Over the past few months, Prince’s Paisley Park has been a beehive of activity, and he seems to be working in multiple dimensions—developing both a stripped down, rough and tumble live rock sound with 3rd Eye Girl while at the same time creating his own James Brown-style horn-driven revue with the 20-piece band he took to SXSW last month.
Along with the rehearsals at Paisley has come a few media appearances and gigs (the Dakota shows in January, Jimmy Fallon in February, SXSW) and a smattering of new music that has been finding the light of day via the 3rd Eye Girl website. The rock single “Screwdriver” has been the most prominent track to dribble out so far, but a couple days ago we were treated to a remake of his classic “Let’s Go Crazy,” posted to a video website.
Is this legit? Does Prince want what sounds like a live rehearsal track to be out there? Knowing how quickly the Purple One has lawyers squash unauthorized leaks, we can only assume that he does want us to hear it, maybe to gauge our reaction to this new sound and style. And as a work in progress it’s a fascinating peek into some of the intense rehearsals.
It starts out with the drums all loose and funky, taking “Crazy” into a slow, bluesy hard-rocking groove. Then a couple minutes in all, the guitars click on the fuzz pedals and kick into Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” wacked out and groovy, taking the track to the next level. Then come twin guitars doing harmony lines for a bit, before Prince solos us into the stratosphere. He sings snatches of lyrics, but they seem more to be placeholders for the band to know when to go to the changes than an actual attempt at delivering the words. But even Prince can’t resist, and by the end of the song he’s wailing that falsetto scream into the mix.
It’s a live recording, with the mistakes and missed notes that come from a new band working out an arrangement, but ultimately it’s fascinating, like the Hendrix stuff they keep dredging up from the vaults to put out new albums. The Hendrix tracks have great flashes of inspiration and genius, but you can tell they are unfinished songs—there’s a missed note, or a poorly timed phrase here and there. With an artist who left us so young (and left so many rough recordings in the vaults), it’s easy to understand why we want to hear every note. But while Hendrix never had the time to clean up his tracks (and most were likely never intended to be cleaned up, just marking work-in-progress moments that have only been revealed because of his death), Prince can pick and choose what he wants to release these days—a fact that makes his dropping of this imperfect but inspired demo/rehearsal even more fascinating.
As often is the case with Prince, we are left to wonder: Just what is he thinking? And when can we hear more?