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Thread started 10/17/17 7:24am

databank

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How Prince may have inadvertently fucked Rick James' career (again) in 1988

I'm surprised no one brought that up before (though I may have missed it), but I've recently read Rick James' posthumous autobiography and it reveals something pretty interesting. James talks about Prince a lot in the book, but it's mostly about their infamous tour together and how Prince "stole his act" and deprived him of his stardom by becoming the new "punk funk" champion and the megastar we all know he became.

.

But something pretty interesting happened in 1988.

.

Apparently, when Rick finally got out of Motown and signed to WB in 1987, WB was very happy with getting him on board, gave him a huge advance and Rick decided to pull himself together, slowed down with drugs and went super religious. He recorded Wonderful, a christian album full of lyrics about God and Jesus and stuff. Once done, he sent the tapes to WB and waited for quite some time without hearing from them. When he finally got back to them, WB coldly replied that they wouldn't release this, that they wanted the "dirty, sexy" Rick James and that if he wouldn't give them that, he could give-up on the money and go to hell with his christian record. Rick, badly needing the money, quickly composed new lyrics, rerecorded all the vocals and soon after delivered the Wonderful that was released and that we know. However the relation with WB was sored, the label did little to promote the record, James -who was outraged at the way they treated him- did little to reconcile with them, and WB promptly canned his next record, Kickin' (finally released... in 2014!). As a consequence, James' career was pretty much over, he got pretty depressed about the whole thing and, of course, plunged back into drugs until things went to hell as we know.

.

So, well, so much for WB being an artist-friendly label but that's not my point. Just look at the date: Wonderful was released on July 5, 1988. Of course, I don't know when Rick James delivered the first version of Wonderful nor when WB finally told him they wouldn't have it, so as long as we don't know that, my theory could just as well be BS and the whole thing be a mere coincidence. But what we know is that in early February 1988, Prince made (and possibly sent to WB) a test-pressing of Lovesexy, and that on March 8th a listening party was held at WB in LA, where the label was shown the nude cover art and told the CD wouldn't be tracked (just to make the record a little harder to sell, as if its religious themes weren't enough!).

.

So my theory, for what it's woth, is that it's very possible that WB declined to release the original Wonderful after hearing Lovesexy. Basically, that's how I see things going at WB's office:

- Er... Rick James has just sent us a concept album about Jesus.

- Again?! Prince just did that.

- Yeah.

- You know it's already gonna be hard to sell this whole Lovesexy thing! Jesus isn't exactly Top-40 material.

- Yeah.

- And now Rick James wanna do it, too? It's gonna be even harder to sell! I mean Rick fucking James making a christian record?! The dude usually sings about weed and pussy for cryin' out loud!

- I know.

- Well, I won't have this! Prince is too big, we can't say no to him just like that, he's gonna give us shit, and he still will sell a couple of millions no matter what. But I'm not gonna let all my sexy, naughty Black artists go gospel and do nothing about it! Tell James it's a no go. Either he gives us a record about pussy and weed, or he can go back to Motown for all I care.

- He's gonna be pissed.

- Better him that Prince, and we can't have both doing that shit at the same time.

- OK. I'll let James know.

.

And this may just be how, without even knowing it, Prince fucked up James' career once and for all: by giving Lovesexy to WB a bit ahead of James giving them Wonderful. Surprisingly, though, James doesn't say anything about this in the book, it seems he didn't think of it. On the other hand, he clearly says that WB gave him a straight no and that the matter was never discussed or argued with them, so they never gave him a clear explaination about their motives, besides the "we want you to sing about pussy and weed" thing.

.

Opinions?

[Edited 10/17/17 7:27am]

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #1 posted 10/17/17 8:22am

ThatWhiteDude

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databank said:

I'm surprised no one brought that up before (though I may have missed it), but I've recently read Rick James' posthumous autobiography and it reveals something pretty interesting. James talks about Prince a lot in the book, but it's mostly about their infamous tour together and how Prince "stole his act" and deprived him of his stardom by becoming the new "punk funk" champion and the megastar we all know he became.


.


But something pretty interesting happened in 1988.


.


