Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Thunder When I'm on the Mike" - Diamonds and Pearls Tour

While watching footage of one of Prince's tours, I always ask myself two questions to determine where he is spiritually: What necklace is he wearing? And how has he changed the lyrics to "Purple Rain?" Of course there are many other factors to consider, but those two questions have proven relevant time and time again.


Prince performs onstage on his Diamonds & Pearls tour, Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 27th May 1992.

The Diamonds and Pearls tour fits right in here. I am currently studying that era, and I finally found a video online: the June 24, 1992 show in London. My analysis of the spiritual symbolism in that concert (which opens with "Take My Hand, Precious Lord") will be in the book. But I thought I'd share some of my general reactions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this high-energy show. As always, Prince demonstrates he is a dynamic singer, dancer and musician. I must say I was expecting dancers "Diamond" and "Pearl" to be more prominent; the TDK (Tony M., Damon Dickson and Kirk Johnson) dance troupe appears to get more stage time. And Prince's future wife, Mayte Garcia, is featured and, honestly, kept my attention more than Diamond and Pearl. 

I was also suprised "Damn U" and "Sexy MF," two singles from Prince's subsequent Love Symbol album, are included in the concert, but it makes sense given the project would be released a few months after the tour wrapped. And "Sexy MF" was released during the tour. Still, it's always fascinating to see how quickly Prince wrote and recorded new material. 

My favorite songs on the Diamonds and Pearls album are "Thunder" and "Live 4 Love," and the live performances of those tracks do not disappoint. I also love Prince's acoustic guitar playing on "Thieves in the Temple." You could definitely see that his interest in Middle Eastern music was growing; for example, Garcia wrote in her book:

"Prince was working hard to prepare the Diamonds and Pearls show, trying not to be distracted by the Arabic vibe and Egyptian imagery that seemed to be speaking to him. 'My heart's already there,' he told me, 'but my head has to do this thing right now.'" 

Prince is committed throughout the Diamonds and Pearls concert, and his focus is matched by his band, the NPG, which sounds fantastic. Rosie Gaines is especially impressive; I love Prince's reaction to her vocals.

Among Prince's tours up to 1992, I'd rank Diamonds and Pearls behind Sign 'O' the Times, Lovesexy and Purple Rain, but above the others--purely in terms of my personal enjoyment.

What do you think of the Diamonds and Pearls tour? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"I Know That the Lord is Coming Soon" - Podcast Appearance

I recently taped a podcast with Zach Hoskins of dance/music/sex/romance. We spoke briefly about my experience at the Purple Reign academic conference at the University of Salford, but we spent most of the time talking about spirituality in Prince's music and life.

I talked about the outline of my book and some of the interviews I've done so far. And I really enjoyed hearing Hoskins' perspective on the topic. 

Click here to listen, and scroll through the rest of Hoskins' blog, where he is analyzing each song in Prince's discography. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"A Promise 2 See Jesus" - Thoughts on "Diamonds and Pearls"

"C'mon save your soul 2 night."

My serious introduction to Prince is unique, and it definitely informed my fascination with his spiritual journey. In high school, after watching "Purple Rain," I bought the soundtrack and then immediately picked up Rainbow Children because it was his latest album. So you can imagine how jarring it was to digest risque songs like "Darling Nikki" alongside Jehovah's Witness anthems.

The third album I listened to was Diamonds and Pearls, only because a friend of mine found the CD in her mother's music collection and burned a copy for me. The first track, "Thunder," opens with the lyrics:

"'Twas like Thunder--all thru the night/And a promise 2 see Jesus in the morning light."

Prince was talking about Jesus back in 1991? That was one of my first thoughts. But I would soon find out that, despite his fluctuating doctrines, Prince always expressed a belief in God and even adopted a spiritual mission to make others aware of God’s existence--which is the central argument of my book.

Despite that reference to Jesus, Diamonds and Pearls is not overtly religious; in fact, it's arguably a return to push-the-envelope form for Prince after the spiritually dense Lovesexy and Graffiti Bridge projects. My spirituality focused analysis will be in the book.

Diamonds and Pearls is the official debut of the New Power Generation (NPG), which is my favorite Prince band. As I analyze the album, I can't help but think about the narrative that has been repeated in the media: the Revolution was the only band that pushed Prince creatively, and the heralding of the NPG coincided with a loss of magic in Prince's music. I don't mind people taking that stance, but it would be nice to hear other narratives, and I didn't even think about the role that race might play in those arguments (the early NPG was mostly African-American, while the Revolution was more diverse) until recently, but that's not my study.

Back in high school, I immediately gravitated toward the Diamonds and Pearls track "Willing and Able," which is an infectious blend of gospel and country. I still love the song but I like the fact that I've been honing in on others like "Live 4 Love." I just love Prince's vocals and Michael Bland's drumming on that track.

In the past, I'd always skip "Walk Don't Walk," but I find myself listening to the song now if only because Prince is singing in his low register.

I'm excited to dive deeper into the 1990s NPG era. "A family is born," Prince wrote in the liner notes. "And God bless us cuz we fonky."

What's your favorite track on Diamonds and Pearls?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"U're the Reason that God Made a Girl" - Interview with Terri Ivens

"As far as loving God and being your best self, he was completely on board with all of that. ... Just having an open relationship and really understanding the power of God and that God is real and God is love and it was just really simple. It wasn’t a complicated, convoluted thing."

Actress and self-proclaimed "Jesus girl" Terri Ivens only dated Prince for a few months in the mid-1990s, but she was able to get an impression of his spirituality--at least enough to want to talk to me about it. And she still remembers those guitar picks that said "Love God."

I was fortunate to get in touch with Ivens through Prince's ex-girlfriend Devin Devasquez; sometimes, once one source speaks with me and discovers I'm not writing a tabloid, they will recommend another person for me. I love when that happens.

Ivens has kept pretty quiet about her time with Prince, despite being one of his muses, and possibly inspiring the song "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (yes, even Prince's ex-wife Mayte Garcia acknowledged there may have been other influences).

Although Ivens' experience was largely positive, she did talk about an event that may lend a bit more support for Prince's possible lifelong struggle reconciling his preference for both the sacred and profane, which I'm exploring. I'll have more details on that incident in the book, of course.

So while the interview wasn't as extensive as others, it was definitely another piece of the puzzle I've been working at for several years now.