Prince and the Revolution
Calling Prince “restless” is like saying Joel Embiid is “kinetic,” or Brad Pitt is “handsome”: it’s a given. In constant motion toward the next thing, whatever the next thing could be, throughout his career, Prince ended the touring cycle for his most successful album Purple Rain earlier than expected so as to move into the pop bliss and psychedelic blitz of his then-next work, Around the World in a Day, then start recording his next LP, Parade. There’s a precedent for this sort of thing, as David Bowie switched gears—a decade before Purple Rain—and began dismantling his theatrical showcase for the sci-fi rocking Diamond Dogs so as to commence playing the swaggering soul of Young Americans.
One thing that Prince did far better than Bowie at that time, however, was create a full concert film and soundtrack of his Purple Rain’s 1985 tour (a March stop at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome), one that showed off his best, most unified ensemble, the Revolution, in its fullest and funkiest flower. That he never released the film or its soundtrack, then, is a Prince lover’s victory in the present as Legacy drops the remastered live production, film, and soundtrack this month.
Super-deluxed as a two-CD, Blu-ray, and three-LP vinyl edition, the audio has been entirely remixed from the original two-inch multi-tracks with the Blu-ray’s volume and clarity punched up via Dolby Atmos and 5.1 Surround Sound. This show and its material have long been part of the public Prince ledger, bootlegged and beyond, but never with such stunning clarity. In particular, the color-corrected look of the 1985 concert footage is realistically vivid without feeling Day-Glo dated. You can almost feel Prince’s crushed velvet duster breezing by you from the stage.
No matter what the process is, or what Atmos brings to the late Prince’s proceedings, his muscle was The Revolution: Bobby Z, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, Brownmark, and Matt Fink; an intuitively inventive churning combine that challenged their frontman at every turn. The Revolution turn on a dime from densely bluesy and creamily soulful ballads topped by their boss’s falsetto (“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” “Do Me, Baby”), to gospel confessionals (“God,” “When Doves Cry”), to spare, glittering funk raves (“Irresistible Bitch”), all with crisp dynamism. The long-unreleased live recording of “Possessed” is just that, an overly grand R&B barnstormer in tribute to his hero, James Brown, with saxophonist Eric Leeds propelling—even provoking—Prince’s soulful shouts.
Yet from his long, winding guitar solos (take the holy-rolling instrumental stretch of “Purple Rain”), to his always-breathless, richly nuanced vocal takes (“Baby, I’m a Star” “Darling Nikki”), Prince never lets the audience—in Syracuse in 1985 and at home in 2022—forget who is this manic music’s centerpiece. And then, in a flash, the film and album is over and you miss Prince all the more.