Apparently, when Rick finally got out of Motown and signed to WB in 1987, WB was very happy with getting him on board, gave him a huge advance and Rick decided to pull himself together, slowed down with drugs and went super religious. He recorded Wonderful, a christian album full of lyrics about God and Jesus and stuff. Once done, he sent the tapes to WB and waited for quite some time without hearing from them. When he finally got back to them, WB coldly replied that they wouldn't release this, that they wanted the "dirty, sexy" Rick James and that if he wouldn't give them that, he could give-up on the money and go to hell with his christian record. Rick, badly needing the money, quickly composed new lyrics, rerecorded all the vocals and soon after delivered the Wonderful that was released and that we know. However the relation with WB was sored, the label did little to promote the record, James -who was outraged at the way they treated him- did little to reconcile with them, and WB promptly canned his next record, Kickin' (finally released... in 2014!). As a consequence, James' career was pretty much over, he got pretty depressed about the whole thing and, of course, plunged back into drugs until things went to hell as we know.


.


So, well, so much for WB being an artist-friendly label but that's not my point. Just look at the date: Wonderful was released on July 5, 1988. Of course, I don't know when Rick James delivered the first version of Wonderful nor when WB finally told him they wouldn't have it, so as long as we don't know that, my theory could just as well be BS and the whole thing be a mere coincidence. But what we know is that in early February 1988, Prince made (and possibly sent to WB) a test-pressing of Lovesexy, and that on March 8th a listening party was held at WB in LA, where the label was shown the nude cover art and told the CD wouldn't be tracked (just to make the record a little harder to sell, as if its religious themes weren't enough!).


.


So my theory, for what it's woth, is that it's very possible that WB declined to release the original Wonderful after hearing Lovesexy. Basically, that's how I see things going at WB's office:


- Er... Rick James has just sent us a concept album about Jesus.


- Again?! Prince just did that.


- Yeah.


- You know it's already gonna be hard to sell this whole Lovesexy thing! Jesus isn't exactly Top-40 material.


- Yeah.


- And now Rick James wanna do it, too? It's gonna be even harder to sell! I mean Rick fucking James making a christian record?! The dude usually sings about weed and pussy for cryin' out loud!


- I know.


- Well, I won't have this! Prince is too big, we can't say no to him just like that, he's gonna give us shit, and he still will sell a couple of millions no matter what. But I'm not gonna let all my sexy, naughty Black artists go gospel and do nothing about it! Tell James it's a no go. Either he gives us a record about pussy and weed, or he can go back to Motown for all I care.


- He's gonna be pissed.


- Better him that Prince, and we can't have both doing that shit at the same time.


- OK. I'll let James know.


.


And this may just be how, without even knowing it, Prince fucked up James' career once and for all: by giving Lovesexy to WB a bit ahead of James giving them Wonderful. Surprisingly, though, James doesn't say anything about this in the book, it seems he didn't think of it. On the other hand, he clearly says that WB gave him a straight no and that the matter was never discussed or argued with them, so they never gave him a clear explaination about their motives, besides the "we want you to sing about pussy and weed" thing.


.


Opinions?

[Edited 10/17/17 7:27am]



It wasn't Prince it was WB, they decided to not to release Rick's Album, not Prince. Prince has nothing to with it, at least not directly.
"Like books and BLACK LIVES, Albums still MATTER."


"Extra cheese, extra HAM, extra bullshit" -DiminutiveRocker
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Reply #2 posted 10/17/17 9:02am

IstenSzek

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ThatWhiteDude said:

It wasn't Prince it was WB, they decided to not to release Rick's Album, not Prince. Prince has nothing to with it, at least not directly.


hence databank's use of the word inadvertently in the title lol

did the original version of the wonderful album ever become available?

and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #3 posted 10/17/17 9:09am

djThunderfunk

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ThatWhiteDude said:

It wasn't Prince it was WB, they decided to not to release Rick's Album, not Prince. Prince has nothing to with it, at least not directly.


In all fairness, databank is not making the case that Prince "directly" had anything to do with it. He's postulating the possibility that the circumstances are related. He even uses the word "inadvertetly" in the thread title.

Just sayin', your response does not contradict anything in the OP.

EDIT: IstenSzek beat me to it... wink

[Edited 10/17/17 9:10am]

djThunderfunk said:
Not because of some silly milano on the org.

PennyPurple thought it was racial slur and said:
Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! lol
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Reply #4 posted 10/17/17 9:47am

NorthC

The difference is that Prince was a huge star who could film a black & white romcom that tanked and cancel an album at the last minute and get away with it because he had hits. Can anyone name a big Rick James hit after Super Freak? Prince could pull it of because he had money and power and (back then) men at WB like Mo Ostin who were behind him and let him do whatever he wanted (except release a 3 LP set.) He had a huge fanbase around the world.
Rick James had none of that. So sorry, databank, I don't mean to be mean to you (or Rick), but I think your theory is BS and it's just a coincidence. wink
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Reply #5 posted 10/17/17 10:54am

ThatWhiteDude

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djThunderfunk said:



ThatWhiteDude said:


It wasn't Prince it was WB, they decided to not to release Rick's Album, not Prince. Prince has nothing to with it, at least not directly.


In all fairness, databank is not making the case that Prince "directly" had anything to do with it. He's postulating the possibility that the circumstances are related. He even uses the word "inadvertetly" in the thread title.

Just sayin', your response does not contradict anything in the OP.

EDIT: IstenSzek beat me to it... wink

[Edited 10/17/17 9:10am]



And I say it was a coincidence
"Like books and BLACK LIVES, Albums still MATTER."


"Extra cheese, extra HAM, extra bullshit" -DiminutiveRocker
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Reply #6 posted 10/17/17 11:09am

djThunderfunk

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ThatWhiteDude said:

djThunderfunk said:


In all fairness, databank is not making the case that Prince "directly" had anything to do with it. He's postulating the possibility that the circumstances are related. He even uses the word "inadvertetly" in the thread title.

Just sayin', your response does not contradict anything in the OP.

EDIT: IstenSzek beat me to it... wink

[Edited 10/17/17 9:10am]

And I say it was a coincidence


I don't necessarily disagree with this statement. Your original response was not as succinct.

As to the OP, my thoughts are that if Wonderful came out July 5 after rewriting and re-recording the lyrics, then, it is likely that his original version was turned in to (and denied by) WB before they had even heard Lovesexy. Therefore I agree with the opinion that it's probably just a coincidence.

Thanks for the info just the same, databank! I'm going to have to read Rick's book.

djThunderfunk said:
Not because of some silly milano on the org.

PennyPurple thought it was racial slur and said:
Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! lol
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Reply #7 posted 10/17/17 12:23pm

fakir

Théorie à tirer par les cheveux!
That’s a BS theory!
The Ignorant asserts,The learned doubts,The wise thinks.

Aristotle
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Reply #8 posted 10/17/17 12:46pm

Wlcm2thdwn3

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yeahthat

[Edited 10/17/17 12:47pm]

A whole lot better off than the fools he left here.
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Reply #9 posted 10/17/17 11:31pm

databank

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Thx for the feedback. Like I said it's only speculation, and I admitted myself it was not a strong theory, particularly since we do not know the exact dates regarding Wonderful's submission. I just remember James sayin' he rewrote and rerecorded the vocals in quite a rush, so it could have been done in a matter of days, or a few weeks, and we know from Prince's own records that WB was capable of releasing a record within 2 months of its completion. But I do not claim my theory to be fact. I was merely looking for second opinions.

.

@IstenSzek: the original version was never released. I hope a copy has survived somewhere and that it will eventually see the light of day. It would certainly be interesting to hear a gospel album by Rick James. According to the book, it seems the record was the same musically though, he claims he only changed the lyrics and vocals.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #10 posted 10/18/17 4:38am

IstenSzek

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databank said:

Thx for the feedback. Like I said it's only speculation, and I admitted myself it was not a strong theory, particularly since we do not know the exact dates regarding Wonderful's submission. I just remember James sayin' he rewrote and rerecorded the vocals in quite a rush, so it could have been done in a matter of days, or a few weeks, and we know from Prince's own records that WB was capable of releasing a record within 2 months of its completion. But I do not claim my theory to be fact. I was merely looking for second opinions.

.

@IstenSzek: the original version was never released. I hope a copy has survived somewhere and that it will eventually see the light of day. It would certainly be interesting to hear a gospel album by Rick James. According to the book, it seems the record was the same musically though, he claims he only changed the lyrics and vocals.


thanks thumbs up!

and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #11 posted 10/18/17 6:26am

SPYZFAN1

That's interesting speculation. I have to revisit Rick's book again because I forgot about the "religious" record..............Rick was riding so high with the "Glow" record and then he crash landed into the "where are they now?" category with "The Flag".

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Reply #12 posted 10/18/17 6:56am

1725topp

Databank, nice information. If nothing else, it goes to show that WB and most other labels are not as "artist friendly" as the pose to be and that they are definitely not likely to take chances. Of course, their main objective is to earn money, and I'm sure that most folks, even the artists, realize this. But, the companies lay on the "artist friendly" bullshit so thick that I can't blame artists from becoming hoodwinked or blindsided from time to time, thinking that the compaines really do mean all the bullshit they are selling. Hey, even a pimp has to make the prostitute believe that he loves her. I just think it's a shame that the manner in which these contracts are written that James never had the opportunity to shop his album to someone who may have wanted to release it as it was. I've always thought that, if a company passes on an album, then the artist should have the right to shop it elsewhere, but, of course, the contracts are not written that way.

