By Chris Riemenschneider, Local Music, 12/13/2002
Although his way of doing -- or not doing -- business still has some of his fan-club members cheesed off, Prince is more likely to win back listeners with the release of his invigorating new box set, "One Note Alone...Live," which officially comes out Tuesday.
Perhaps as a sign that this is one of his more normal and coherent efforts of recent years, the singer is returning to network TV tonight to promote the collection on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." It's been a couple of years since he last did any of the talk shows. Word is he won't do any talking tonight -- surprise, surprise.
Prince genuinely nails one out of the park -- Paisley or otherwise -- with the three-CD collection, which, believe it or not, is the first official live release of his career.
The first two CDs are culled from his "One Nite Alone" tour from last spring, including dates in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., which the fans seemed to agree were some of his best. Disc Three comprises some of his "aftershow" jams and includes guests such as George Clinton and Larry Graham. Some boxes also may come with a previously fan-club-only solo piano recording.
Together the discs show that Prince still has "it" as a performer. When he's enthused and energetic, as he is throughout this box set, he can draw you in like few others. Disc One makes a strong case for the tunes from last year's "Rainbow Children" CD, which seem less mystical and quirky in concert. Disc Two, in particular, shows off the chemistry with his current band, in versions of "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Starfish & Coffee" and other oldies.
Of course, it wouldn't feel like a Prince release if there weren't a little controversy involved. Members of the singer's $100-a-year NPGMusicClub were filling up the prince.org site last week -- the unofficial fan club that allows negative discussions in its chat sessions -- complaining that their box sets had not yet arrived.
The music club had said that the CDs were coming months ago, and the idea was that fan-club members would get them long in advance of any public sales. Now, some may not get the CD until after it hits stores. Mine came through my NPGMC membership two weeks ago, but apparently I was lucky.
Prince is trying his luck in Las Vegas this weekend. The last show of the "One Nite Alone" tour is Sunday at the Aladdin Casino.
PRINCE AND THE NEW POWER GENERATION
One Nite Alone...Live (3 1/2 stars)
BY LYNN SAXBERGThe Prince concert at the National Arts Centre last spring was one of the best shows of the year in Ottawa. The after-show jam with Prince and his band at Carleton University's Oliver's Pub was probably even better, but we weren't among the Rainbow Children/fans lucky enough to find out about that show. Oh well. Now everyone can relive the Prince experience in all its purple glory with this four-CD boxed set of live recordings taken from another leg of that tour. Didn't get to the NAC? Listen to the two main CDs, packaged in the same jewel case and titled, One Nite Alone ... Live! Saw the show but went home and hit the sack? (It was, after all, a school night.) Stop kicking yourself and check out the aftershow disc, It Ain't Over: Up Late with Prince and The NPG. Judging by the similarity of One Nite Alone ... Live! to the NAC show, it's a safe bet that It Ain't Over is pretty close to the campus pub aftershow. And for an entirely different side to the little guy, dive into the fourth disc, One Nite Alone ... Solo piano and voice by Prince. That's my favourite session, partly because it is a distinct change of pace. This is where I should confess that after catching three shows on Prince's excursion through Canada, my mind was spinning from trying to keep up with the complex swirl of music I heard each night. The concerts were intense, fiery and challenging -- which is well captured on these discs -- and it's a rare treat to go back and listen more carefully. The tracks here are taken from shows in the United States last March and April. The lineup was the same as the band Prince brought to Ottawa (drummer John Blackwell, saxman Maceo Parker, trombonist Greg Boyer, keyboardist Renato Neto and bassist Rhonda Smith) but includes saxophonist Candy Dulfer and an appearance by George Clinton during an aftershow track recorded in New York City. "It must be Saturday night or something," Prince says during a blistering funk jam on 1+1+1=3 (in Lakeland, Florida). "Somebody get me another suit. I'm about to sweat this one out." The main set is terrific, although a little disjointed because the producers have taken material from different nights and spliced it together. "Good night, Portland," Prince declares, just four songs into the 17-track second disc. One reason the stripped-back piano concert on the solo disc is so good is that it's intact. It was recorded live-to-tape at Prince's Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis so it's a complete show unto itself. Plus it's a refreshing change from the ferocious intensity of Prince with his band. While you have to respect Prince and his musicians for that intensity, the other CDs in this boxed set make you realize the limits of their improvisation. The structure of each show was open enough to allow plenty of jamming within each song, but it didn't give them much opportunity to stray too far from the set list. Come to think of it, though, that must be how Prince is able to mix and match the best live tracks and have the final sequence sound a lot like the show we saw in Ottawa. Or the one in Calgary or Edmonton, and probably every other city on the tour.
PRINCE - "ONE NITE ALONE...LIVE"
Boxworthiness: This is a treat from start to finish. Prince has augmented his solo album, "One Nite Alone," sold only through his Web site, with a box full of goodies that shows his songwriting skills are as fine as ever. The big surprise is that Prince seems to be enjoying himself again. The live CDs ("One Nite Alone...Live") capture him joking with the audience and building a light-hearted rapport, something that had been missing in recent years, as he tackles new songs and classics such as "Raspberry Beret" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover."
Extras: This set has everything a deluxe package should offer, from the unreleased "It Ain't Over" jam CD, including an excellent live version of "Alphabet St." with the New Power Generation, to a fold-out poster and a first-rate jumbo booklet.
Missing: Nothing, really, though a live version of "Kiss" or "Gett Off" would have made it even better.
Grade: A-Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
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