Label : “Eye” Records / Purple Underground
Catalogue : #35-36-37-38-39
5Disc Length : 89:20 / 82:25 / 85:12 / 85:43 / 70:27
Source : Audience Recordings
Date/Venue : O2 Arena, London 24, August 2007
Sound Quality : VG+ / EX
Year Of Release : 2008
Fink's Comments (rates this release 4.75/5.0)
This release is something of a coup for "Eye" Records for 2 main reasons. Firstly, it is the first release ever to feature 90 minute discs, meaning you get more funk for your money, and secondly it is the only release (thus far) to feature the 25th August (am) 3121 Aftershow featuring Common, meaning all main shows and aftershows from the summer stay in London now exist and circulate amongst collectors.
As Disc 1 has a running length just shy of 90 minutes, it's possible to fit the entire 24th August main show onto one disc as it was one of the shortest of the 7 weeks. The show was previously circulating as a decent enough recording on various releases (all from the same source recording), and whilst this "Eye" Records recording is certainly better than the previous recording, it's certainly not one of the better recordings they have released as part of any of the London sets. I'd rate it as a solid VG+ due to a rather harsh treble/bass level which gives it a very heavy feel and it's certainly lacking the sharpness and clarity of many others - by no means bad, just not as good as one has come to expect from these guys. No overpowering audience noise, no glitches or flaws, it's just not one of their better efforts. That said, it's hardly a criminal offence as the show, outside of a few occurrences, isn't exactly too memorable.
There are various nods to the Rolling Stones who played the arena the previous few nights and the following on from the opening '1999' there is some serious guitar-work from Prince for a few tracks before he launches into routine mode with 'Cream' (itself featuring a slightly unusual intro beginning with Prince alone on guitar before the band join on 1st chorus). The remainder is standard fare save for the appearance by Common during 'Play That Funky Music' who fumbles the lyrics before grooving along with a freestyle rap. The piano medley is rather short and slightly disappointing, and leads directly into the sampler set which really contains nothing particularly worthy of note other than the pre-JW lyric of "show you muthas" during 'D.M.S.R.' instead of the usual "show you people". Decent enough show, but short of the spectacular.
Disc 2 features highlights from 3 other main shows from same week and all are of a high quality - certainly nothing less than VG+ with most being EX-. Each has varying degrees of interest with the chunk of 25th August being the most interesting as it has the excellent live 'Planet Earth', although the portion of the 28th August main show is certainly the best in terms of recording quality. Disc 2 closes out with the Prince & Common aftershow from 25th August (am) which continues onto Disc 3.
Common's presence throughout obviously adds a new slant to the show as he guests on a few Prince tracks and adds a freestyle rap, or performs his own material with Prince backing on vocals/guitar. Again, it's not a bad recording, but verges on the cusp of VG+ / EX-, especially the opening half of the show with a fair amount of audience noise present throughout. A loose '3121' gives way to Common's first performance with Prince backing on 'The Light' before a short instrumental burst of '3121' serves as an introduction to 'Girls And Boys'. 'Full Moon' includes a portion of Le Freak's 'Good Times' with Common staying onstage for the regularly included duo of 'What Have You Done For Me Lately / Partyman'.
The show takes a dip in the interest stakes fro the next 15/20 minutes whilst Shelby and Common take center stage, and Prince makes a reappearance on 'Tell Me Something Good' with Marva King on vocals. The remainder of the show is extraordinarily funky with 'Controversy' in particular deserving special mention, being maxed-out to over 11 minutes and including the "This is not music, this is a trip" lyric from 'Alphabet St.'. 'Black Sweat' is rather weak and bare in comparison, however Prince picks up the bass toward the end and thrashes out an instrumental jam which features 'Let's Work' before launching into 'Sexy Dancer' with the band following on as normal with the mash-up of 'Sexy Dancer / Le Freak'. The show is brought to a close with a few minutes reprise of '3121' - third time in one show it makes an appearance.
Disc 4 features the NPG-only 3121 Aftershow from 26th August (am) and it's a superb recording with any crowd noise being distant and very much in the background, and is most certainly a solid EX audience recording. Quality-wise, it's a thing of beauty, content-wise...less so - although it is one of the better NPG-only aftershows from the London stint with Shelby and Marva taking the show by the scruff of the neck halfway through and really kicking it up a notch. Finally we come to Disc 5 and the extremely special 29th August (am) 3121 Aftershow which really is the highlight of this release. It's labelled as a "matrix mix" of 2 uncirculating audience recordings, but that's unimportant and the only thing that matters is the astonishingly good quality of the recording. Previously, Sabotage's 'The Indigo Chronicles Chapter 3' featured this in the best quality, but it's now been overtaken by this beauty - and it really is a beauty. Almost zero crowd input, extremely loud, clear and upfront show, very powerful bass, guitar and vocal levels and not a single glitch over the entire duration. Besides me praising this release to the heavens, there is nothing at all to be critical of as it has to go down as the finest recordings (no matter that it is two recordings) of the 7 weeks in London which has surfaced thus far. Praise enough - you get the picture. I've also laboured over the content too many times, so excuse me whilst I skim quickly over it - all anyone needs to know is it is one of the finest aftershows of recent times with one of the finest set-lists of recent times and now (thankfully) one of the finest recordings to match. The release ends with the soundboard recording of 'Chaos And Disorder' made available via 3121.com (RIP).
The booklet and packaging are as decent as any other of "Eye" Records London releases with detailed tracklistings and 3121.com "Spy Reports" all included in a large 14 page booklet. Out of all the "Eye" Records / Purple Underground releases so far this certainly shoots it's way to the top as the best of the bunch simply due to the inclusion of the Prince/Common aftershow before anyone else released it, and for the quality of the recording on the 29th August (am) aftershow which really is phenomenally good. The quality of a couple of the main shows certainly don't match other circulating recordings, but they undoubtedly aren't the main attraction here. Overall an excellent, very high quality release.