2011 has been a pretty stellar year for Prince collectors. Sure he played a lot of shows this year, most if not all of which were taped and have found their way to bootleg land. But the really exciting stuff has been the older material which has found its way into circulation. I've already reviewed the magnificent soundboard birthday show from 1984, there were the crystal clear shows from his 2009 stay at the Montreux Jazz Festival, also soundboard, and now several rehearsals from his years with The Revolution have surfaced.
This particular rehearsal, known as the "White Girls Jam", has been in circulation for a long time, but never in this complete version, and once again it is a wonderful soundboard recording. Although an exact date of this recording is not known, it is placed some time in early 1984. The recording starts in on a loose funk jam that carries on for just over 27 minutes. Prince shouts "White Girls!" at numerous spots throughout, hence the name it has been given amongst collectors. The jam is loosely based on what would become the song "Ice Cream Castles" that was given to The Time, and Prince sings a few lines from that song during the rehearsal as well. A few phrases from "Erotic City" are also thrown in at times.
The most interesting part of the "White Girls" jam comes just after the eight minute mark when Prince starts a guitar solo and goes into Sly And The Family Stone's "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" for awhile. The guitar work is the key here, it's always great to hear Prince go off on an extended guitar jam. The session hits its funkiest mark in the final seven minutes. It is not the most exciting rehearsal to have seen the light of day. There is not much vocal interaction between Prince and the band and it does tend to get repetitive. But these rehearsal tapes are always fascinating to listen to, just to get a peak behind the creative process, especially when it comes to a genius like Prince.
The second track on the disc is entitled "Learning Purple Rain". It's a near 12 minute look at Prince teaching The Revolution the future classic. Sadly, a good portion of this recording involves Prince talking to band members off mic, so it is very hard to hear what is being said. The song picks up at the five minute mark as they are working on the instrumental section of the song right after Prince's soon to be legendary guitar solo. Prince cuts this off after a few minutes though to go over more with the band, so there truly is not a lot of music on this recording.
The instruction and conversation present on a lot of these rehearsals is often as entertaining as the music, but there is not a lot of juicy stuff here. Whereas other tapes capture Prince bitching out a band member, or revealing a sense of humor too often not shown publicly, about the best bit here is when he takes a little shot at former bassist, and childhood friend, Andre Cymone. He says to the band, "When in doubt, don't play, that's safer than playing! Some reason, that don't bother me. If you're just playing by yourself, it reminds me of Andre." Basically instructing them, don't improvise if you're not sure of your part.
Rehearsal tapes are rarely something I will listen to more than once, but that first listen is always fascinating to me. Whether jamming or teaching a new song, it does provide a glimpse we weren't supposed to have into the history of favorite musicians and bands. There are an overwhelming amount of rehearsal tapes from Prince's career as he tended to record everything. We're lucky that so much of this is now out there in pristine soundboard quality as it is insight the heavily produced studio albums just can't give you into the creation of our favorite music. Essential for the diehard fan and collector of Prince.