Friday, October 9, 2020

"Kick Drum Pounds on the Two and Four" - Three Immediate Favorites from the Vault

The Super Deluxe edition of Prince's Sign O' the Times album is sitting pretty on my coffee table. I tried my best to ignore all of the reviews, essays and Twitter commentary around the release because it was important that I experience it for myself. When you're an active part of a fan community, your opinion of the artist and the art can be colored by perceptions other than your own. I've been struggling with this internally for a while now. I wanted to get back to thinking about my personal connection to Prince's work.

It's going to take a long time to process this beautiful box set, so I thought I'd just focus on the vault (or previously unreleased) tracks. I haven't spent as much time with these songs as the rest of the hardcore fans. I've been discovering them over the past few years as I do research for my book. I used to feel bad about that, but I'm over that guilt. I didn't have a community or access when I started seriously listening to Prince, and I didn't immediately know about the NPG Music Club. Also, he'd scrubbed the internet of his music. 

With that said, I wonder if the three vault tracks that immediately stood out to me are songs some folks are tired of by now. Anyhow, here they are (ranked). 

3. "Witness 4 the Prosecution (Version 1)"

The first time I learned about the 1957 Billy Wilder film, Witness for the Prosecution, I was looking at the lineup of the 2019 "Summer Movie Series" at the historic Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Right away, I shrieked, "That's a Prince song!" Because I had just been pondering Prince's fascination with the movie Barbarella and its director, Roger Vadim, I was thinking that perhaps there was a similar connection to Witness, but I don't think so. Now, if some folks out there saw this film on a loop at Paisley Park, let me know!

When it comes to background vocals on Prince songs, I prefer that he sing them, or employ a certain type of soulful vocalist. I'll always promote the underrated 20Ten album because singers Shelby J., Elisa Fiorillo and Liv Warfield created wonderful harmonies for him. So, I was pleasantly surprised that I dug what Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and Susannah Melvoin achieved on "Witness 4 the Prosecution (version 1)." The thick wall of vocals is one of the best parts of the tune. They worked hard, and it shows.

"I do remember being in the room singing those background vocals and getting up really high, trying to work that vibrato," Coleman said. 

The other standout is that haunting bass and horn line that repeats throughout the song.

2. "Rebirth of the Flesh"

"Imagine being so dope you can afford to sit on 'Rebirth of the Flesh.'"

I tweeted this recently, and it looks like 99 Prince fans agree. This is one of the funkiest jams he's ever produced, but he's so talented and prolific that he could sleep at night leaving it in the vault. Perhaps he knew people would not be able to recover if he put this out on the aborted Camille project, which, to me, is better than The Black Album. I really wanted the Prince Estate to release Camille with his original artwork, but I'll just have to create it for myself. Thank goodness I don't have to go to YouTube and listen to that subpar version anymore.

Prince also brilliantly utilized religious imagery to describe his musical transformation after disbanding the Revolution. According to the Bible, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6). Each human is born into sinful nature, but there is an opportunity to experience a spiritual rebirth and attain everlasting life through belief in Jesus Christ. At this time, Prince was also being more direct about his Christian views, so the title of the song is very fitting. It wasn't the first time he referenced "the flesh," and it wouldn't be last. (I will write a separate blog on Sign O' the Times and spirituality later.)

1. "Love and Sex"

It's the off-beat syncopation for me. The drums are the highlight of this song, which is unconventional and complex in every way. Not only is Prince switching between his lower and falsetto registers, but he has arranged the vocal lines so that they are in conversation with each other instead of harmonizing on a single melody. You have no idea where he's going to go next. Even his guitar solo goes in a direction I didn't initially expect. Finally, the sound is just so massive. Quite simply, it's a masterpiece.

(Going over the lyrics, I came up with a theory about the subject of the song, but I'll keep it to myself because, who knows?)

Prince also created a version for Sheila E., whose commentary, I must say, is glaringly absent from this box set and its promotion. Does anyone know why? I want to hear your valuable input on the music, Sheila!

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Here We Are, Folks!" - Sign O' the Times Deluxe Edition Unboxing

I received my copy of the deluxe edition of Prince's 1987 album, "Sign O' the Times." Check out my unboxing video below!

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Friday, September 25, 2020

"Shock-a-lock-a, Boom!" - Giveaway

Congrats, Amy A.!

This contest is closed. 

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Friday, September 18, 2020

"We Can Work It Out" - Experimenting with Facebook Ads

I set a goal for myself to increase my monthly newsletter list to 1,000 this year (I have just over 700 as of today). I've had great success collecting email addresses through my giveaways (come back next week for another one, btw), but I wanted to explore other avenues. Over the past week, I ran two Facebook ads to gain new subscribers, and things were decent for my first try! 

See below for the details and if you haven't subscribed to my monthly newsletter, you can do so right here.

First, I created a "lead generation" ad, which collects email addresses directly on Facebook. I'm pretty happy with these results. The ad will be finished tomorrow, and I think I'm going to hit 50 leads. I spent approximately 70 cents per email address, which isn't too expensive for me. I would run this type of ad again and spend more money to get 100 new subscribers. 

