suggests for the first time that prince may have been abused (after all, unlike a springsteen, a prince listener is familiar with their man singing in the first person.) i owned come on cassette, and i think it must function more effectively in that format, with both time and space between the two sides (how does "loose!" sound seguing into this?) "papa" itself functions more effectively in its singularity and in the disturbance created by its claim.

08 April 2004

the swan is diabolical on any number of levels and, as much as i enjoyed the first episode, i can't help but wonder how much better it would have been if, once a contestant loses, the team of experts UNDO all of the surgery and such.

perhaps it's best that i'm not in television.
5. she spoke 2 me (from girl 6 ost, 1996, first attempted in 1992)
okay, this is potentially a cheat. "she spoke 2 me" was first tried out for the symbol album (so, at the very least, there's some association.) as far as i know, this take, which first appeared on the girl 6 soundtrack, was recorded in 1996.

i could be wrong; i may be going with this story because it's convenient to me. (actually, i didn't even know it was recorded in 1992 until i assembled this compilation.) true, it would've fit in well on the symbol album, which had a jazzy atmosphere that extended from the (lesser) diamonds & pearls. this is the perfect example of the sort of song he could once write in his sleep -- a sinuous melody, a skillful pre-chorus, a breathless middle 8 -- put simply, it exudes confidence.

yes, would've sounded good following "love 2 the 9's" or leading in to "damn u." but i like it better here. my story and i'm sticking to it.

07 April 2004

4. endorphinmachine (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
one of the things that plagued prince during the symbol era was a seeming inability to leave well enough alone. in any case where i've heard an original version of a song, the later, "official" take is always, always overproduced, e.g. just about every previously unreleased track on crystal ball (most heinously: "crucial.") another case in point: "endorphinmachine." i was tempted to include the version found on the test pressing of come, but it was annoyingly difficult to segue. what the gold experience version teaches us is that, yes, there is such a thing as too much cowbell. and yet it rocks, a pre-millennial "let's go crazy." the endorphinmachine, if one is curious, was a part of his set during the album's tour, a set constructed like an upside-down vulva, wherein the endorphinmachine is the clitoris.

all before he became a jw, you see.
3. in this bed i scream (from emancipation lp (disc 1), 1996)
when i conceived of this project, i thought i had made a mistake in trying to limit it to a disc -- after all, this period includes both the gold experience and emancipation. what surprises me now is how little of emancipation is indispensible and how much of it has been tainted by events that have transpired since (the death of his child casts a pallor on "sex in the summer" and "let's have a baby"; his divorce from gives the lie to both "friend, lover, sister, mother, wife" and "saviour.")

"in this bed i scream" was just about the last song on the album i took to. peculiar that, since it bears so many of the hallmarks of his best 80s work -- discordant guitar, complex drum programming, wonderful synth tones. logically enough, then, it's an appeal to wendy & lisa. and even the fact that that reunion (and the planned roadhouse garden album) fell through is not enough, thankfully, to spoil "itbis."

06 April 2004

2. p control (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
one could probably get away with saying that, after the name change, prince suffered from a judgement problem (or, that, indeed, the name change itself was an outgrowth of a latent judgement problem.) namely, he no longer seems to know what makes a great pop single -- and, arguably, that continues to this day with "musicology." to wit: the three singles he selected from the gold experience, his best album of the last 15 years, needed to be edited, the first two because they were long one, the last because it contained a chorus of "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh... pussy control... ah" (repeat).

