A new, essential part of the Prince catalogue
Lucy Harbron
17:13 27th June 2022

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Posthumous works are tricky. Everyone knows it. By their very nature, the act of continuing on a person's legacy, making business moves for them, sharing their art after they’ve died is one fraught with ethical and moral dilemmas. And we’ve seen it done badly. We’ve seen artists carefully built careers ruined by icky holograms, subpar releases and relentless exploitation of their image. We’ve seen questionable relatives and vulturous business partners pick every last bit of life out of someone's name, turning an artist into nothing but a brand to adopt. But when it comes to Prince - we’ve seen posthumous, legacy work done very, very right.

Anyone that knows anything about Prince will first tell you that he was a ferociously prolific artist. Claiming he’d written a ball-park figure of around 3000 songs, the actual number is likely way higher, often writing for others, under pseudonyms or even just writing, recording and then immediately deleting his songs. Going into the studio with an idea and being unable to leave until it was fully finished - the Prince archive is huge. 

Having already released 39 studio albums in his life, it begs the question of - why? Why do we need more Prince songs when there are already so many? But when it comes to Welcome 2 America and the recent live album and concert film Prince and The Revolution: Live, the question is immediately put to rest. Presenting two wildly different sides of Prince, honouring the conflicting sides and characters that came into play throughout his career, Prince’s legacy work isn’t sandwiching him into that weird golden period that so many other passed stars are left in. Unlike the obsession with keeping Bowie as Ziggy and Amy in her Frank era - Prince’s seem to care about celebrating every age, era and sound with the 00s Prince political commentary and slow jams on Welcome 2 America and the outrage guitars on the live album.

With a vault probably packed full of unreleased tracks, it also seems like care is going into only sharing full and finished projects. Welcome 2 America was found as an entire, finished album, needing no outer input that would dilute Prince’s vision. And similarly, the recently remastered version of the 1985 concert film Prince and The Revolution: Live maintains the same excitement and fan-first feel that I imagine it had back then. Complete with the silly 80s fonts and maintaining a beautiful graininess; it’s like the team knows there's no need to mess with genius. No need to change perfection.

I’m a huge Prince fan. I’ve poured over the albums, listened to podcasts, read books, watched the films. But Prince and The Revolution: Live stopped me in my tracks - both on record and the concert film. Unlike any other live recording, the remastered version plants you right there, in Syracuse at that famous show. Mostly playing through Purple Rain with some choice cuts from his back catalogue at the time, the first listen felt as though I'd never heard pure energy before. Presenting Prince in a new way, beyond the editorial cuts of the Sign O The Times tour clips or the perfectly crafted music videos, this 1985 recording captures the live artist in a no holding back way. 

Showing the reality of a Prince show, you get to see the movement and the choreo in action, the insane guitar acrobatics, the costume changes, the tightness of the band. With each song gaining the full Prince treatment, stretching out into 5, 10 even 18 minute long cuts as though he physically can’t remove his hands from the strings, you get to watch every legend about the infamous artist play out. 

From the opening moment, the band are dancing. Clicking into immediately perfect timing, the first track of ‘Let's Go Crazy’ welcomes you into a flawless show. Rolling through hit after hit, you can’t help but sway along with the crowd on screen, all moving in a way that just isn’t seen at shows now. No phones, both arms in the air, full body movement - not only does the film capture Prince at his best, but it captures the energy of gigs back then - more akin to a party than a concert. Bringing all the choreography from the Purple Rain film to the stage, proving that it was never an act to begin with, the energy never falters from the honestly inappropriate rendition of ‘Darling Nikki’ to the bouncing ‘Baby I’m A Star’ where the whole band and horn section fall in line for a dance and each instrumentalist gets a moment to shine. Somehow never out of breath, never missing a note, never slowing and still shredding on guitar - thank god the show was captured because it feels like no one would’ve believed the stories otherwise.

By the time you reach the infamous 18 minute long rendition of ‘Purple Rain’, it feels like you’ve travelled back in time to the moment that birthed all the myths and magic about Prince’s performances. The moment that would lead to the whole world desperately scrambling for gig tickets from then till the moment he died. I can’t imagine there was a dry eye in the place. Even watching from a laptop screen 37 years on, this extended rendition of ‘Purple Rain’ is special and touching in a way that hooks into every little magical moment in the song and lets you sit in it longer. Picking his way through a bluesy solo before he even gets to the first word, it’s like Prince gave himself infinite time for once, knowing no one would ever be brave enough to pull the plug, so he just flows. Putting every ounce of feeling he had into that famous mid-section solo; no recorded version could ever live up. And getting to watch it, as a fan that wasn’t even born when this concert happened, feels like a privilege.

Always offering perfection, there was never a flop in sight. Prince offered hypnotic music videos, incredible sound, experimental recordings - but at his core, he was a live musician, loving playing so much, he’d step off stage and immediately go play a whole other set at an after party somewhere. And while so many of us will now sadly never get the chance to see him play in real life, Prince and The Revolution: Live keeps that vital part of his legacy alive. Allowing young and new fans the chance to see a full Prince show, capturing one of the greatest moments in his career, this is posthumous releasing done right. 

In service to his fans and still plugged into Prince’s magic, message and mission; the live recording and film is a vital part of Prince’s catalogue, keeping his genius alive today. 

Prince And The Revolution: Live is out now - to listen to or watch.

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.

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