Saturday, May 1, 2021

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (UPGRADE)


Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – 

It Comes To You In a Plain Brown Wrapper

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Disc 1 – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Side A:
1. Safe as Milk
2. Big Black Baby Shoes
3. Moody Liz
4. Trust Us

Side B:
5. On Tomorrow
6. Dirty Blue Gene
7. Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones
8. Gimme Dat Harp Boy
9. Kandy Korn

Disc 2 – The Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers
Side A:
1. Mirror Man
2. 25th Century Quakers

Side B:
3. Korn Ring Finger
4. Tarotplane

Happy May Day! To celebrate, here’s a long-overdue upgrade to one of my favorite albums that never were. This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1968 double-album It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. Originally scrapped with half of the material re-recorded and infamously “psychedelicized” for the album Strictly Personal with the other half released as 1972’s Mirror Man, this reconstruction attempts to cull all the originally intended material for the double album that was supposed to be their sophomore release, more successfully bridging the gap between 1967’s Safe As Milk and 1969’s Trout Mask Replica. This upgraded version attempts to follow drummer John “Drumbo” French’s recollections of what Captain Beefheart actually intended with the album, organizing the composed material on Disc One and the improvised material on Disc Two. I have created unique edits of the improvised material in order to fit on a theoretical vinyl record, and have edited the composed songs in Disc One as per French’s notes on how they should have ended. Additionally, I have synced the isolated vocal from the Strictly Personal version of “On Tomorrow” with the instrumental Plain Brown Wrapper version, creating a 'finished' recording.

After a prominent rise of notoriety upon the release of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s psychedelic-blues debut Safe As Milk in 1967, the group stood at a crossroads of how to proceed: continue being a cutting edge cult act or expanding their horizons? After a disastrous warm-up performance for their scheduled 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, it seemed that breakthrough success would elude the riotous bunch. To make matters worse, Don Van Vliet’s band had been damaged by lineup changes due to members who had had enough of The Captain’s drug hallucinations, erratic behavior and alleged emotional abuse. Prodigal guitarist Ry Cooder vacated to be replaced briefly by Gerry McGee, who was in turn replaced by Jeff Cotton.

Despite the troubled waters, Vliet reunited with a Magic Band that consisted of Cotton, Alex St. Clair Snouffer, Jerry Handley and John French in the November of 1967 to record their follow-up to Safe As Milk at TTG Studios in Los Angels. The band had spent months writing and rehearsing new material, which they tackled in the studio: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy”, “Kandy Korn”, “Big Black Baby Shoes”, “Flower Pot”, “Dirty Blue Gene” and “Moody Liz”. The new material was more intricate and abstract as compared to the Blues-based Safe as Milk, yet often retaining a melodic sensibility for the possibility of mainstream airplay; “Trust Us” was specifically earmarked for the lead single for the new record.

But expectations were even higher than this impressive collection of songs, as Vliet intended their sophomore album to be a conceptual double-record: The first disc would contain the aforementioned “composed” works, and be credited to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band; a second disc of improvisational jams would constitute the second disc, credited to their alter-egos the Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers, who were essentially “opening” for Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. The album was to be called It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper, in reference to an ambiguous parcel containing either narcotics, drug paraphernalia or possibly pornography. The cover art was to feature exactly that as well, a plain brown wrapper marked ‘strictly personal’, with both records addressed from one band to the other. There was even a photo shoot with the band dressed as Quakers!

Producer Robert Krasnow ran tape as the Captain and His Magic Band soldered through a number of live improvisations-- “Taroplane”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Mirror Man” and “Korn Ring Finger” – which Drumbo French thought were disorganized due to Vliet being unable to conduct the unprepared band properly, as he was contained in a vocal booth. After tracking more than a double album’s worth of material in total, the sessions were paused for a European tour, leaving only six of the ten composed songs with vocals. The band never returned to the TTG Session recordings, forever leaving these tracks unfinished. No reason was ever given for the session’s halt, but it has been suggested that their label Buddha Records had pulled the plug out of disinterest. Interestingly enough, due to Buddha Records misfiling of the band’s contract, Captain Beefheart and company were free to sign to a different label by the Spring of 1968. The very next day, Krasnow and the band entered Sunset Sound Studios to rerecord a single-LP version of the album on Krasnow’s own Blue Thump label.

