I'm proud to say that I am a huge Prince fan (I even stuck with him through that period of time when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol). The 'Purple Rain' film and album still remain defining touchstones of my late adolescence and early adulthood. I saw the film the day it opened during the summer of 1984 and I never got tired of hearing 'When Doves Cry' played on the radio at the David's Cookies store I worked that summer (and that song was in HEAVY radio rotation).
As such, I got very excited when I recently learned that Radio Riddler Productions (Fast and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin Criminals (FLC), who are reggae remix producers in their spare time), are working to pull together a completely reggae tribute to Prince and the 'Purple Rain' album in its entirety (as well as a collection of Marvin Gaye's vocals over reggae music). Rumor has it that the album will feature a variety of artists and singers including members of The Specials brass section, members of Madness, former UB4O singer Ali Campbell (who will be singing 'Purple Rain'), Sinead O'Connor (performing 'I Would Die 4 U') and many more. It certainly doesn't hurt that Benbini is originally from Leicester in the U.K. and is well connected in the British music scenic.
Though originally from New York and best known here for their tune 'Scooby Snacks', FLC was never fully embraced by American audiences, though the UK and most of Europe really took the band to their hearts. The band members in turn always seemed to understand and tap into a uniquely European, and especially British, sense of humor.
Having worked to produce reggae remixes for a variety of artists, the Radio Riddler 'Purple Rain' project is a extension of their love of all things reggae and of Prince in particular. According to an interview that FLC drummer Frank Benbini did late last year, the album is a true labor of love that originally came about as a lark and took on a life of its own.
Yeah, across the board. It was one of those things where we love reggae, and we have a reggae remix outfit called Radio Riddler. We’ve remixed a lot of people…Lily Allen, Coldplay…you know, we’ve done a lot of remixes for a lot of people. So we thought, what can we do? He went – “Why don’t we do the soundtrack to ‘Purple Rain’?” I was like – “That won’t work, that won’t happen, it just won’t work”. He was like – “Well, let’s give it a go”, and he did the first one, ‘Purple Rain’, he got the beats ready and sent it to me, and I was like – “Fuck! It sounds great!” Then I got a lot of my hometown players, brass sections, people from The Specials playing on there. I sang all the songs but then it was like – “Let’s get some guest artists on it”. So I started to approach different people and one person I approached was Sinéad O'Connor. She hasn’t sung a Prince song since ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ which was an international number one so I didn’t think she’d go for it. But she did, and did a version of ‘I Would Die 4 U’. Amazing. Then we’ve got Plan B, he’s doing one, Madness are doing one, the singer from UB40’s doing one. So, yeah, that’s a great little project we’ve got going.The album release has been delayed in part to complications in getting publishing approval from Prince and his camp, who are notoriously picky about anyone recording covers of his back catalog. That said, all indications suggest its just a matter of time before the tracks see the light of day.
While they put the finishing touches on the Purple Rain album, Radio Riddlers have been very busy remixing a variety of artists and track including a wicked remix of the track 'Hard Life, Harsh Times' by Leicester-based reggae/ska band By The Rivers (who are just off tour as the support band for The Specials U.K. tour). Have a listen below:
By The Rivers - HARD LIFE, HARSH TIMES (Radio Riddler Remix) by Radio Riddler Productions
Have a listen to a sampler of Radio Riddler's reggae remix of Marvin Gaye below: