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 thirty years ago, 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've been eagerly awaiting the release of "Purple Reggae" by Radio Riddler ( which includes the duo of Fast and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin Criminals (FLC), who are reggae remix producers in their spare time). After nearly five years, they have finally released their reggae tribute to Prince and the 'Purple Rain' album in its entirety, The album features a variety of guest vocalists including Suggs of Madness who performs "Let's Go Crazy," former UB4O singer Ali Campbell singing 'Purple Rain," and Sinead O'Connor who takes on "I Would Die 4 U." The sleeper tracks for me include the duet between Hollie Cook and Benbini on "The Beautiful Ones" and "Computer Blue" which features members of The Specials touring horn section.
Though originally from New York and best known here for '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, "Purple Reggae" has been 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 was 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, the Purple one finally signed off and the tracks have just been released. Have a listen to preview tracks below: