Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prince and The Revolution - Dream Factory

Prince and The Revolution – Dream Factory

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Side A:

1.  Visions

2.  Dream Factory

3.  Train

4.  The Ballad of Dorothy Parker

5.  It

Side B:

6.  Strange Relationship

7.  Slow Love

8.  Starfish and Coffee

9.  Interlude

10.  I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man

Side C:

11.  Sign o’ The Times

12.  Crystal Ball

13.  A Place In Heaven

Side D:

14.  Last Heart

15.  Witness 4 The Prosecution

16.  Movie Star

17.  The Cross

18.  All My Dreams

In honor of the passing of Prince, this is a reconstruction of what would have been his final album with The Revolution, 1986’s Dream Factory, which eventually evolved into Sign o' The Times.  Originally conceived as a double album with a significant amount of creative input from the band (at least compared to previous Prince releases), the album was scrapped after Prince broke up The Revolution in 1986.  Prince then turned his attention to a solo concept album Camille, which was also scrapped and combined with the Dream Factory material to create the unreleased triple album Crystal Ball.  Warner Bros Records then asked Prince to whittle the 3LP down, and the result was the double album Sign o' The Times, which many consider to be Prince’s masterpiece.  This reconstruction attempts to present what Prince originally intended the Dream Factory album to sound like, volume-adjusted and using the best possible masters—EQd to match a virgin vinyl rip of Sign o’ The Times—to  make the most natural-sounding album possible. 

Prince was truly the reigning star of the 1980s.  Armed with both worldwide smash hits,  musical chops and the artistic credibility to back it up, Prince also had the vision and determination to prove himself a modern music legend… But let's not forget he also had the band to back it up.  Even though Prince was a great songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist who had the ability to mastermind his own works and retain both commercial and critical success, his output throughout the 1980s grew to allow more collaboration from his backing band he formed in 1979.  The lineup of The Revolution seemed to be in flux at times, but after the transcendent success of Purple Rain in 1984 and their subsequent albums Around The World in a Day and Parade, the classic core of the band coalesced as guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardist Lisa Coleman, keyboardist Matt Fink, bassist Brown Mark and drummer Bobby Z.  In working on the follow-up to Parade before it was even released, Prince invited members of The Revolution—although mostly Melvoin and Coleman—to contribute backing vocals, songwriting, instrumentation and even lead vocals to the material.  Reworking older songs as a starting point—the 1982 recordings of “Teacher, Teacher”, “Strange Relationship” and “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”—as well as the project's title track in December 1985, most of the work occurred in Prince’s newly built home studio on Galpin Boulevard.  By April 1986, Prince had created a rough cut of an album called Dream Factory that elevated both Wendy and Lisa as major players (although they later claimed they didn’t receive the credit they thought they deserved!).  At this point in time, Dream Factory was a single-disc album that included: “Visions”, “Dream Factory”, “It’s a Wonderful Day”, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”, “Big Tall Wall”, “And That Says What?” “Strange Relationship”, “Teacher, Teacher”, “Starfish and Coffee”, “A Place in Heaven” and “Sexual Suicide”. 

Work on the album continued throughout the summer with Prince often tracking all the instruments himself, although he also continued to work with Windy and Lisa in the studio.  A mountain of tracks began to collect and by June a double album had emerged.  Although songs such as “Big Tall Wall” and “That Says What” fell to the wayside, great and interesting new tracks such as “It”, “In A Large Room With No Light”, “Crystal Ball”, “Power Fantastic”, “Last Heart”, “Witness 4 The Prosecution”, “Movie Star” and “All My Dreams” were added to the running order as well as linking tracks “Wendy’s Interlude” and “nevaeH ni ecalP A”, the later based around “A Place In Heaven” played backwards and meant to introduce the title track.  Now a double-album, this sequence of Dream Factory went through further refinement over the month when more work was done to the songs.  By July, Prince had dropped “Teacher, Teacher”, “In a Large Room With No Light”, “Sexual Suicide” and “Power Fantastic” and replaced them with newly completed tracks “Train”, “Slow Love”, “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”, “Sign o' The Times” and “The Cross”.  A master was prepared on July 18th and Prince concentrated on the Hit n Run Tour, which would signal the closing of the Dream Factory. 

For the summer’s Parade/Hit n Run Tour, The Revolution was expanded to include former members of The Time as well as The Family—jokingly dubbed The Counter-Revolution.   This would include a full horn section, Melvoin’s twin sister Susannah (who was romantically involved with Prince) and a set of former-bodyguards-turned-dancers.   This created a strain in the relationship between Prince and his band members, who were questioning Prince’s artistic direction—why did the band nearly double in size?  Why are on-stage dancers getting more attention than the musicians proper?  Wendy was especially annoyed at the addition of her sister as an official member of the band and most of the core members of The Revolution attempted to quit, only for Prince to convince Wendy, Lisa and Mark to stay until at least the remainder of the tour in October. 

