The following post is the fourth in a series of posts in which we delve into Prince’s legendary vault, finding those pearls that only diehard fans have heard. Today, singer-songwriter Brandon Schott names his top 10 Prince bootlegs.
- Rebirth of the Flesh – Originally slated as the opening track to both “Camille” and the 1987 iteration of “Crystal Ball”, “Rebirth of the Flesh” was recorded in late 1986 during the long and winding sessions for what became “Sign O’ the Times.” Arguably on par with (if not better than “Housequake”), this track slams with purpose and (outside of a 1988 re-recording issued as part of the NPG Music Club in 2001), it’s a wonder it never found its way onto another album.
- Dance with the Devil – Recorded early during the sessions for the “Batman” soundtrack, and originally sequenced to close that record, it was replaced by “Batdance” and never seen or heard from again. It’s a shame, because (outside of “The Future”) it fits the tone of Tim Burton’s film better than anything that ended up on the album. It’s a very dark – brooding track, and had he followed its lead it would have made for a very different soundtrack indeed.
- In A Large Room With No Light – The Revolution in full force – reminiscent of the material they recorded for “Around the World in a Day,” this was part of one of the three known iterations of “Dream Factory” – their (aborted) 1986 collaborative “band” record. There’s something truly majestic about the push and pull of Prince with his Revolution on this cut, and would no doubt have been a tour highlight if “Dream Factory” had been meant to be.
- Empty Room – Reportedly inspired by his turbulent relationship with Susannah Melvoin (twin sister to Wendy), ‘Empty Room’ was first recorded in late summer 1985 in its definitive version – it was eventually released as part of the live album C-Note in 2003. For an artist that kept up appearances as much as Prince, the rare opportunity (such as with the original version of “Old Friends 4 Sale”) to hear him let his guard down is a welcome peek inside the deep core of his insecurities. The version released on C-Note is absolutely riveting as well, but do seek out the original as (to me) it still ranks as one of the most vulnerable moments in his discography.
- Wally – This is a track that has never been bootlegged, and remains a lost holy grail for Prince collectors. The story goes, Prince was deeply in the throes of his breakup with Susanna Melvoin, wrote and recorded this song at a late night session with engineer Susan Rogers at his home in Minneapolis. The two were the only ones in attendance as Prince built up a highly personal reflection of pain and abandonment – Susan described it in a recent interview, “the background vocal arrangements, the expression of it was just gorgeous. “The session continued; however, Prince started overdubbing un-necessary synth parts – distracting guitar solos, until the core of the song was nearly recognizable. Thinking they would go in and remix it later, Susan followed Prince through the fire until all at once he demanded that she erase the entire thing. Pleading with him to sleep on it, he insisted if she didn’t he would. At which time, she complied and the song was lost forever. There are rumors that a tape was made prior to its deletion; however, no evidence of this has surfaced yet.
- Can I Play With U? – During the mid-80s, a collaboration was initiated between Miles Davis and Prince that yielded a number of recordings – records that Miles Davis would have put out on his upcoming “Taboo” record, however giving no explanation Prince rescinded the recordings at the 11th hour and they’ve remained commercially unreleased.
- All My Dreams – Peter and I agree that the loss of The Revolution’s “Dream Factory” LP from 1986 was a huge loss to Prince fans and his overall discography, here’s another example of why. This song closed out every reported iteration of the album, and is a classic example of the sound they could only bring together as a collaborative unit. One day, I am hoping for a MASSIVE “Sign O’ the Times” box set, featuring the final iteration of “Dream Factory”, “Camille” as well as the 3-disc version of SoTT, then known as “Crystal Ball.” One can dream…
- Love (Thy Will Be Done) – Prince Version – In April 2016, when I first heard the news of Prince’s death, I stumbled across an old Prince remix of Martika’s “Love (Thy Will Be Done)” – which he wrote for her second album. I listened to it over and over again that day, as if the finality of his passing settled into my bones. His DNA is very clearly on both of Martika’s versions of the song, but I still mostly return to his original recording – it brings the tears like no other. His voice, the crescendo of the gospel-like vocals when we land here:“No longer can I resist (No)
The guiding light (Guiding light)
The light that gives me power 2 keep up the fight
I couldn’t be more satisfied (No)
Even when there’s no peace outside my window, there is peace inside
And that’s why I can no longer run
Love, thy will be done”
It still hurts, but more so, it profoundly heals.
- Witness 4 The Prosecution – Another “Dream Factory” outtake. My son thinks this sounds like T-Rex.
- Others Here With Us – One of the weirdest songs Prince ever recorded originated during the Parade sessions in 1985 (same day as the aforementioned “Old Friends 4 Sale”). Oddly unsettling, but still incredibly spiritually grounded for it:“It’s strange how your mind works when Love is in power
One learns 2 care and appreciate a flower
What makes others want 2 change your mind?
All the things I’ve seen, life is so sublime”
As it was born during the marination of most of the core tracks that did retain place in the “Parade” family, one has to wonder what place in the “Under the Cherry Moon” narrative this was initially pegged for. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating and very strange track – and I do so love it when Prince gets weird.
Tomorrow: The review of the Deluxe version of “Purple Rain.”