Cost: $33.63 (of $35)

Duration: 6 Days (of 7)

Reach: 2,017

Leads: 46

I wasn't sure if people would put their email addresses directly on Facebook, so I ran a "website visitors" ad that took them off Facebook and directly to my signup form on MailChimp. Although this ad reached more people, fewer people signed up for my newsletter. So, moving forward, I will only run the ad above to collect email addresses, but I will utilize the "website visitors" ad to send people to my blog to get more views on my content. I'll also plan to run some ads to boost the number of people who "like" my Facebook page. 

Cost: $25

Duration: 5 Days

Reach: 4,319

Clicks: 101

Subscribers: 16

Friday, September 11, 2020

"Count the Days" - Song of the Month

 Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs. 

"Count the Days" is technically a New Power Generation song, released as the third single from the band's 1995 album, Exodus. Of course, Prince played an integral role, though disguised as "Tora Tora," one of his many alter egos. Bass player Sonny T. takes the lead vocal, but Prince's guitar is the real star. (By the way, Prince positioning Sonny as a lead vocalist reminds me a lot of Jimi Hendrix featuring drummer Buddy Miles as a singer in the Band of Gypsys, but that's another discussion for another blog.) I fell in love with this song watching a video of a live performance on British TV program "The White Room." First of all, Prince, aka Tora Tora, somehow made a costume of a face-obscuring scarf, hat and black-and-white suit look appealing. I love how he was so meticulous about image and mystique.

The song is a perfect example of how Prince is able to write in layers. If you don't listen closely, you might think "Count the Days" is a love song. That was my first reaction because the TV host introduced the song by commenting on Prince and Mayte Garcia's relationship. The music is pretty, pleasant and almost tranquil. Listening again, I heard a deep connection to Curtis Mayfield, and I began to think Prince was simply focused on evoking a feeling of old-school soul music, especially because the lyrics seemed so cryptic.

"Here's a church, here's a steeple/Here's a motherfucker that I gotta blow away."

But I knew something was missing. I talked through the song with my friend and writer Scott Woods. We asked ourselves, how often is Prince purposely nonsensical, and how often is he writing personal lyrics? In my opinion, "Count the Days" is very personal, and there's a thread of anger under the lovely melody. You could imply the song is about his deteriorating relationship with Warner Bros. Prince is literally counting down the days until he is out of his contract. And you could read the whole Exodus album as an escape from the control of the record label, but also as Prince's mission to free other artists, especially Black artists, from the limitations and abuse in the music industry. 

The video for the song adds another layer. It features historic footage of events during the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, standing over his coffin. Prince felt very strongly that he could use both his celebrity and advocacy for artist rights to help create a better future for Black people in America, and much has come to light about his charitable contributions since his death. So, it makes perfect sense to me that he paired a song about being enslaved to a corporation with a video about the plight of Black people.

I once found myself thinking, "This song would be more enjoyable without the abrasive lyrics." But that's precisely the point. We can't be fully at peace with the world because we aren't fully free. Think about what Black people are still enduring in 2020. We're still counting the days...

Count The Days from Irresistible Rich on Vimeo.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

"With an Intellect and a Savoir-Faire" - Purple Recommendations

There are a lot of folks consistently creating great content about Prince. Here are some recent examples that caught my eye.

1. Muse 2 the Pharaoh: The Sun, The Moon and Stars

Darling Nisi's podcast explores Prince-related topics from a female perspective. Her latest episode explores Prince's natal chart. 

2. Podcast on Prince: Bernie Grundman Interview (Patreon only)

This long-running Prince podcast features news, reviews and interviews. The latest episode features a noted mastering engineer who recently worked on the forthcoming remaster of Prince's "Sign O' the Times" album. 

3. Press Rewind Prince - Lyrics Podcast

Jason Breininger's podcast analyzes the lyrics of Prince's music, album by album. He's currently on Around the World in a Day. Check out all the episodes featuring a lineup of special guests.

4. Dance/Music/Sex/Romance: The Dawn: How Prince’s Troubled Followup to 1999 Almost Became His Feature Film Debut

Zachary Hoskin's blog analyzes Prince's discography, song by song, but he often has some interesting detours along the way. This post imagines "a circa-1984 Prince without Purple Rain." Creative stuff! 

5. polished solid Newsletter

This is a new venture by De Angela L. Duff, the mastermind behind some compelling Prince symposia. Subscribe to keep up with all of her Prince projects and much more! 

6. #PrinceTwitterThread: 3121

DJ UMB and Edgar Kruize have been inviting guests to dissect each track on certain Prince albums. The latest in the series included a surprise contributor who worked with Prince for years. 

7. Purple Playground: Academy of Prince performance

This summer music program "enriches teens' lives with Prince history and a chance to make music inspired by him, helped by musicians who played with him." Watch the young people play a song they wrote with help from Shelby J., Adrian Crutchfield and Elisa Fiorillo. 

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Friday, August 28, 2020

"A Reason to Believe" - "Graffiti Bridge" Presentation

Check out my presentation, "Graffiti Bridge: Prince’s Sacred Triumph over the Profane," from the #DM40GB30 Symposium

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