The following post by musician Brandon Schott is the second in a series of posts in which we delve into Prince’s legendary vault, finding those pearls that only diehard fans have heard. Today, we get to see Brandon’s fantasy album, full of B-sides, outtakes and unreleased songs.
I love Prince’s Revolution.
I write this as both hyperbole and a literal statement of fact. As a young boy approaching the explosive age of double digits in the mid-80s, Prince WAS my musical revolution – “Darling Nikki” was my punk rock – “Paisley Park” was my Penny Lane – “Mountains” was my Sly & The Family Stone.
But quite literally, I LOVE the melting pot of personality that found themselves in Prince’s circle during these formative years – Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby Z & Doctor Fink…collectively, Prince’s touring and (often) studio band between 1983 – 1986: the REVOLUTION. “Purple Rain.” “Around the World In A Day.” “Parade.” These seminal albums all bore their name and influence, and hold the key to a spiritual chamber of my heart and creative life.
I continued to follow the cult of Prince through the 90s and on without shame, but by far the period of Prince’s career I still find most fascinating is the run of work he did between the end of the Wendy & Lisa era, “Parade,” and what a year later would become “Sign O’ the Times.” In early 1986, while putting the finishing touches on what he thought to be his greatest creative triumph yet, his film noir “Under the Cherry Moon” (and its accompanying soundtrack album, “Parade”), Prince continued work with The Revolution in the form of a collaborative record called “Dream Factory.”
However, by late summer 1986, though work was nearly completed on the record, “Under the Cherry Moon” was far from the hit he banked on. Prince spiraled into a kind of creative (crisis) metamorphosis that led him to disband The Revolution not soon after, and return exclusively to the one-man show of his earliest efforts. His first project immediately thereafter was the creation of an androgynous alter ego (and defining record) “Camille,” but that record was (while completed and mastered) quickly scrapped as well.
He then kept working, poured hours upon hours of studio time into amassing all the material of the previous months, eventually finalizing a 3-album set called “Crystal Ball” (then pared down to two, upon reflections from Warner Brothers, and released as the aforementioned “Sign O’ the Times”).
This stunning demonstration of ego, neurosis and unparalleled creative hubris all transpired between April 1986 and March 1987 – and was the sign of an artist (no pun intended) trying to drill back down to the roots of his creativity and find a new path forward. It is much of this period that informs my imagined “lost” Prince & The Revolution record, “Power Fantastic.” However, I took the seeds of the aborted “Dream Factory” and filled it in with b-sides and non-album cuts from their peak era. In my heart, “Power Fantastic” informs the kaleidoscope of sound he only ever delivered under The Revolution’s influence and orbit.
Dig if you will the picture…
1. “An Honest Man” – My set opens with a largely a cappella Prince letting his guard down and surrendering himself fully to some(thing)one. Written and recorded in 1985 (during the “Under the Cherry Moon” sessions), “An Honest Man” resonates with the kind of vulnerability he might reverse to obscure its weight (much like the spiritual coda to “Darling Nikki” on “Purple Rain”); however, in this lineup I hoped it would set a tone for the collaborative spirit of this collection. Plus, Claire Fischer’s orchestrations are always one of my favorite nuances to Prince’s 85-87 output.
2. “Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden” – Written and recorded during the “Purple Rain” sessions (and finally seeing its official release on the Deluxe Edition this summer), I’ve always loved the vibe of this cut – the 1983 Revolution cementing their sound and finding its groove. Opening with Lisa Coleman’s delicate lead vocal on “Our Destiny,” “Roadhouse Garden” was at one time the title track to a reported Revolution “reunion” record Prince was working on in the late 90s that never materialized.
“This is the house where we used to play…”
3. “Dream Factory” – Many of the tracks I chose for inclusion on this playlist originate during the aborted “Dream Factory” LP, the Revolution’s follow-up to “Parade”. What started out as a fully collaborative album with the band soon spiraled into chaos as Prince (still reeling from the commercial failure of ‘Under the Cherry Moon’) started asserting more and more autonomy over the project, eventually disbanding the Revolution and winding his way through to his seminal “Sign O The Times” record. But there’s something wonderfully fascinating and unique about his work on “Dream Factory” – the arrangements pop, the sound is full and warm, and Wendy & Lisa’s influence in particular is strong. As much as I love SOTT, I still feel as though “Dream Factory” could’ve been a seminal and unique record in his catalog, had it been completed as intended.
4. “Witness 4 The Prosecution” – WITNESS, indeed. Also from the aborted “Dream Factory” sessions, this is one of my favorite Revolution outtakes – it winds and rocks from top to bottom, funky as f$#^, and the band’s counterpoint during the pre-chorus is inspired. And Prince gets to shred against a bed of horns. And those gospel-inspired background vocals. Glorious.
Also, my guitar-playing classic-rock-loving 15-year-old noted, “DUDE, this sounds like T-REX!”, which only endears this song me more.
5. “Train” – Eventually released on Mavis Staple’s 1989 Paisley Park release “Time Waits for No One,” the Revolution-era version of “Train” is dirtier, funkier and in all the right ways pulses and grinds. While not actually featuring much of the Revolution, the presence of Eric Leeds makes it feel like part of a group effort and it was included on an iteration of “Dream Factory”. This is definitely one in circulation that sounds like a 2nd or 3rd generation copy, and I’d love to hear a cleaner – perhaps in a SUPER DELUXE release of the SOTT record?
Dear Warner Brothers – I have a few ideas for a SOTT package; hit me.
6. “She’s Always In My Hair” – OK, yeah – so, absolutely no group effort here whatsoever. HOWEVER, who are we kidding to think that that any “group” Prince effort would ever be exclusively collaborative? The man is far too restless. Still, as it hails from the prime era of Revolution activity, as a B-side to “Raspberry Beret” it’s certainly representative of the signature sound of that era – and as one of Prince’s all-time best B-sides, I felt it deserved inclusion here.
7. “Nevaeh Ni Ecalp A” – Recorded in April 1986 for the “Dream Factory” LP, this is a fun little psychedelic interlude – sampling “Witness 4 the Prosecution” and the also (criminally) unreleased “A Place in Heaven.” I’ve always loved it when Prince gets weird.
8. “Sexual Suicide” – Mostly a Prince solo track. Again, however the inclusion of a few spare (Claire Fischer?) orchestral hits, and background vocals from Wendy Melvoin (and her sister / Prince muse – Susannah), “Sexual Suicide” is definitely influenced by his work with the Revolution, and pops and grooves as hard as anything from SOTT or “Parade.” This was eventually released (briefly) along with “An Honest Man” above (and “Last Heart” below) on the 1998 outtakes collection “Crystal Ball” – one of the most disappointing sets I’d purchased from the man, and the beginning of my own personal decline from his creative orbit (though, the accompanying acoustic record of that set, “The Truth,” was worth the price of admission alone).
9. “Last Heart” – Also primarily a solo affair, the appearance of Eric Leeds and Susannah Melvoin make it feel more in the range of a Revolution track. In the liner notes to the 1998 “Crystal Ball” release, Prince indicates this was a “demo”, which seems rather revisionist if you ask me – this feels pretty complete to me, and I’d have loved to have heard this live on a theoretical “Dream Factory” tour … As an aside, this cut seems to speak much (in my heart) to the on again off again relationship with Susannah during this period, though that’s ultimately just conjecture from the storyteller in me.
10. “Shockadelica” – OK, I realize this is a cheat inclusion – it dates after the Revolution was disbanded and was included on the (also aborted) Camille project, eventually landing as the B-side to “If I was Your Girlfriend.” However, if “She’s Always in my Hair” has been noted as one his all time best B-sides, this would probably be my personal ALL-TIME favorite and one of the first jams I sought out on 12” during my Prince renaissance a couple years back. The fire in his vocals and performance on this cut slays me every time.
11. “Interlude (Wendy)” – Passing it back over to the Revolution proper – here’s a beautiful Wendy Melvoin solo guitar piece from the “Dream Factory” sessions.
12. “Power Fantastic” – This is as pure a representation of any in the beautiful context the Revolution can bring to Prince’s work. Recorded live at his purple Galpin Boulevard home in Chanhassen, and eventually released on “The Hits / The B-Sides” collection in 1993, this is an absolutely gorgeous performance and worthy of more than a quiet footnote.
13. “17 Days” – The B-side to “When Doves Cry,” another fantastic gem from the glory days of the Revolution. Again, mostly a Prince solo track but Wendy & Lisa’s vocals give it a spin only they can provide. Also, while only played once on the “Purple Rain” tour it was a mainstay of their live shows during the Parade tour two years later.
14. “All My Dreams” – This was set to be the closing set on every (projected) iteration of the “Dream Factory” LP, this is another track I’d have love to seen live – my heart swells imagining the thrill that might have landed with that final chorus in an auditorium full of fans (as I’d have been) hoping for catharsis in the form of musical communion. This is a fantastic and joyous example of Prince at his most spiritually focused, with the tremendous power of the Revolution in full force behind him. Cathartic.
“Goodness will guide us if love is inside us The colors are brighter, the bond is much tighter…”