Prince’s Old Friends

Here’s an early outtake from around 1985 (supposedly during the ‘Parade’ sessions). “Old Friends 4 Sale” is rumored to be about Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, two members of The Time that went on to much success as producers (Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’), and Big Chick Huntsberry, his former bodyguard. It’s a slow, somber, bluesy tune, one of my many favorites.

Prince: Old Friends 4 Sale (#2) (mp3)

Prince on SNL this Weekend

On paper, this weekend’s Saturday Night Live is looking mighty fine: host Steve Martin with musical guest Prince. I’m going on 22 years as Prince fan. His output over the last many years by and large hasn’t done a whole lot for me, but I still buy everything he puts out, I’ll catch him when he’s on the tube, and I most definitely catch him live whenever possible.

Most likely because it’s tied to my adolescence and all the memories associated with it, I’m partial to Prince’s 1980’s output: (not in chronological order) ‘Sign o the Times’, ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Around the World in a Day’, ‘1999’, ‘Parade’, ‘Controversy’, ‘Dirty Mind’, the ‘Black Album’ and ‘Lovesexy’ (okay, 1989’s ‘Batman’ soundtrack, but that didn’t do it for me).

His 12″ maxi-single releases during this era were always something to look forward to, because they would be extended remixes of the album versions. One of the cool ones was Lovesexy’s “I Wish U Heaven”, which was stretched out to 10 minutes. The soft funky pop of the album version gives way to a couple of funky sojourns into Prince’s creative genius. I miss that era of being a Prince fan.

Prince: I Wish U Heaven (Parts 1,2, and 3) 12″ Maxi-Single Extended Version
– original version found on ‘Lovesexy’, a great album which spawned one of the more unfortunate album covers in musical history.

A Study of Plantlife

An old friend of mine, a mutual Prince fan through the years, recommended a few months ago that I sit my ass down and listen to Plantlife. A funky, soulful, laid back group, they’re originally from L.A., but made the move across the pond to London.

Their 2004 debut, The Return of Jack Splash, on the Counterflow label is still only available in the UK. They’re definitely worthy of some love though over here stateside.

“Why’d U Call Me” definitely channels Prince, with a George Clintonesque falsetto and a little old school Cameo vibe thrown in. Very nice. Me like.

“When She Smiles” is a good times – sunny day groove. Enjoy.

Plantlife: Why’d U Call Me (mp3)
Plantlife: When She Smiles She Lights Up the Sky (mp3)

Required Listening 101

Is there a better singing voice than Aaron Neville’s? I really don’t think there is. I was listening to the Big Easy Soundtrack – again – this afternoon, and was inspired to put this out there for the masses; lest someone out there has not heard the Neville Brothers’ live performance of “Tell It Like It Is” from the soundtrack, just listen to this.

Then buy the soundtrack. The collection of songs on this CD – like the city of New Orleans – is so full of life, so rich, so gratifying, that I think all of humankind should own a copy. So click here and pick one up.

“From the pages of the The Neville Brothers songbook”: Tell It Like It Is (mp3)

I Love You Gypsy Woman

Not sure how long it will last, but all you Boss fans check out Amazon.com‘s home page as soon as possible. They have a great clip of Bruce & the E Street Pimps – er – Band performing “Born to Run” at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1975. It’s no doubt taken from the forthcoming 30th Anniversary ‘Born to Run’ box set (coming out No. 15th), which includes a DVD of the full show.

So like a sign from the heavens, it must mean I should blog another Boss tune. Tonight’s journey takes us to the 1994 release ‘A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield’, which includes some greats like Eric Clapton’s “You Must Believe Me”, Lenny Kravitz doing “Billy Jack”, and this take on “Gypsy Woman” by one Mr. Springsteen. I love the Hammond B3 on this. That’s the work of Tommy Sims.

Bruce Springsteen: Gypsy Woman (mp3)

St. Jude Hymn

Tonight, a great guest post and a very moving hymn :

On the edge of what used to be the notorious Storyville section of New Orleans, a short walk from the famous St. Louis #1 Cemetery, rests a small and beautiful church, Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel /International Shrine of Saint Jude.

This church has withstood the test of time and adversity. Surviving through the Civil War, the Reconstruction, coexisting in the heart of Storyville, standing after the horrible aftermath of 1965’s horrible Hurricane Betsy; and, as of August 30, 2005 was still standing amidst the impoverished and crime-ridden projects of New Orleans. Nested in one of the poorest sections of New Orleans, Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel / International Shrine of St. Jude provides a quiet haven for meditation and a place of solace, a place where one can escape the worries of this world for a while.

Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations. This small chapel exemplifies the very qualities of hope for the hopeless, and help for the helpless, the very qualities that Saint Jude so embodies.

In March and May of 1987, two masses were held which attracted New Orleans music legends such as Aaron Neville and Allen Toussaint. The ensuing recording from these masses was released as the album “Midnight at St. Judes.” At the time, proceeds from this album and all artists’ royalties were donated to St. Jude’s Community Center in New Orleans.

Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, amidst so much devastation, hopelessness and feelings of helplessness, the track “St. Jude’s Hymn” as sung by that gentle and kind giant of New Orleans, Aaron Neville, resonates in a way that it never has before. If one ever watches Aaron Neville deliver a live performance, one will notice a large, gold medallion hanging from his left ear. On that medallion is the image St. Jude, an image Aaron carries with him to remind him of the power of faith.

This hymn was composed by a housewife, who is credited only by her more formal married name, Mrs. Herb Quaid. One only need listen to this song for a minute or two to recognize that she creatively used a variation of John Lennon & Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” as the cornerstone for her lovely hymn.

One need not be religious to recognize the promise of hope, of help and the promise of a better day when hearing this song sung so beautifully by Aaron Neville.

It is with the spirit of hope and the belief that no situation is ever a lost cause that I hope you will listen to this hymn. As we watch on the news what will, no doubt, be nightmarish images of loss in the coming days, let us all try to keep alive the spirit of hope and the promise of better days. Hear this song and keep alive the faith that New Orleans will rise up to see another era of glory, and will again be the Multi-Cultural Jewel; the most European-like city that exists in the United States. Listen to this song and believe that many will persevere against impossible circumstances. Sing this hymn with the heartfelt belief that there will be hope for the hopeless, and help for the helpless.

May our Maker keep us all safe in the days ahead, in particular those souls, both living and departed, who have suffered from Hurricane Katrina.

~ William Innes, September 5, 2005

Aaron Neville and others: St. Jude Hymn (mp3)

Into the Melting Pot

Speechless. How I went 35 years without discovering the wonder and brilliance of this song, I have no idea. I have a lot to learn. I’ve always been familiar with Booker T. & the MG’s, their role in the history of Stax records (backing up such legends as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett), and their signature song (“Green Onions”); but apparently I’ve lived a sheltered life, because “Melting Pot”didn’t touch my ears until a couple weeks ago. I don’t mean to be a recurring advertisement, but thank you Sirius Satellite Radio. This is why I have you.

“Melting Pot” is the title track from the 1971 album that was the last recording of the MG’s original lineup: Booker T. Jones on Hammond B-3 organ, Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums. This track sizzles. Listen in particular at around the 2 and a half minute mark when Booker takes off and soars. Amazing…

Booker T. & the MG’s: Melting Pot (mp3)

  • buy the album
  • IckMusic Fact: MG stands for Memphis Group

Saturday Night Soul wiith Isaac

In the late 60’s, Jimmy Webb moved to LA and wrote the bittersweet tune “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. Johnny Rivers recorded it soon thereafter, but it was popularized by Glen Campbell’s 1968 version.

But me, I’ll take the soulful Isaac Hayes version any day of the week. Isaac originally released this tune on his 1969 album ‘Hot Buttered Soul’. His rendition clocked in at over 18 minutes. This one’s cut down to a little over 7:00:00 but captures that sweet Stax sound with the omnipresent organ churning away in the background, and Isaac’s opening tale of being cheated on a few too many times. You tell her Isaac.

Isaac Hayes: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (mp3)

The Sadies and Mister Williams break it on down

If you have a spare 6 minutes and 32 seconds, listen to this snippet from NPR’s American Routes. It’s a short interview with the Canadian band the Sadies (with some clips of their tunes).

The Sadies are a mix of bluegrass, country, surf and garage rock, among others…here’s a taste:

Listen: The Sadies – Flash
Buy: The Sadies on Amazon

One thing they talk about in the interview is their collaboration with Andre Williams, an R&B pioneer from Detroit. This man has been around since the 50’s, and it would take me all day to talk about the things he’s done, so read here for his bio. But basically, Andre had some serious drug issues in the 80’s & 90’s and ended up living on the streets. He cleaned himself up though, and has been releasing albums again with the likes of the Sadies, and a couple of guys from the Demolition Doll Rods. Now, Mick Collins and Dan Kroha are the two fellows from the DDR’s, and they wrote everything on Andre’s 1998 release, ‘Silky’ (along with Andre), including this cool rollicking surf shuffle….Ohh, you’re gonna like this.

Listen: Andre Williams – Only Black Man in South Dakota (mp3)
Buy: Silky

Proud

I’m not sure who out there has VH-1 Classic, but on Friday, they played a great semi-recent Curtis Mayfield club show from somewhere in Europe. Hey how’s that for detail?? (Hey, I tried finding info on the VH-1 Classic web site, but no luck…) He and his band played a sweet version of “I’m So Proud”, one of Curtis’ tunes from his days with the Impressions long ago. He had that audience in the palms of his hands, it seemed everyone was on the edge of getting emotional. *sniff*

I wish I could track down that live version, but I can’t, so here’s the original from the early 60’s.

Listen: Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions – I’m So Proud (mp3)

Buy: The Anthology 1961-1977, Geffen 1992