an NPG review, the name change and The Undertaker

Sometimes I feel like I’m burning through these Prince albums as fast as Prince recorded them around this time period… doing an album a week has its pitfalls.
But early on, I used to stay with albums longer than a week, but I felt like I was also hanging around too long. It’s hard to strike a balance while getting everything out of the experience.

So I figured I needed a little bit of a break before getting to this next album. And it seems like a good spot to do this because it’s a HUGE turning point in Prince’s career.

This first NPG album- according to Matt Thorne’s book, it was a consolidation prize for Tony M, Kirk and Damon Johnson (aka TDK). Prince was giving them a platform in order to continue their careers.
But by this point, I know thanks to his appearance on Peach and Black that Tony decided to walk away from the NPG and Prince World because he wanted to start a family and get focused on his own life. He’s a very gregarious person who likes to spend time in the places where Prince toured with the NPG and after a while, he was getting sick of being within that bubble. Prince is cool with being in it, but it can drive anyone else crazy.

Mayte commented on the album, saying she didn’t particularly care for it. Especially this song “Johnny” because that’s her father’s name and there was something in the lyrics about condoms.
It was maybe a little too braggadocio (I learned a new word from Matt Thorne’s book!… but I’ll come back about some other interesting tidbits I picked up from him) for her tastes. I can get that.
There are a few tracks like that in Prince’s catalogue I didn’t care for.

I don’t own this album. I never intended to get it. First of all, the name is GoldNi***a.
Even if this is Prince, I don’t feel comfortable with even writing that word down.
I didn’t learn this until the podcast- but this album wasn’t officially released. It was a giveaway at the Act II tour in Europe. And supposedly there was an original pressing that had a McCartney sample that they didn’t have permission to use so they took it out (and according to the guys, you wouldn’t really miss it).
However, I have seen a copy of this in person. It was in the Prince bin, I believed used. And I think it was 10 years ago when I bought a slew of Prince albums on the same day. 7/7/07.

Anyway- I was so dismissive when Peach and Black announced this album review because I don’t like the idea of listening to a review on something I don’t have.
However… I needed a break from Prince after the whole Arrogance/Flow that sunk my rating of the Symbol album… and I figured it’d be a good idea to stay within the mindset and what kinds of songs Prince was writing at the time.

The way Toejam tells it, it might be worth a listen just to get a further look into its supposed concept.
There are a bunch of segues either about Tony and a girl or negotiating a record deal. MC wanted to skip over these segues, but Captain makes an interesting comment on the length of these segues… each one is bigger than the last… I don’t have to go any further than that.
Then there’s the title track, which is broken into three parts throughout the album.
Black MF in the House- I dismissed the other day because I just didn’t get it. But when the guys really explained it, I think I jumped the gun. Apparently, it’s Tony and Prince’s way of responding to the Rodney King situation. And it was the first time he really addressed race in his music.

Of course there comes a point where someone said that because they’re 4 white guys from Australia, they’re “divorced” from what the album really talks about and the song “Together” kinda brings everything back into perspective.

I mean, when it comes to Prince, I see his talent and ability and charisma and the color of his skin is simply that. But I do admit that when he addresses race and black culture, it does lose me a little because I can’t find that personal connection.

Probably the funniest part of the podcast… Player was talking about a song from this album being featured in a movie. And he went to the movie just to hear the Prince music. Then someone joked “you probably went to see Show Girls to hear 319” and he admitted it and someone in the theater was a little too into the movie.
Everyone just fell over laughing. Not nearly as badly as a few albums ago where MC said something that killed the whole room for a while… but it was still hilarious.
You could hear Player blushing before someone else pointed that πŸ˜›

Toejam listened back to the B-sides show and found that he dismissed “Call the law” and his mind completely changed. Someone said they should re-record it and Captain said “along with every other show where we said ‘that’s another show'”

If I could request anything, I’d request another poll of the top Prince songs of the 00’s and 10’s.
Another review of the next two Time albums.

I know there are other things I want to hear discussed, but I can’t remember πŸ˜›
maybe the guys’ personal favorite songs by Prince.

Ultimately- totally worth the listen, but it IS Peach and Black. It’s always gonna be good.

so Prince has officially changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol… I can’t believe I’m finally here… and yeah, it is the most confusing part of his career.
In one of the books, I read someone saying how things were great until Purple Rain and after that he got everything he wanted that was a bad thing… I guess I can understand that. That album is a blessing and a curse all at the same time. Kinda like Prince’s talent for songwriting.
It got to a point where he was so inspired he couldn’t stop himself.

Going into Matt Thorne’s book, I finally found a chapter (or maybe it’s the first since LoveSexy) where I didn’t have a problem with anything he said.
His comment on the Come album… it’s debatable, but I was more than halfway through a Dark & Stormy, so I wasn’t sober when I read that chapter. I just freaking LETITGO…

He had lots of interesting tidbits about the name change and how that came about. Peach and Black had a little as well. Saying how Prince was busy recording and he had other people negotiate this $100 million record deal- he wanted a number that would make news and beat out a deal Madonna got recently. But some publishing rights and various royalties were sacrificed in this poorly made deal, so that’s why Prince spent all that time trying to get out of it.

You’d think Prince of all people would know to read the fine print. But he also had this thing he did during 1995 where he said an agreement (not contract) should only be a couple of pages because otherwise, it restricts the person who’s agreeing to it.
At the end of the “Gold” performance in L4OA, the crowd does this hand gesture where it looks like they’re holding together 2-3 pieces of paper. (also- it’s amazing how I can just trivialize that performance… more on that later… let’s just say it’s gonna be big).

In the book, there was also a comment asking why announce the fact he was retiring from recording. What strategy there could behind it? That whole discussion was, again, interesting to ponder. He made some good points legitimately worth considering. And he did in a matter that wasn’t mocking or trivializing. He seemed concerned, as any good fan or Prince admirer would be about him at this time.

On another note, I listened to some Carmen Electra tracks on YouTube… not a fan… the rap thing just doesn’t work. Not for me, anyway.

The Undertaker was one of those legendary projects that got a lot of discussion on .org.
I usually keep track of who sends me what (to the point where I label the folder “courtesy of”
I have no idea who sent me these tracks, but again, I’m very grateful.
However, I’d only heard them maybe twice before today.

And I heard them twice today. Once in the car and once via the music video.
I think I saw the Undertaker video once YEARS ago, but all I remembered was the “Honky Tonk Woman” performance… because whenever I hear the original, I always think of what Prince did with it since his version was the first time I heard of it.

Watching it again… just to get to the point… all it is is a performance video of Prince, Michael B and Sonny T (aka the Paisley Power Trio) crossfaded with Vanessa Marcil tripping out on pills she took.
The video starts with her showing up at Paisley Park needing to use a phone and she tells her boyfriend Victor she’s changed and she wants him to take her back.
But she takes the pills and… that’s the rest of the thing.
It kinda bugged me that her story arc wasn’t resolved. She didn’t have to interact with Prince, but they don’t even show her leaving Paisley Park. The only resolution we really get is that she sees pills spilt on the floor during “Dolphin,” she pushes them aside. I know it’s not Prince’s style, but for me, it just isn’t enough. She’s gorgeous of course, but this could have been done without her and it would have done well as just a glamourized rehearsal video.

Playing the album on my iPod while driving home… this was another of those cool experiences I’ve had with Prince that I could never replicate if I tried.
First off, I look at the track listing while I’m sitting in the car waiting for the AC to crank up before leaving the parking lot… my iPod, for whatever reason, had the songs out of order. But I had no choice but to go with it.
As it turns out, it worked perfectly on this particular day with these given conditions.