Recorded in April and May of 1968, Don & his crew recut the more ”commercial” tracks from the November 1967 sessions at a much more abbreviated length: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “Mirror Man” (cut from the original 15 minutes down to 5!), “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones ‘n; Smokin’ Stones, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, as well as a new improvisation called "Ah Feel Like Ahcid." In a move that angered Beefheart fans for ages, Krasnow allegedly took the liberty himself to overdub numerous faux-psychedelic effects onto the newly-recorded album, even completely burying the mixes under unlistenable phasing. The resulting released album—Strictly Personal—was a commercial disaster and The Captain disowned the album, claiming the effects were added without his permission. Some speculate that was untrue and Vliet had given his approval only to later turn on the album after its failure. Either way, this folly of questionable truth is just simply a part of the Captain Beefheart mythos-- as was everything else!

After the critical success of the seminal experimental and Frank Zappa-produced rock album Trout Mask Replica (not to mention its respectable follow-up Lick My Decals Off Baby), Buddha Records wished to capitalize on Captain Beefheart’s renewed cult status and artistic credibility. Going back to the original November 1967 Plain Brown Wrapper tapes, they compiled a single-disc of material, primarily focusing on the extended live improvisations. 1971’s Mirror Man included “Tarotplane”, “Kandy Korn”, “25th Century Quaker” and “Mirror Man” and showed the world (or at least the few who were listening) what Strictly Personal was supposed to sound like, to some extent. But wasn't without its own short comings: not only was it merely half of the original Plain Brown Wrapper album, but it featured anachronistic cover art, improper musician credits and Buddha falsely claimed the album was recorded in one night in 1965!

Beyond the Mirror Man LP, the TTG Sessions remained unheard, although “Big Black Baby Shoes” was rerecorded as “Ice Rose” for 1978’s Shiny Beast and “Dirty Blue Gene” was rerecorded for Doc At The Radar Station in 1980. Years passed before fans were able to piece together the actual Plain Brown Wrapper album, beginning with questionably-legal British import I May Be Hungry But I Ain’t Weird in 1992. Suffering from the same fate as other early Captain Beefheart CD reissues of poor mastering and use of inferior mastertapes, it wasn’t until 1999 when Buddha Records released The Mirror Man Sessions, essentially a properly-mastered Mirror Man with five outtakes from the Plain Brown Wrapper sessions included as bonus tracks; seven more TTG outtakes were included as bonus tracks on the 1999 remaster of Safe As Milk. Finally, Sundazed Records collected all the non-Mirror Man outtakes and one more additional track in their own vinyl-only 2008 reconstruction of It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (which made no attempt to literally reconstruct the lost album).

While all the pieces are now available to recreate It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper, we still have the task to wrap it all up as one. While my previous reconstruction featured a mix of the composed and improvised selections evenly spread across the four theoretical LP sides, here we will follow what drummer John French has said he believed the album would have been structured, according to conversations he’d had with The Captain himself! This will include making my own unique edits of the four improvisational pieces (“Mirror Man”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Korn Ring Finger” and “Tarotplane”) so that they will fit on a 40-minute vinyl record. The remaining songs will be sequenced as French suggested (beginning with “Safe as Milk" and ending with “Kandy Korn”), using the songs’ officially-released versions as a template of when the tracks should end (as most of the TTG Sessions simply did not have proper endings), as well as French’s own comments about when songs should have ended. Finally, Side B will be structured to emulate the Side B of Strictly Personal, just for fun!

For the Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band disc, side A begins with Take 5 of “Safe as Milk”, a bonus track found on the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, faded out just before the 4-minute mark; French had said he believed Vliet wanted to begin the album with “Safe as Milk”, to make a sort of continuity from the previous album. Following is “Big Black Baby Shoes” from the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, edited to match the Shiny Beast rerecording. Next is “Moody Liz” from The Mirror Man Sessions, with the side closing with Take 9 of “Trust Us” from the Safe as Milk reissue, but faded out after the drum crescendo, as suggested by French. Side B attempts to replicate a non-psychedelicized Strictly Personal, as it opens with “On Tomorrow” but with the isolated vocals from the Strictly Personal recording synced to the TTG version from the Safe as Milk remaster. Next is “Dirty Blue Gene” again from the Safe as Milk reissue, followed by “Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, all taken from The Mirror Man Sessions.

For the Twenty-Fifth Century Quaker disc, Side C begins with “Mirror Man” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 15:46 to an even 13:00. This is followed by “25th Century Quaker” also from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 9:50 to 7:36. Side D opens with the hypnotic “Korn Ring Finger”, presented in it’s full 6:47 length as heard on the Safe as Milk remaster. The album closes with the epic “Tarotplane” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 19:08 to a reasonable 14:04.

Sources used:
The Mirror Man Sessions (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Safe as Milk (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Strictly Personal (1994 Liberty Records CD remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included

Monday, March 8, 2021

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Human Highway (UPGRADE)

 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Human Highway
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Disc 1 – Human Highway (1974 configuration)

Side A:
1. See The Changes
2. Prison Song
3. Through My Sails
4. Homeward Through The Haze
5. New Mama
6. Myth of Sisyphus

Side B:
7. First Things First
8. Human Highway
9. And So It Goes
10. Pushed It Over The End
11. As I Come Of Age

Disc 2 – Human Highway (1976 configuration)

Side A:

1. Carry Me
2. Black Coral
3. Ocean Girl
4. Time After Time
5. Human Highway
6. To The Last Whale…

Side B:

7. Traces
8. Fieldworker
9. Midnight On The Bay
10. Taken At All
11. Long May You Run
12. Guardian Angel

Is this pandemic done yet?? To lead us down that highway, here is a long-overdue upgrade to one of my earliest reconstructions: the three-times aborted Human Highway album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Abandoned after originally attempted in 1973, again in 1974 and finally in 1976 during the Stills-Young sessions for Long May You Run, this two-disc reconstruction presents what Human Highway could have sounded after the earlier 1973 and 1974 sessions (on disc one) and the later 1976 session (on disc two). Additionally, this reconstruction features isolated CSNY vocals synced up to the solo album versions, thus creating a full CSNY version of a given song. As always, the best sources were used and volume-adjusted for continuity.

1970 spelled the end of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who had been unofficially dubbed the American Beatles. Succumbing to the egos of four prominent singer-songwriters in their own right, the quartet disbanded to allow all four members time with their own (ultimately successful) projects. But the amazing four-part harmonies—and the legacy itself—of CSNY begged for a reunion, and that is exactly what was intended in 1973. Regrouping at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch/studio in June, the quartet optimistically worked on new material. A handful of songs were recorded, including Neil Young’s “Human Highway”, Stephen Stills’ “See The Changes” and Graham Nash’s “Prison Song” & “And So It Goes.” The album was to be titled Human Highway after Young’s flagship contribution and Nash even organized a band photo-op as the intended album cover. Progress halted as the four members once again splintered apart, leaving Neil free to record an album’s worth of material in August and September with The Santa Monica Flyers—a eulogy to his fallen comrades Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry which was eventually released as Tonight’s The Night in 1975.

All hope was not lost, as CSNY reconvened in early October 1973 for a pair of shows at the Winterland Arena, where a number of Human Highway songs were debuted for a hungry audience: as well as “Human Highway”, “Prison Song” and “And So It Goes”, Stills’ added his “As I Come of Age” (an older song Stills was saving for CSNY) and Neil offered a pair of songs from his recent recording sessions, “New Mama” and “Roll Another Number (For The Road).” Regardless, a full-blown reunion failed to materialize and Nash recorded “Prison Song” and “And So It Goes” for his own solo album, Wild Tales. Although the songs ironically featured David Crosby on vocals and Young on piano, Wild Tales was released with unimpressive success in January 1974.

