The Prince back catalogue gets further reissue treatment. This batch centres on one of Prince’s lesser known (to the lay fan) creative peaks.
Released: 29th May 2020
Label: Sony Legacy Recordings
Format: CD / LP / Digital
Rainbow Children – 2001
The new millennium was a new beginning for Prince. He reclaimed his birth name from his unpronounceable symbol moniker and became a Jehovah’s Witness after many a conversation with Larry Graham (Sly & The Family Stone).
Whilst spiritually reawakening, musically, Prince was continuing to diversify. The Rainbow Children, a reference to one who is spiritually aware, is initially a challenge if you are used to Purple Rain, 1999 and Lovesexy.
It has jazzy guitars and keys throughout with some great horns from the ever radiant New Power Generation (NPG). The Work Pt.1 is an incredible highlight that shows with everything going on spiritually, Prince could still lay down some of the finest funk around. You could see this tune as a little prelude to Musicology as it has a similar vibe. 1+1+1=3 is also an immensely funky number; one of those tracks that you cannot fail but shake your tail feather to.
Whilst the guitars are jazzy, there are still moments where Prince lays down some stellar licks on his guitar. The closing strains of the title track have a beautiful solo melody that creates a relaxing and otherworldly aura in the music before it gets increasingly heavier towards the infamous Prince guitar wail.
At the base of many a religion is love. Love is not something Prince was any stranger too. Prince’s 1994 album Come was notorious for its sexual content. Mellow on The Rainbow Children is a trademark ballad referencing Prince’s lustful desire in a song.
This period of Prince is also revolutionary. In what might be seen as a prophetic move, he started to give music away on the internet. Mellow was released via AOL as a free download and The Work Pt.1 was given away via Napster. The Rainbow Children was also Prince’s first release where he wasn’t backed by a major label and the album cover features Cbabi Bayoc’s “The Reine Keis Quintet”. Prince favoured the painting of a female band, as he was backed by an all-female ensemble.
One Nite Alone
Continuing a trend of giving music away via the internet, One Nite Alone was given to members of the NPG Music Club, separately and included as a gift with his One Nite Alone…Live box set. It was never sold in stores. It was made available via TIDAL in 2015 but this is it’s first major commercial run as a physical product.
The album centres on Prince and his piano. For anyone that heard the Prince & A Microphone release from a few years ago, you know what to expect here.
Prince’s voice is wondrous; his scale and range flits from top to bottom effortlessly. His playing his as emotional as his singing. There are certain tracks where other instruments are used, such as Prince’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You (stylised as A Case Of U). There are also Prince’s doves, named Divinity and Majesty, are also credited for ‘ambient singing’ on the album.
Prince was treading his own path, doing things his own way and not having anyone to answer to. For a man that was so fervently creative, this is exactly the situation that I imagine he wanted.
One Nite Alone…Live / Live At The Aladdin (DVD)
The final release in this batch of Prince reissues is an epic live album taken from his 2002 tour with The Rainbow Children and One Nite Alone as the focus. ‘If you’re expecting to get yo’ Purple Rain on,’ says Prince…’you in the wrong house!’ proclaims the Purple One at the start of Xenophobia. ‘If you drove up here in a little red corvette…you might be surprised at whatchu gon’ get.’ Too true.
Whilst there are some ‘hits’ included as part of a stunning piano medley (of which there is a stunning rendition of Sometimes It Snows In April), the material focuses heavily on his latest releases at the time. The jazz infused The Rainbow Children comes to life even more in the live environment. The horns exult, the drums are oh so funky and the keys are like velvet. On top of this amazing foundation you have Prince being the master ringleader.
Prince commands the band throughout, asks to dance with the crowd, threatens to go up to balcony to dance…Prince was an amazing showman. His confidence in the material is abundantly clear and the musicians that play are top notch too. The guitar work is second to none, the goading of the audience creates a fervour not many artists can conjure. At the end of 1+1+1=3 Prince asks for a new suit as ‘he’s about to sweat this one out.’
An emphatic version of Anna Stesia from Lovesexy completes the main live set. Prince pontificates about religion, his NPG music club and talks about singing high, ‘Love is God, God is love.’ The crowd duly obliges.
On top of the concert there is an extra disc containing one of Prince’s legendary after shows. Again, the cuts are deep and the band are spectacular. Joy In Repetition is, in my opinion, one of the finest live renditions committed to tape. The guitar work is fiery and what might be described as a face melting solo! A countrified outing for Alphabet Street is also a whole heap of fun as well as a completely jammed out version of Peach.
Within the package is the DVD entitled Live At The Aladdin from the same tour. Many of the songs contained are similar to the box set with a few notable song additions including Pop Life and one of Prince’s finest blues jams, The Ride.
These Prince reissues are a worthwhile addition to any music fans collection. Most hardcore Prince fans will own most of the material here and there is nothing ‘new’ in addition to the original music. If you’re a fan of Prince and want to go deeper, then look no further. This is an exceptional document of a man reborn with creativity and not stifled by anyone. Some of it hits like some of the greatest music he’s ever done and naturally, he could have done with a little quality control in some quarters. That being said, the winner is music, and more importantly, the fans.