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Reply #13 posted 10/18/17 7:47am

databank

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I've just reread the chapter to make sure my memory wasn't failing me with details.

Just a few corrections/additions:

- The first version wasn't titled Wonderful yet. No title is given for the original. It's unclear how different both records were but James doesn't suggest any change to the msuic itself.

- No exact dates given but it was in fact only 2 weeks after submission that Benny Medina told Rick it was a no go (I'd forgotten that but Medina, after first hearing the record, didn't object, and it seems the decision came from higher, likely Ostin or Waronker).

- James doesn't actually say how long it took him to rework the record but everything suggests that it was done quickly: he was out of money and badly needed the advance money, and would only get it after delivering an acceptable record.

- James was just told WB had signed a "secular" and "sexy" artist and that they wanted a secular and sexy record. If not, he was promised "legal wars".

- The advance was $850,000 and the record eventually went gold (not that bad, but too low for WB's high standards).

.

And the whole story is connected to 2 amusing Prince-related facts:

- Before signing, James had asked Mo Ostin the guarantee that WB wouldn't put all their promotional attention on Prince, and Ostin promised it wouldn't happen and that WB would put every effort in promoting his work (which, at least according to James, didn't happen).

- James also confesses that the purple album cover was a direct hint at Prince.

.

It's unclear to me what WB expected from Rick: Wonderful is pretty much comparable in style and quality to his last few Motown records, and so is Kickin' (the canceled 1989 album, which honestly isn't either better or worse than any of James' post Street Songs albums).

***

***

On a side-Prince related-note, I just remember that Rick James explains in the book what happened with the "stolen synthesizer" and that his version contradicts Teena Marie's on three accounts:

- He claims he only borrowed one synth (not several as Teena said): the OB-X

- He used it on tracks that would end-up on Garden Of Love, not Street Songs as claimed by Teena (Rick's version is indeed more consistant with dates).

- He also says that it happened during a short break on the tour (couldn't have been more than a few days according to tour dates) and that "Prince never knew it had happened", which contradicts Teena's story about a "thank you note".

***

***

On a final note, I'll add that the book was redacted and posthumoulsy completed as a first person narrative by David Ritz, who had been entrusted by James to help him write the book long before he passed. The problem is that the reader has no way to know which words are Rick James' own words and which are Ritz filling the gaps. So this adds a certain level of uncertainty to the facts evoked. Regardless, the book is a fascinating reading.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #14 posted 10/18/17 7:55am

djThunderfunk

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Very cool! Thanks, databank. cool

djThunderfunk said:
Not because of some silly milano on the org.

PennyPurple thought it was racial slur and said:
Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! lol
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Reply #15 posted 10/18/17 8:06am

databank

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1725topp said:

Databank, nice information. If nothing else, it goes to show that WB and most other labels are not as "artist friendly" as the pose to be and that they are definitely not likely to take chances. Of course, their main objective is to earn money, and I'm sure that most folks, even the artists, realize this. But, the companies lay on the "artist friendly" bullshit so thick that I can't blame artists from becoming hoodwinked or blindsided from time to time, thinking that the compaines really do mean all the bullshit they are selling. Hey, even a pimp has to make the prostitute believe that he loves her. I just think it's a shame that the manner in which these contracts are written that James never had the opportunity to shop his album to someone who may have wanted to release it as it was. I've always thought that, if a company passes on an album, then the artist should have the right to shop it elsewhere, but, of course, the contracts are not written that way.

To be fair, WB took a LOT of chances with Prince: allowing him to produce For You, releasing Dirty Mind as such in spite of its lyrics and "white" vibe, releasing 1999 as a double album before he'd made a big breakthrough, pushing the Purple Rain film project when WB's film department was less than convinced... And they really had an artist friendly reputation in the industry in the 70's and 80's.

On the other hands, both George Clinton and Rick James said the label had been completely unsupportive during those same years and I'm sure a few other examples could be found, but I guess it can't go well all the time. And of course WB was in it for the money, in the end, isn't every label?

.

Contracts were of all kind and artists also had to be smart before signing any piece of paper. TC Ellis, under Prince's advice, managed to get a "pay or play" deal that forced WB to pay him the amount he'd need to record 3 additional albums if they wouldn't want him anymore after True Confessions, and getting that money (nearly a million bucks) allowed Ellis to open his own studio and start his successful career as a social worker.