which is not to say that "p control" isn't a great song. given his troubled relationship with rap -- along with reggae, one of two genres he has yet to really assimilate -- "p control" represents an incredible step forward. perhaps this is due to the fact that he's being himself, rather than trying to claim compton roots, and rapping about his kind of girl, a woman who uses what she's got to get just what she wants. as an album opener ("good morning, ladies & gentlemen, boys & motherfuckin' girls, this is your captain with no name speaking and i'm hear to rock your world"), it's ideal; as a single, it was a non-starter.
1. the most beautiful girl in the world (from the beautiful experience ep, 1994)
i assume we all know this record, yes? no need to speak of its merits as philly soul confection? all right, let's historicize then. if memory serves, "tmbgitw" was the first record released under the symbol. so, if this set were organized chronologically (and it isn't), it would serve as the opener. as it is, i selected it to start this compilation because it betrays a certain mindset of its creator at this time. not only was "tmbgitw" issued under the symbol, it was also released independently. what it suggests is that the songwriter believed he could still dash off pop hits whenever he chose, just as long as it didn't detract from his headier pursuits. it served as proof that he had not lost his touch, nor, more importantly, had he lost his mind. and! he did it without the benefit of a major! surely, if he were free, the only way was up. he must have felt untouchable, his hubris at its pinnacle (which, given the nature of the artist, is saying a lot.) in short, "tmbgitw" begins this compilation because, during the symbol era, it was also his commercial pinnacle.

and, oh, did he have a long way to fall.
on friday, matthew had posted a track from the new prince album. it's good, and so, within the comments, the old discussions about what he's done with himself in the last ten years or so came up. i suggested that, actually one could make an incredibly strong single-disc compilation of the years 1994-2004. and, so, that's what i've done.

it was somewhat odd, like looking at an old photo album. this era marks the time that i first became a prince fan and, later, an obsessive. i purchased each of these albums as they came out and greatly anticipated what was to follow. it was also during this time, roughly, that i started college and "discovered" the internet. on the internet, i found newsgroups, most notably alt.music.prince and alt.music.alternative. these groups became welcoming communities, sorely needed as i felt especially alienated at school. a.m.p., in particular, introduced me to all of the materials that existed: the bootlegged concerts, the copious outtakes, the numerous side projects.

in assembling this compilation, i needed to track down some of the albums that time has been less kind to. these albums are in a bin, tucked away -- albums that i'll get around to selling one of these days, if i can find a buyer. what they all have in common is that they each are attached to a particular memory and that they also were all released between 1994 and 1999, years when it could be said that i was "finding myself" (it's an ongoing process, but i think i've reached a point where my music taste is less hit or miss -- all right, so i did buy the sounds album.) within the bin, one will find second-tier britpop (longpigs, mansun), dated trip-hop (olive, NINJA TUNE!), and neo-soul never-weres (laurnea, adriana evans.) oh, and the npg's new power soul.

that album is as bad as i remembered it. none of the tracks from it made it onto the compilation, though i did save "the one" from ignominy for its fretless bass and strings. actually, once i was done fine tuning the tracklisting, i realized that not one track from the new millennium made the final cut. what i've unintentionally made, then, covers the years 1994 and 1999, or basically an overview of the symbol years, an age that begun on prince's 35th birthday (june 7, 1993) and ended on the last day of the century, the day, not coincidentally, that his contract with warners expired. so, rather then 94 04, a more appropriate title becomes symbolism, or even contractual abnegation. tracklisting is as follows:

1. the most beautiful girl in the world (from the beautiful experience ep, 1994)
2. p control (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
3. in this bed i scream (from emancipation lp (disc 1), 1996)
4. endorphinmachine (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
5. she spoke 2 me (from girl 6 ost, 1996, first attempted in 1992)
6. papa (from come lp, 1994)
7. dinner with delores (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
8. goodbye (from crystal ball compilation (disc 3), 1998, recorded in 1996)
9. chaos & disorder (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
10. ripopgodazippa (from crystal ball compilation (disc 1), 1998, recorded in 1994)
11. shy (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
12. dark (from come lp, 1994)
13. the sun, the moon and stars (from rave un2 the joy fantastic lp, 1999)
14. the holy river (from emancipation lp (disc 2), 1996)
15. the love we make (from emancipation lp (disc 3), 1996)
16. gold (from the gold experience lp, 1996)

notes to follow.