Madhouse 8: A Retrospective – “The Ricker” & DJ Polished Solid
By – “The Ricker”
January 21,1987 the first jazz album I ever bought, an album titled “8″ was released on Paisely Park Records by an entity known as “Madhouse” . No musicians were credited on the sleeve, which only contained a young woman (Mancea Lightner) and her puppy. Although it was never acknowledged at the time it has since been confirmed that “Madhouse” was in fact another Prince side project. Madhouse provided Prince with an outlet for some of his jazz-oriented funk music. The project also served as a showcase for talented saxophone player Eric Leeds and model Maneca Lightner.
Outside of the Time project Madhouse is easily in my opinion musically one of Prince’s most impactful side projects. At the height of his Purple Rain apex ,late 1985, Prince had begun to associate himself with the late jazz great Miles Davis. Prince was asked to submit a song for Davis’ TUTU album. Prince recorded two songs “Can I play for u?” and “A Couple of Miles” neither of which made the album. “Can I play for u?” is circulating on bootleg. After recording those two songs Prince got together with Shelia E, Eric Leeds, Levi Seacer and Wendy and Lisa at times and recorded various instrumental improvisational jams that were to be released on a album titled “The Flesh”. These instrumentals remain unreleased. A portion can be heard in “Under the Cherry Moon” as background music(in the scene where Tricky and Christopher are arguing what type of man Mary Sharon prefers). Late September 1986, shortly after returning to Minneapolis from Japan and the final leg of the Parade tour, Prince embarked on the sessions for what would become ‘Madhouse 8″ . The recording of “8″ was very much a one-man project, with Prince incredibly recording the entire album in “FOUR AND A HALF DAYS”! Starting with drums Prince recorded the first three songs’, the drums tracks in a row without hearing any of the other music and with all the changes in his head, in the sequence they are listed on the album. His Royal Baddness indeed!
Ok….initially I bought Madhouse because of the girl on the cover(a la Ohio Players concept)…I admit it ! I came to find that Madhouse 8 is a brave and mostly successful venture into uncharted territory for Prince. The album is a challenging and very rewarding experience, showcasing Prince’s versatility as a musician and his burgeoning jazz leanings. Much of the music is harmonically and structurally complex, blending elements of jazz with funk. Despite essentially being a one-man performance, the music is spontaneous- sounding and the record has a vibrant live ambiance, giving the impression of having been recorded by a tight ensemble. Simply amazing that Prince could record an album in four days play all the instruments and produce one other person playing sax and flute. How talented of a musician is Prince? Name another pop star then or now who can a project like this to the same degree of skill, quality and confidence.
The road version of Madhouse would go on to open for Prince on his “Sign o’ the times ” tour. Appearing in black hooded robes, playing four to five songs with a bikini-clad model carrying a card with a number signifying the track title. 3 of the 4 band members would then go on and fulfill their duties playing during Prince’s show as a part of his band. A jazz quartet opening for a rock star…..daring even by today’s standards. To bad we in the U.S.A couldn’t see that tour.
In the side project “the Time” Prince gave me my fav funk band. In Madhouse he gave me fav jazz band. By being the first “jazz” album I ever purchased “Madhouse” musically opened other doors for me. Because of “Madhouse” I was able to expand my listening from funk and hip-hop to Miles Davis and other various forms of jazz. To this today it is still a gem in my jazz section of cd’s and albums. Happy 25th “Madhouse 8″
By – DJ Polished Solid
If I only had one day to live and I could only play one song, I wouldn’t have to think about it at all. I would play Madhouse’s One from 8. The first four seconds of a snaredrum rolling into a bass drop is an indelible mark in my musical memory that I have replayed a thousand times. No many how many times I have played this record, those first four seconds elicit an anticipation that can only be resolved by hearing that brilliant bassline. Even though Levi Seacer Jr. is credited for bass guitar, Dr. Fink for keyboards, and John Lewis for drums on the record, Prince actually performed all of the instruments except for the horns. The bass solo (Prince is extremely underrated for his bass playing) on one illustrates, without a shadow of a doubt, how powerful a bass player Prince truly is. Demonstrating some pretty intricate drum patterns, this record also showcases Prince’s drum chops, as well.
Prince paired with Eric Leeds on horns is the perfect musical marriage. Eric Leeds is an extraordinary musician in his own right, and the songs on his first, solo record, Times Squared, where he collaborated with Prince yet again, are also truly remarkable. It is quite obvious that Prince was also enamored with Eric’s musicality or he wouldn’t have created this vehicle for Eric Leeds.
Madhouse is the most enduring Prince side project. Out of all of them, in particular, Madhouse 8 is the one that I personally keep coming back to over and over and over again. The songs sound just as exquisite as the first day that I heard them. The complexities of some of the arrangements still leave me discovering something that I hadn’t noticed before, even almost 25 years later. Madhouse 8 is indeed an album where every single song is a connected piece of an amazing extraordinary listening journey. You haven’t lived if you haven’t listened to Madhouse 8.