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Prince : 1999 SDLX box disc 2 –Promo Mixes + B-sides – US – CD 
- 1999 [7″ stereo edit] 3:36
- 1999 [mono promo-only edit] 3:35
- Free [ promo-only edit] 4:35
- How Come U Don’t Call Me Any More? 3:54
- Little Red Corvette [7″ edit] 3:08
- All The Critics Love U In New York [7″ edit] 3:15
- Lady Cab Driver [7″ edit] 5:05
- Little Red Corvette [dance remix promo-only edit] 4:33
- Little Red Corvette [special dance mix] 8:30
- Delirious [7″ edit] 2:38
- Horny Toad 2:13
- Automatic [7″ edit] 3:39
- Automatic 8:20
- Let’s Pretend We’re Married [7″ edit] 3:44
- Let’s Pretend We’re Married [7″ mono promo-only edit] 3:43
- Irresistible B**** 4:13
- Let’s Pretend We’re Married 4:02
- D.M.S.R.  5:05
Looking back it was pretty unlikely that Prince made his breakthrough with a double album. I can imagine the Warner Brothers brass doubling down on him to put out a safe, single LP of pop hits after two albums that sold to critics [who don’t pay for their copies]. Not 12″ club grooves that didn’t go over so well with the mainstream pop audience. So the existence of this 2nd disc in the box represents a weird parallel universe look at the album with 19 tracks instead of 11, but most of then having been edited down for consumption.
It started with the all conquering “1999” 7″ mix that was a hit after reissue, following on the heels of the unstoppable “Little Red Corvette.” I am totally down with having the less than full monty version to enjoy here as it functions extremely well as a pop single. The only maladroit move on this second disc was having the mono mix follow immediately on it. Back in 1982, there were still a few AM radio stations playing music [just before it was conquered by right-wing talk formats in America] and all stereo pop hits were given promo pressings in mono for this market. Sometimes, the mono mixes could be radically different, but most tried to replicate the experience of the stereo version on one channel. The latter was the case here. Some of the white noise crashes sound louder in the mix for having lost their panning.
So there were only four songs here that were unique to those on the album of “1999.” The first of these was the B-side to “1999.” By this time in his career, Prince was very hip to the lure and attraction of non-LP B-sides, which was probably down to the influence of UK New Wave acts of the late 70s that also had an effect on his music style. There wasn’t too much of a tradition of them here in America, where two album tracks on a single was the long established norm. For a musician as prolific as Prince was, this also cleared some of his interesting outliers out of The Vault and it was definitely a nod to the fans. Not to mention selling a single to real fans who had the album. With an album that was as moderne as possible, the B-side to “1999” might have been from 1959.
“Why Don’t U Call Me Any More” was a tour de force of close harmony acoustic performance with generous dollops of jazz piano that were delectable. Prince sang the song in a vulnerable falsetto, but it’s a treat on the CD version to crank the song up to better hear all of Prince’s asides in between lyric lines that were muttered under his breath in his normal speaking voice. They are barely there but can be listened for. His piano plying here was subdued, yet accomplished in how it rode the casual timing of the song for maximum emotional wallop. The drumbeat was a muted snare; barely keeping time. At key points in the song, Prince’s multi-tracked backing vocals loving coated the song in rich gospel harmonies. The presence of his finger snaps at crucial moments was flawlessly executed! This was a diamond-cut song of technical and emotional precision! If anything, this was proof positive that Prince didn’t need drum machines and synthesizers, or even guitars to be a star. This song would have been a wow in 1961, if it had been released back then.
The next B-side was a perfect match with the techno-Rockabilly of “Delirious” on the A-side. “Horny Toad” would make a good Rockabilly EP with its A-side, “Jack U Off” from “Controversy” and a song we’ll get to later. Actually, “Horny Toad” wasn’t pure Rockabilly. It had the perky jaunt of Western Swing; the more sophisticated precursor to Rockabilly. Sure, a drum machine was keeping the beat but the synths were standing most capably for the steel guitar lines. This hot little number like little else I’ve heard in mashing up styles and vastly disparate genres/technologies. And at just over two minutes made the “Delirious” single scrape easily under the five minute mark for both sides!