The end of 1973 saw Neil back in the studio again with The Santa Monica Flyers, recording even more new material (which would eventually surface on On The Beach), with further sessions in April. But the music industry's cries for a reunion must have drifted into their ears, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young planned a summer/fall tour that showed the band in a harmonious and energetic shape. Again rehearsing at Young’s Broken Arrow ranch—almost a year after the project began—a handful of new songs were recorded, including Neil’s “Through My Sails.” The Human Highway was once again traveled, as the “Doom Tour” began in March 1974. The three-to-four hour concerts allowed the quartet to showcase a vast number of new songs that were theoretically in consideration for the in-progress Human Highway album: Crosby’s “Time After Time” and “Carry Me”; Stills’ “First Things First”, “Myth of Sisyphus”, “My Angel”, “As I Come Of Age” and “My Favorite Changes”; Nash’s “Fieldworker”, as well as “Prison Song” and “Another Sleep Song” (although they had already been released two months earlier, making it doubtful that they would still be in consideration for Human Highway); This being Neil Young’s most prolific period, Neil Young offered a long list of material: “Traces”, “Pushed It Over The End”, “Long May You Run”, “Hawaiian Sunrise”, “Love/Art Blues”, “Human Highway”, “Homefires”, “Star of Bethlehem”, “The Old Homestead” and “Pardon My Heart.” Additionally, they performed a number of the songs he had recently tracked with The Santa Monica Flyers, some destined to be released on On The Beach that July: “Revolution Blues”, “Ambulance Blues”, “Walk On”, “On The Beach”, “For The Turnstiles”, “Mellow My Mind” and “Roll Another Number (For The Road)”.

After a quick winter break, CSNY again assembled into the studio in December to finally complete the long-awaited Human Highway album. But after only recording a handful of tracks (including Crosby’s contribution “Homeward Through The Haze” and overdubbing group vocals onto the live Chicago Stadium "Doom Tour" recording of “Pushed It Over The End”), the quartet again fractured into chaos. Graham Nash refused to sing a note creating a minor over a major chord in Stephen Stills’ “Guardian Angel”; although it seemed a minuscule disagreement, it escalated into a heated argument, resulting in Stills literally destroying the mastertapes to Nash’s “Wind On The Water”! Neil had had enough of the bad vibes and inflated egos and simply stopped showing up. Once again, the Human Highway was closed.

The fate of this first batch of songs was obvious to each of the members: why save our best songs for CSNY, if we can’t even stay together to record and release them? First was Neil Young, who immediately began recording the Homegrown album over the new year—Young’s epitaph for his dying relationship with wife Carrie Snodgress. Instead of releasing it in 1975, he chose the rawer and more exciting Tonight’s The Night, leaving Homegrown in the vault for 45 years. Meanwhile, Stills assembled an album of songs recorded over the last several years, including a number of Human Highway castoffs (some even featuring Crosby & Nash’s vocals!), released as the album Stills in June and garnering commercial success. Not to be denied, Neil recorded his legendary Zuma album with a reformed Crazy Horse that summer and released that November, featuring the CSNY version of “Through My Sails.” But Stills and Young were not the only ones having fun: Crosby & Nash joined forces in the Spring of 1975 to record their second album as a duo, which also contained Human Highway songs sprinkled throughout. The resulting Wind On The Water was released in September to massive commercial success.

After a successful year for the individual members of CSNY, 1976 brought a new hope for the Human Highway project out of sheer fate. Attempting to repeat the success of Wind On The Water, Crosby & Nash returned to the studio in Los Angeles that February to record the follow-up. Simultaneously, Stills and Young had joined forces in Miami to record the Buffalo Springfield album that never was, as The Stills-Young band, intending to top it with a North American tour later in 1976. But that April, Young knocked on Nash’s door to play him mixes of the album he was working on with Stills; although Graham was completely blown away, Neil insisted that something was still missing. On a whim, Young invited Crosby & Nash to join Stills & Young in the studio to add their vocals to the songs recorded thus far. After Crosby & Nash arrived in the studio and swiftly added vocal layers to Stills’ “Black Coral” and Young’s “Ocean Girl”, “Midnight On The Bay” and “Long May You Run”, it became obvious to the quartet that they were inadvertently making a reborn version of Human Highway.

