Label : “Eye” Records
Catalogue : #88-89-90
3Disc Length : 90:42 / 85:54 / 78:41
Source : Audience Recordings
Date/Venue : Hotel Gansevoort, New York : 10-11th October 2008
Sound Quality : VG+ / EX-
Year Of Release : 2009
Fink's Comments (rates this release 4.25/5.0)
"Eye" Records 3CD set documenting Prince's 21 Nights book launch and aftershow benefiting both Prince's own Love 4 One Another charity and Taja Sevelle's Urban Farming. The book launch itself on Disc 1 was a highly pricey and exclusive affair, so having a recording of it is something to be very thankful for. Disc 1's recording is at the lower scale of EX- recordings perhaps due to the intimacy of the room it was recorded in, with every noise surrounding the person taping being audible. There is some chatter and background noise from those in close proximity, along with a fair few shout-outs to Prince during the quieter parts of the show, but all are easily zoned out and not at all overpowering. Unfortunately for such a small setting, Prince's mic level is rather low and one has to concentrate to hear him during the opening few tracks when he's interacting with the crowd. He's very occasionally lost in amongst the band during a few of the songs, however these are my only gripes and overall they are very minimal considering the recording as a whole. The set-list may not look too appealing, however the lack of horn section means numerous tracks have been given a different slant for the performance, with varying results. It's sorely missing on 'I Feel For You', 'Controversy' (the 'Housequake' addition is a complete waste of time with no horn line) and 'Cream' and the performances sound bare, however songs such as 'What Is Hip?' and 'Stratus' now lean more on Prince's guitar work and benefit greatly. Frederic Yonnet guests throughout on harmonica and is hit-or-miss, however his appearance on 'Beggin' Woman Blues' is impressive and is an added touch of blues to an already bluesy track. The show isn't earth-shatteringly good, however slight changes throughout do lift it from the mundane. Various lyric changes reflecting the economic crisis on '1999' ("The stock market was crashing, there were people running everywhere") and all lyrical reference to "Funky London" (now changed to New York City") and The Twinz (banished to history now with the new lyric of "the band" during 'Le Freak'. The main attraction for me is the live debut of 'Colonized Mind' which is the only real stand-out moment of the entire 90 minute show.
Discs 2 and 3 feature the aftershow also in benefit of both Love 4 One Another and Urban Farming, and whilst the content is far more interesting, the recording quality leaves a little to be desired for the opening 40 minutes. I'm not hating on anyone, but if you are recording a show, please leave your screaming girlfriend at home - the bootleg collecting world will thank you. As you may have guessed, there is a shrieking, screaming female who greets Prince's every move with an ear-popping scream. Alas, it's pretty incessant for the opening 8 or 9 tracks and makes listening (or more importantly enjoying) the opening songs something of a chore. Thankfully for all involved she quietens down and is barely audible for the remainder, however the damage she inflicts is enough to demote this to a VG+ recording. Taking aside the opening 40 minutes, the recording overall is impressive without being stunningly good. It lacks any great depth and the overall feel is rather thin - a perfect example is a bass solo from Josh which falls flat and almost goes unnoticed as the recording has minimal power or "bite". In a similar vein the mic levels, as with the first show, leave a little to be desired and you can forget about trying to listen to Dave Lappelle's 8 minute comedy interlude without straining to hear or turning the volume up to the max. In saying all that, this is a complete recording, and the show is perfectly listenable (albeit without the screaming banshee in the beginning), and despite my harsh critique, it's enjoyable. The two shows are the live premier for many upcoming LotusFlow3r / MPLSound material, and the aftershow begins with 'Crimson And Clover' making it's live debut matched by 'Controversy' including a "There'll never be another like me" chant lifted from "(There'll Never B) Another Like Me". Alongside the usual song performances are a number of covers performed by Prince rarely - 'Long Train Runnin' and 'Red House' being the most obvious two, and Prince takes a backseat during the second half of the show to allow Shelby and Marva lead vocals on a covertastic medley section culminating in the Ohio Players 'I Want To Be Free' with a few lyrics from 'Chocolate Box' thrown in for good measure. Once again the horn section are absent, so numerous tracks are slightly reworked to cover their absence and as with the main show the results vary, however '3121' performed without horns is like Prince without heels - it's just not right, and doesn't work. The release ends with Prince's brief appearance at the Las Vegas House Of Blues guesting on guitar with Q-Tip, however the audio is taken from the circulating video and is really rather shit.
Now we come to the packaging and artwork. I'll ignore the fact the two worst pictures from the past 30 years have been used on the front cover and the fold-out booklet cover, and concentrate on the booklet itself. It's less a booklet, more a fold-out spread - the term used by "Eye" Records is leporello, and wow is it pretty. It's glossy, embossed, shiny and should you excrete some bodily fluids whilst listening to the shows (like our female friend on Disc 2), it's also wipe-clean! It contains a detailed set-list, various pics (including some nice photos not used in the 21 Nights book, published in Flaunt magazine) and some slightly more in-depth info on the charities. Not particularly useful, but it's one of the highest quality printed additions to an unofficial release I've seen in a while. I've no doubt this release will/should appeal to the majority as the recordings are very decent and the shows are a lot of fun. There are numerous rarities in the set-lists, various tracks have been reworked, and the performance itself is above-par. Sure, a fair amount is what we have heard on recordings from 5 years ago, and the amount of covers is verging on the ridiculous, but there's enough on here for it to be of interest, and it's still a pleasure to hear the man having fun, and at times during these shows, he's having a riot. Digital Funk Bitch have released their own, improved version of the release on 'Black Eye Day'.