The first track was Bambi, followed by The Undertaker, Dolphin, The Ride, Poor Goo, Honky Tonk Woman and Zannalee.
Bambi is an old Prince track… very old by this point, really. I heard this version before the original, so of course the screeching guitar was startling and I didn’t like it for the longest time. (when I got back to it months ago, I gave the song a perfect 10. I think my first ever perfect 10 track). But hearing Michael Bland doing the drums on it… that feel of momentum is freaking awesome. And hearing the guitar solo again… oh man… best part of the song.
However, I wished a couple of times that I could combine the two versions. Taking out Prince’s drumming in the original track and replace it with Michael Bland’s bad-assing drumming and mix and match the guitar parts from both versions. Prince’s guitar work has gotten even better over that decade or two, but I wished this had a couple more solos like he had in the original. More dimension and more high points. Maybe not top fret, but close to it.

I got one of two things from the tracks as a whole.
Prince’s guitar playing sounded very much as I grew to know over these past 10 years. When I’ve seen his TV appearances where he did guitar work, it has that same sound to it and he does the same acrobatics with it.
And there were several moments where it felt like I was listening to the Lotusflow3r album.
If I hadn’t known that Prince brought back the Paisley Power Trio for that album, I would have looked this up and blew my mind to pieces.

The Undertaker… this was the key thing about this listen that could never be replicated if I tried.
The sky was getting dark during Bambi, but outside of a couple bolts of lightning, the storm hadn’t happened yet.
I got maybe a minute into this song and it started pouring and everyone slowed down and I was half freaking out and half praying that I wouldn’t hit anyone or nobody would hit me. Meanwhile, I had that deep thick bass pounding in my ears.
Needless to say, I survived it.
This song runs kinda long, but it took until the song was maybe 2 minutes from the end before everything let up.

This has happened so many times since Prince passed away… I can’t help but wonder if he’s had an effect on the weather when I listen to his music. It’s not all the time, but it’s happened enough during certain songs where it just feels like it’s meant to come together in this way.

Dolphin- hopefully I’m not super sick of this song after next week cuz it’s on that next album.
It’s kinda nuts how it just comes and goes so quickly.
Some people prefer this version because it’s not overproduced the way it was on the Gold Experience. TMBGITW has the same issue. At least according to some people.

The Ride is bluesy funk the way only Prince could do it.
The cool thing about this listen was just how the drive went. Keeping up with traffic, speeding up to merge onto a highway, etc, etc. Those moments fit in almost perfectly with the music like it’s acting as the soundtrack for my life as it’s happening.
Probably wouldn’t be able to repeat that if I tried.

Poor Goo… I have no idea what he’s on about. But it continues on from where The Ride starts as far as its sound goes. Apparently it’s named after a studio engineer in Paisley Park. But the way Prince is singing about him, it’s like he wants to take a girl home, but just can’t manage it. Then he makes a weird comment that he can’t have Cap’N Crunch (he brings up this cereal again in the Emancipation album) but he can have Trix.

[Another Segway here… Captain commented during the Symbol album review how Prince put all these little things in his music and they have a habit of popping up in various songs… and it’s cool to find these little things as you go through more of his music. I’ve never commented on this directly, but in the early days when I was building my collection of Prince music, I picked up on a couple of these little things…and yeah, that’s pretty cool]

Honky Tonk Woman is great. I still think it’s great. I just kinda wish Prince sung another verse and chorus.
There aren’t many lyrics in this album compared to instrumental solos. But I wished he did more singing on it. It could be even better than it already is.

And Zannalee, I’ve always liked, but it kinda sucks that this version is so short.

Supposedly, it’s an anti-drug album… or maybe it’s just the video in general.
I never would’ve picked that out myself without the video.

And Prince’s look… he has the same hairstyle from the previous 2 albums, but his beard is like from this era… he’s in between eras here… kinda interesting to see a work in progress.

One final comment:
according to Princevault, Prince had several copies of The Undertaker ready to give away in magazines. But then WB found out and confiscated all the copies and put a coating on them that would render them unplayble.
…that just freaking killed me… I mean, the songs still got out, obviously… but still…
It kinda adds more weight to that Dolphin lyric.

“How will I know if I’m even in the right key… if you make me stop before I start?”

Up next: the Come album…

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