The next day, the rejuvenated band recorded Crosby & Nash’s “Taken At All” and a brand new version of the now-legendary title-track, “Human Highway.” Although it seemed everything was on track to finally completing the album, the group’s famed egos once again returned. After Crosby & Nash notified Stills & Young that they were scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles to finish their album, Stills was dismayed: not only was the album half-finished, but he had assumed the pair would join Stills & Young for their tour in June. Crosby & Nash stood firm and opted to return to Los Angeles to finish their album, instead of beginning rehearsals for the Stills-Young Band tour scheduled to begin in two months. Realizing that without the pair to promote it, this album could never truly be CSNY, and Stills retaliated by erasing the pair’s vocal tracks from the Stills-Young songs!

Both pairs eventually finished their respective albums; Crosby & Nash released Whistling Down The Wire in June and The Stills-Young Band released Long May You Run in September. In a strange turn of events, Neil Young abruptly left the tour after one month, only leaving a note for Stills telling him to “eat a peach.” Stills soldiered on alone for a few dates of the tour, before admitting defeat and canceling the remaining dates. Over numerous miles, the Human Highway was finally closed, with only a handful of original recordings surfacing, aside from solo versions of tracks earmarked for the project. Despite this, are we able to fix the pavement of Human Highway?

Since there is such a wide breadth of material to choose from—spread over four years and three recording sessions—this reconstruction will be presented as a two disc set: the first disc assumes that CSNY did finish Human Highway after their 1974 tour and attempts to present a finished album culled from tracks recorded in 1973 & 1974. Likewise, the second disc assumes CSNY was able to finish Human Highway during the Long May You Run sessions and attempts to present an alternate finished Human Highway album culled from tracks recorded in 1975 & 1976. This is convenient as the 1973-74 recordings have the typical dryer, early 70s sound, while the 1975-76 recordings have the typical slicker, late 70s sound (read: Yacht Rock).  A mix-match of the two groups creates a very jarring listen, but separating them into two distinct versions of Human Highway creates a more cohesive listening experience. Both discs are considered independent of each other, although there is very little overlap.

For my reconstruction, we will try to follow three rules:
1) Although we will be gathering recordings from a plethora of sources (most often solo recordings of the individual members) we will only use the songs that were actually ear-marked for Human Highway by either being recorded by CSNY during the sessions or performed on the 1974 Doom Tour.
2) We will try, whenever possible, to include as many members of CSNY on every song as possible. In some instances, we will used isolated vocals from other sources synced up with the common studio version to create a more complete CSNY recording.
3) We will attempt to follow the pattern established by the other CSN & CSNY albums by distributing equal representation for each songwriter, alternating so no songwriter has two songs in a row. This is mostly successful, except for the obvious lack of Crosby on the 1974 Human Highway and the abundance of Young on the 1976 Human Highway. And so it goes.

My reconstruction begins much like the previous albums CSN and Deja Vu: with an uptempo, acousticy, Stills-led song--”See The Changes”, taken from the CSN box set and features all four of the members. Also, like the two previous albums, the second song is a poppy, Nash-led song: “Prison Song”, also taken from the CSN box but with the isolated vocals from the live CSNY 1974 version synced up, thus creating a version with all four of the members singing. “Through My Sails” follows, taken from Zuma and featuring all four members. Next is “Homeward Through The Haze”, again from the CSN boxset, also featuring all four members. Following is Stills’ full-band recording of “New Mama” taken from Stills, but with the isolated vocals from theacoustic Tonight’s The Night version synced up, thus having Stills and Young singing together (as well as Ben Keith, Ralph Molina, George Whitsell, Donnie Darcus and Rick Roberts, all convincingly filling in for Crosby and Nash in my opinion). Side A closes with “Myth of Sisyphus” from Stills, which doesn’t feature Crosby, Nash or Young at all, but seems to fit on the album nonetheless; perhaps the backing vocals can be imagined as them?

Side B begins with the uptempo “First Things First”, taken from Stills but with the missing drum intro from Reply restored; although Neil is missed, this at least features CS&N. The 1973 version of “Human Highway” follows, taken from Archives Volume II and featuring all four members. Nash’s “And So It Goes” is what goes next, taken from Wild Tales and featuring Crosby and Young. The legendary “Pushed It Over The End” follows, taken from Archives Volume II and featuring all four members. The album closes with “As I Come of Age” from Stills, featuring CS&N.