Definitely the coolest B-side here was on the flip of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” I’m not a fan of the B-word. I think it’s misogynist to refer to a woman as a female dog. So we’re going to call it “IB” here for these purposes, but the track was definitely Prince going deep in to the P-Funk bucket of cosmic slop. The sound of an aspirational genius seeking a color/genderblind world exploring pure Blaqness to see what would happen. The backward tapes in the chaotic mix were a clue. This was not slipstreamed, pneumatic track like “Automatic.” I liked the subtle tubular bells adding a bit of the sauce Blondie had used on “Rapture.”
It sounded like Prince was also exploring some of the Bootzilla bass envelope sound here, as well, for Maximum Funk. His vocal delivery was vastly different from anything else I’d heard from him before with some devastating syncopation in his severely affected delivery. It almost sounded like he was stepping into the Morris Day role for a Time song here, but it lacked the comic spin that usually comes with that territory. Here Prince was so in thrall to his mistress that he didn’t care that she was stepping out on him, as long as he got his!
“Every Friday night I call your butt up on the phone
A deeper voice answers and says you’re not at home
Now if you think that I’m a fool who’ll go for any line
Then honey, put down all your money, you win every time” – Prince
The instrumentation was light on the synths but heavy on the funky drumming stepping all over and around the slamming machine beat. Prince’s drum solo on the break was just nuts. Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin [who had yet to join Prince’s band until Dez Dickerson left following the “1999” tour] sang the breathless backing vocals that took some of the sting off of the title as they cooed it suggestively as Prince laid out just how besotted he was with his paramour in no uncertain terms. Wendy + Lisa also added “ho-ho-ho-ho” backing vocals in the chorus. Was that a subtle value judgement? It was a trip hearing Prince add his deepest bass vocals chanting “everybody, everybody dance” on the middle eight in his closest approximation to Ray Davis of P-Funk. This was the best Prince B-side of its time, and would only be bettered with the also deeply funky “Erotic City” later on.
It’s hard to believe, but given the long format of “1999,” there were still no extended 12″ singles released commercially from “1999” in America. The LP mix of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” was the only commercial US 12″ single! But Prince’s breakthrough single did have a dance mix but only on promotional 12″ format! Which, after hearing the “Little Red Corvette” promo 12″ dance mix, feel free to join me in scratching your head in dismay! It began with the distinctive shaker/drum machine beat with those great bass overloads. But the intro was unedited and more complex before Prince joined the song. The after the first two verses and the chorus, there was a breakdown with a new guitar solo and some drum breaks before rejoining the song at the original solo; now solo number two.
Then the song developed as did the longer LP version to the “limousine” coda, but where the song would normally fade out, there was a new, sinuous, synth bass line subtly introduced that laid the foundation for a wicked cool coda to the familiar song that was completely unexpected, as Prince intoned dramatically in an almost theatrical lisp:
“There are some things you do to me
That leave me in a velvet sweat
Darling, there are some things that I want to do to you
So you’ll never forget!
Mayday!” – “Little Red Corvette [dance mix]”
The way he pronounced “velvet sweat” just slayed me! Then the new bass line took the song home to its conclusion of that shaker rhythm once more, to end as it had begun. Again, I cannot fathom the lack of a widespread release for this killer 12″ mix; the only one from this album. Fortunately, Germany and Europe got the chance to have this little gem easily.
As for the rest of the edited versions, the sequencing of this disc makes for an interesting listen that ebbs and flows in fascinating new ways across 9 of the 11 tunes on this album normally. All shorter than we’ve come to expect. Many in multiple versions. Only the edit of “Automatic” seems abrupt without the time to play out sufficiently. Sure, sure. One could probably trim the mono mixes and video versions but the archivist in me totally approves. Lately I’ve been thinking about collecting mono promo mixes of my favorites, so you know I’m far gone!
The compiler who sequenced this disc intriguingly brought the ballad “Free” up front to lead into the complementary “How Come U Don’t Call Me Any More?” and hearing the robotic “All The Critics Love U In New York” lead into the funkier “Lady Cab Driver” edit puts a fresh spin on things. One of my favorite things to do is to compile extended versions of familiar, iconic albums made from remixes and alternate versions for a fresh slant on things. This disc does exactly that, but in the opposite direction with edits. A fascinating experience.
Next: …The Vault Beckons
This sounds like a great second disc, and I’m pleased that they appear to have put a lot of thought into how and where to place extra tracks.
I confess to not having a lot of Prince material in my collection, but I always admired both his talent and whatever of his that I got to hear. I picked up a copy of “The Hits/The B-Sides” a long time ago (no idea where it might be now) and thoroughly enjoyed the b-sides as much if not more than the now-familiar hits.