Rick James doesn't say it explicitely but it's very likely that WB paid him another 850,000 for Kickin' even though they didn't even release the record in the end (this is based on the fact that a promo was released in UK in 1989, and that the 2014 release states "(p) 1989 WB", meaning WB owned the masters the whole time, and therefore had had to pay some kind of advance in order to own them.

.

I'm playing devil's advocate here, of course I believe artists should have as much freedom as possible and be free to release their music elsewhere if a label doesn't want them. But yet, it's always more complicated than that, and Rick James admitted that he wanted the money so badly that he just chose not to fight the label.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #16 posted 10/18/17 8:08am

databank

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NorthC said:

The difference is that Prince was a huge star who could cancel an album at the last minute and get away with it because he had hits.

Prince paid WB for each and every copy of TBA that was destroyed in 87. That's how he got away with that one nod

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #17 posted 10/18/17 8:09am

databank

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djThunderfunk said:

Very cool! Thanks, databank. cool

hug

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Reply #18 posted 10/18/17 8:17am

NorthC

databank said:



NorthC said:


The difference is that Prince was a huge star who could cancel an album at the last minute and get away with it because he had hits.

Prince paid WB for each and every copy of TBA that was destroyed in 87. That's how he got away with that one nod


How do you know that?
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Reply #19 posted 10/18/17 8:37am

databank

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NorthC said:

databank said:

Prince paid WB for each and every copy of TBA that was destroyed in 87. That's how he got away with that one nod

How do you know that?

Mo Ostin revealed it after Prince passed:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7341821/warner-bros-ceo-mo-ostin-prince

"We told him we had spent a lot of money getting this thing ready for market, and he said “Look, I want you to take all those albums and destroy them and I'll pay for whatever cost you guys incurred in manufacturing.” And he actually paid us out of his royalties."

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #20 posted 10/18/17 8:46am

NorthC

Okay, thanks.
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Reply #21 posted 10/18/17 10:39am

jackson35

NorthC said:

The difference is that Prince was a huge star who could film a black & white romcom that tanked and cancel an album at the last minute and get away with it because he had hits. Can anyone name a big Rick James hit after Super Freak? Prince could pull it of because he had money and power and (back then) men at WB like Mo Ostin who were behind him and let him do whatever he wanted (except release a 3 LP set.) He had a huge fanbase around the world. Rick James had none of that. So sorry, databank, I don't mean to be mean to you (or Rick), but I think your theory is BS and it's just a coincidence. wink

considering that throwining down sold 4 million worldwide, i think your missing the point

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Reply #22 posted 10/19/17 6:21am

Chas

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Or maybe the album just sucked smile

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Reply #23 posted 10/19/17 6:58am

databank

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Chas said:

Or maybe the album just sucked smile

lol lol lol

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Reply #24 posted 10/19/17 7:20am

Musze

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This headline cracked me the fuck up. lol

I Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore...
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Reply #25 posted 10/20/17 6:36pm

GustavoRibas

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It makes sense to me. smile

.

BTW, is it true that Rick acknowledged that Prince was a true funk soldier before he passed or a rumour?

Peace
Gustavo Ribas
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Reply #26 posted 10/21/17 11:01pm

rob1965

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Chas said:

Or maybe the album just sucked smile



My point exactly. I just can't remember if it was before or after playbacking to his own music on one of the A-Team's episodes... wink
'Liberate My Mind'
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Reply #27 posted 10/21/17 11:47pm

databank

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GustavoRibas said:

It makes sense to me. smile

.

BTW, is it true that Rick acknowledged that Prince was a true funk soldier before he passed or a rumour?

IDK about before he passed, but he (or his co-writer) acknowleged Prince's genius in the book.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #28 posted 10/22/17 5:52am

muleFunk

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I have the Wonderful CD. I enjoyed it.

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Reply #29 posted 10/23/17 12:59pm

GustavoRibas

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databank said:

GustavoRibas said:

It makes sense to me. smile

.

BTW, is it true that Rick acknowledged that Prince was a true funk soldier before he passed or a rumour?

IDK about before he passed, but he (or his co-writer) acknowleged Prince's genius in the book.

.

Hahaha, I was going to write ´in the last years of his life´. But its cool that he acknowledged that. And it was cool that Prince covered ´Give it to me baby´too.

Peace
Gustavo Ribas
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