As aforementioned, our second disc assumes Human Highway was instead finished in 1976 and includes elements of Long May You Run, Wind On The Water and Whistling Down The Wire. It opens with the majestic “Carry Me” from the CSN box, followed by the CSNY mix of “Black Coral” from Stills’ Carry On box set. Another CSNY mix follows, “Ocean Girl” from Archives Volume II. Next is “Time After Time” from Whistling Down The Wire, but with the isolated vocals from the live CSNY 1974 version synced up, thus creating a full-band version of the song. The serendipitous 1976 version of Human Highway” from Archives Volume II follows, with Side A closing with “To The Last Whale...” from the CSN box set, as the song was at least attempted in the December 1974 sessions.

Side B begins with “Traces” from Archives Volume II but with the isolated vocals from the CSNY 1974 live version synced up, creating a full-band version. Next is the cutting edge of “Fieldworker” from Wind On The Water, then the CSNY mix of “Midnight On The Bay” from Archives Volume II. The CSNY version of “Taken At All” from the CSN box set follows, crossfaded into the CSNY mix of “Long May You Run” from Decade. The album closes with the epic “Guardian Angel” from Long May You Run, as the song was at least attempted in the December 1974 sessions..

Special thanks to Mark Heggen for the artwork remastering!

Sources used:
Crosby & Nash – Whistling Down The Wire (2000 remaster)
Crosby & Nash – Wind On The Water (2000 remaster)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN (1991 box set)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Replay (original CD remaster)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – CSNY 1974 (2014 box set)
Graham Nash – Wild Tales (2005 remaster)
Neil Young – Archives Volume II (2021 box set)
Neil Young – Decade (original CD remaster)
Neil Young – Long May You Run (Original Release Series: Disc 8.5, 2017)
Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night (Original Release Series: Disc 7, 2017)
Neil Young – Zuma (Original Release Series: Disc 8, 2017)
Stephen Stills – Carry On (2013 box set)
Stephen Stills – Stills (2007 remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Prince and The Revolution - Dream Factory (UPGRADE)

 Prince and The Revolution – Dream Factory

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)
January 2021 UPGRADE

Discs 1 & 2 – Dream Factory
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.  Colors
10.  I Could Never take The Place of Your Man

Side C:
1.  Sign O’ The Times
2.  Crystal Ball
3.  A Place In Heaven

Side D:
4.  Last Heart
5.  Witness 4 The Prosecution
6.  Movie Star
7.  The Cross
8.  All My Dreams

Disc 3 – Camille
Side A:
1.  Rebirth of The Flesh
2.  Housequake
3.  Strange Relationship
4.  Feel U Up

Side B:
5.  Shockadelica
6.  Goodlove
7.  If I Was Your Girlfriend
8.  Rockhard in a Funky Place

Disc 4 – Dream Factory (April Configuration)
Side A:
1.  Visions
2.  Dream Factory
3.  Wonderful Day
4.  The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
5.  Big Tall Wall
6.  And That Says What?

Side B:
7.  Strange Relationship
8.  Teacher, Teacher
9.  Starfish and Coffee
10.  A Place In Heaven
11.  Sexual Suicide

Let’s start 2021 out right, with an upgrade to Prince and The Revolution’s unreleased final album, 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, mostly sourced from the recent Sign O’ The Times Deluxe Box, a significant soundquality upgrade from bootlegs.  I am also including two bonus discs: a reconstruction of Prince’s unreleased album Camille and a reconstruction of the early, single-disc master of Dream Factory.  

