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Monday, August 17, 2009

Prince Proteges Month - The Family

So close, yet so far.

The story of the Family is one of missed opportunites boiled down to its most basic - Good Decisions vs. Bad Decisions. Let's start at the beginning - after Morris Day left The Time in 1984, Prince tapped "St. Paul" Peterson as his replacement, causing guitarist Jesse Johnson to hit the road as well. Left with a drummer, a bass player and a valet ("Now, now, Jerome!"), Prince had Revolution guitarist Wendy's sister, Susannah Melvoin join the band, and rounded out the strange quintet with saxophonist Eric Leeds.

Good Decision #1: Changing the band's name from The Time to The Family. No one would have ever accepted St. Paul as a replacement for Morris Day. I mean, really.

Bad Decision #1: Trying to maintain some of the same funk The Time was famous for, most notably on songs like "Mutiny", making The Family come off as more of a dry run for Wa Wa Nee.

Good Decision #2: Creating a unique "Family" sound for their self-titled LP, drenched in strings and minor keys on songs like "River Run Dry" and the first single, "Screams of Passion" represented here in its 12" version.

The Family Screams of Passion

Bad Decision #2: Picking "Screams of Passion" as the first single when you had, wait for it, the original version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" sitting there nice and all polite-like on Side Two. This even more melodramatic and provocative version could have been a major hit six years earlier than when Sinead O'Connor's take on it took it to the #1 position.

Bad Decision #3: Pulling the plug on the whole thing without recording a second album or playing more than one live date. The Family, for all its Prince-ness, was a fairly unique corner of the Paisley Park empire - it would have been interesting to see what a second album would have brought.

Maybe we'll get that chance, since The Family, all five members, have announced they're reuniting for a tour and new album. Is this a Good Decision or a Bad Decision? Time (heh) will tell. At least Jerome's involved! A Family reunion without Jerome would be like a Happy Mondays reunion without Bez.

And so ends Prince Proteges Month. Don't worry - there are tons more we can talk about in the future. I didn't even get to Jill Jones, Mazarati, Apollonia 6, Jesse Johnson's Revue, et al. Stick around. We have a few years to get to 'em.

"Screams of Passion" peaked at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100, #9 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles and #10 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts in 1985.

"The Family" is out of print.

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posted by John, 8:30 AM