As fate would have it, the growing animosity between Prince and his Revolution was at least reciprocated.  At the end of the tour, Prince called in Wendy and Lisa to Paisley Park and fired them.  Bobby Z was replaced by Sheila E.  Allegedly out of loyalty to the rest of his band members, Mark quit.  With The Revolution over, the collaborative Dream Factory was shelved and Prince went back to his roots—being the sole maestro.  Prince promptly began work on a concept album called Camille, in which a vocally-manipulated Prince would perform as the character Camille.  Intending to fool the public, the album was never to be credited directly as Prince and the cover art was to be blank!  A master to Camille was prepared in October but that album too was scrapped and Prince rethought his strategy.  In a bold move, Prince combined the best of both the scrapped Dream Factory and Camille albums into one triple-album entitled Crystal Ball (not to be confused with the 1998 rarities boxset of the same name).  With The Revolution no longer existing, Prince generally mixed-out Wendy and Lisa’s contributions  from the Dream Factory tracks destined for Crystal Ball: “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”, “It”, “Starfish and Coffee”, “Slow Love”, “Crystal Ball”, “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”, "The Cross" and “Sign o' The Times”.

In a final turn of events that makes the Dream Factory mythos even more complex, this 3-LP Crystal Ball album was ultimately rejected by Warner Brothers Records, and in December Prince was tasked to pair the album down to at least a more marketable double album.  After adding a more commercial single “U Got The Look”, the result was retitled into Sign o’ the Times and released as a Prince solo album in 1987.  Although not quite hitting the commercial peak that Purple Rain had three years earlier, Sign o’ The Times was universally critically acclaimed and recent revaluations fairly state it as his masterpiece. But to be fair, the album was the culmination of three other scrapped albums—Dream Factory, Camille and Crystal Ball—so it’s glory should come as no surprise.  But to truly see how Sign o’ the Times was manufactured, we must first see what it’s like in the Dream Factory.

While there were three different masters of Dream Factory prepared throughout the summer of 1986, my reconstruction will focus on its final iteration, using those specific mixes and track sequence; luckily all the tracks are available on both official and high-quality bootlegs.  In the name of creating the most natural-sounding reconstruction, I choose to use a pristine needledrop of an unplayed virgin vinyl copy of Sign o’ The Times (by thesnodger) for the songs also found on that release.  Furthermore, all of the tracks taken from bootlegs were EQd to match the mastering and EQ parameters of that unplayed copy of Sign o’ The Times.  The result is an attempt to preserve the sound originally intended by Prince in 1986 and to avoid the temptation for anachronistically maximizing specific frequencies (such as a certain, unnamed Dream Factory remaster with exaggerated bass frequencies). 

Side A begins with “Visions” taken from the collector's edition of Wendy & Lisa’s Eroica album, which hard edits into the unlisted “nevaeH ni ecalP A” taken from the Work It bootleg.  The original mix of “Dream Factory” appears here taken from the Work It bootleg but EQd to match the released version from the 1998 compilation Crystal Ball.  Following is the fantastic “Train” taken from the Work It bootleg but EQd to match the aforementioned vinyl Sign o’ The Times parameters.  Concluding the side are “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” and “It”, both taken from thesnodger’s needledrop of Sign o’ The Times since the Dream Factory mixes are identical to the official Sign mixes.  Side B begins with the superior original mix of “Strange Relationship” that features Wendy & Lisa’s overdubs that Prince exorcised for the Sign album, here taken from the Work It bootleg.  “Slow Love” and “Starfish and Coffee” follow, mixes identical as heard on Sign so again taken from the needledrop (but with “Starfish”’s alarm removed, as per what is heard on Dream Factory).  “Interlude” follows, taken from the Work It bootleg and Side B concludes with “I Could Never Replace Your Man” a longer mix than on Sign, taken from the Work It bootleg but EQd to match the shorter Sign version.

Side B opens with the single version of “Sign o’ the Times”, taken from The Hits/The B-Sides compilation.  The closing drumbeat is hard edited into the opening beat of the jaw-dropping “Crystal Ball”.  The Dream Factory version is unfortunately an early mix that lacked Clare Fisher’s extraordinary orchestration.  Regardless, this mix taken from the Work It bootleg, is EQd to match the final version from the Crystal Ball rarities compilation.  The side closes with the original mix of “A Place in Heaven” from the Work It bootleg featuring Lisa on lead vocals.  Side D opens with the original mix of “Last Heart” from the Work It bootleg, EQd to match the final mix on Crystal Ball.  The admittedly less-than-stellar “Witness 4 The Prosecution” and “Movie Star” follow, both taken from the Work It bootleg and re-EQd.  The album closes with the double-punch of the fantastic "The Cross" from Sign and the legendary unreleased track many claim could have been a hit—“All My Dreams”, here taken from the Dream Factory bootleg on Sabotage Records, but EQd to match my own reconstruction. 

Sources used:

Prince – Dream Factory (2003 bootleg CD, Sabotage Records)

Prince – The Hits/The B-Sides (original 1993 CD pressing)

Prince – Sign o’ The Times (1987 thesnodger vinyl rip)

Prince – Work It – Volumes 2 & 3 (2008 bootleg, GetBlue Records)

Wendy & Lisa – Erioca (1990 collector’s edition CD pressing)

flac --> wav --> SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8

* md5 files, track notes and artwork included