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 late 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”.  [A reconstruction of this early configuration is presented as Disc 4]

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 “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 “Colors” 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. [a reconstruction of the proposed Camille album is presented as Disc 3]

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 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, the main discs of my reconstruction will focus on its final iteration, using those specific mixes and track sequence.  I will primarily be using the exquisite masters found on the Sign O’ The Times Deluxe Edition, often editing the lengths of some tracks to match what was actually featured on Dream Factory.  If the mix of the song is generally very different (as the case for “Crystal Ball” and “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”), then I’ve used the original mixes from the Work It bootleg, EQd to match the officially released final mixes.  Nearly all tracks are either hard-edited into eachother or crossfaded, making four continuous sides of music, as Prince intended.  Additionally, I have reconstructed the original, unreleased Camille album as a bonus, as well as the April single-disc configuration of Dream Factory, for historical purposes.  I chose not to include reconstructions of the June 2LP configuration of Dream Factory nor the unreleased Crystal Ball 3LP, due to excessive overlap between all of the masters.  

Side A begins with “Visions” taken from the Sign O’ The Times Deluxe Edition, but with the opening piano note taken from Wendy & Lisa’s Eroica, as it was exorcised from the SOTT Deluxe.  Next is “Nevaeh Ni Ecalp A”, taken from the Work It bootleg but EQd to match the mix on the SOTT Delux, hard edited into “Dream Factory” taken from the 1998 compilation Chrystal Ball, but faded out to match the version from Dream Factory.  Next follows “Train”, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” and “It”, all taken from the SOTT Deluxe.  Side B begins with the original Wendy & Lisa mix of “Strange Relationship” from the SOTT Deluxe, but faded out to match the version from Dream Factory.  Next is “Slow Love”, “Starfish and Coffee” and “Colors” from the SOTT Deluxe, concluding with the original, unreleased mix of “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man” from Work it, featuring an extra solo section that was otherwise edited out.  

Side C begins with “Sign O’ The Times”, edited to match the length of the version on Dream Factory, hard edited into the original Dream Factory mix of “Crystal Ball”, taken from the Work It bootleg.  The side concludes Lisa’s vocal version of “A Place in Heaven”, from the SOTT Deluxe.  “Last Heart” opens Side D, taken from Crystal Ball but with some slight reverb tail added to the ending horn passage, followed by “Witness 4 The Prosecution” from the SOTT Deluxe.   “Movie Star” is next, vying for the slightly-shorter mix from “Crystal Ball” rather than the commonly bootleged original mix for the sake of soundquality; while the intro has been edited, it is unfortunately missing four bars of bridge that Prince had cut out for the Crystal Ball compilation and we’ll have to live with those missing few seconds.  The album concludes with the double-punch of “The Cross” and “All My Dreams” from the SOTT Deluxe.  The final touch is Susannah Melvion’s actual sketch of the Dream Factory’s cover art, commissioned by Prince himself; here we see Susannah opening a door into the Dream Factory: Prince’s imagination.  

For a purely historical interest, I have included reconstructions of Camille and the single-disc April configuration of Dream Factory as Discs 3 and 4.  Camille begins with “Rebirth of the Flesh” from SOTT Deluxe, but I have re-edited it to match the version originally appearing on Camille.  “Housequake” and the final SOTT mix of “Strange Relationship” follow, with the side ending with “Feel U Up,” the rare 6-minute version found only on the Partyman single.  “Shockadelica” from SOTT  begins Side B, with “Goodlove” from the Bright Lights Big City soundtrack and “If I Was Your Girlfriend” from SOTT but with it’s intro edited out.  Concluding is “Rockhard in a Funky Place” from The Black Album.  

The April Dream Factory features the same edits as the July 2-disc reconstruct on discs 1 & 2, except: “Wonderful Day” is the Lisa & Wendy-heavy 12” mix taken from the SOTT Deluxe, but edited to match the version that would have been on Dream Factory;  “Big Tall Wall” and “And That Says What?” are taken from the SOTT Deluxe and hard edited together; “Teacher, Teacher”, also from the SOTT Deluxe; and “Sexual Suicide” from Crystal Ball.  

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included

Sources used:
Prince – The Black Album (1994)
Prince – Crystal Ball (1998)
Prince – Partman (3” CD single, 1989)
Prince – Sign O’ The Times (Deluxe Edition, 2020)
Prince – Work It – Volumes 2 & 3 (bootleg, 2008 GetBlue Records)
Various Artists – Bright Lights Big City (soundtrack 1998)
Wendy & Lisa – Eroica (1990 Collector’s Edition)