The Family (band)
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|Origin||Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States|
|Genres||Pop, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, new wave, dance|
|Years active||1984-1985, 2009–present|
|Labels||Paisley Park/Warner Bros.|
|Associated acts||Prince, The Time|
The band's origins started with the disintegration of The Time in 1984. Lead singer Morris Day had left the band to pursue a solo career and guitarist Jesse Johnson became the de facto band leader. Prince suggested restructuring the band with new member Paul Peterson to head the group, but Johnson opposed. However, like Day, Johnson soon left the band to pursue his own solo career. A few of The Time's newer members followed Johnson to join his backing band (called Jesse Johnson's Revue).
As the band had served as an outlet for Prince to release more music, he wanted to continue this avenue, inviting the remaining members of The Time, Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton, and Paul Peterson, to his home and presented them with his new project. They agreed to become a new band called The Family, with Peterson renamed "St. Paul" as the new frontman and bassist. Johnson and Benton reprised their familiar roles from The Time. To the mix, Prince added Susannah Melvoin, the twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, as a backing singer and keyboardist. The fifth member was Eric Leeds, the brother of Prince's tour manager Alan Leeds, who provided saxophone and flute. Guitarist Miko Weaver is credited in the album's booklet because he was to be a session player and tour musician band supporter, but was never officially part of the band.
Much like The Time, the band's material was composed nearly entirely by Prince, with the exception of "River Run Dry," which was written by Revolution drummer Bobby Z. Prince wrote and performed all the other tracks and simply overdubbed Peterson's and Melvoin's vocals and added saxophone and flute by Leeds. On several tracks Prince's vocals can be clearly heard. Some of the original demos have surfaced as bootlegs and circulate among fans with Prince's original lead vocals, as well as two outtakes: the instrumental "Feline" and the pop song "Miss Understood". As on other associates' albums, Prince falsely gave credit to the various band members for writing credits, though he kept his name on "Nothing Compares 2 U". The tracks were all recorded in a few weeks' span at the end of the year 1984 after Prince had finished sessions for Around the World in a Day, and just before he started to record music for Sheila E.'s album Romance 1600 and his own album Parade.
The album, and the breakup
The album itself is a mix of uptempo funk songs ("High Fashion", "Mutiny"), unconventional soul ballads ("Nothing Compares 2 U", "Desire"), jazz-funk instrumental tracks ("Yes", "Susannah's Pajamas") and New Wave songs ("The Screams of Passion", "River Run Dry"). "The Screams of Passion" was released as the first single from the album. MTV placed the video for the song in light rotation. "High Fashion" was the second single, but no video was made.
Although the band performed a single concert, released their self-titled album and only two singles (of which the music video ("The Screams of Passion") shows Eric Leeds playing bass because this particular track contained no saxophone), the project turned out to be short-lived. Peterson felt constricted by Prince's control and opted to pursue his own career. Without a lead singer, Prince lost interest and absorbed most of the remaining members into the expanded Revolution (with the exception of Johnson, who went on to join the Flyte Time music production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis).
Prince often incorporated the Family track "Mutiny" into the setlist of his 1986 tour, which occasionally was extended to contain the chorus of "Dream Factory" and the chant "St. Paul - punk of the month!" The album sold poorly upon its release and has been out of print in any form since the late 1980s in the United States. A compact disc version was printed in Germany in the early 1990s and is highly valued among Prince fans and collectors. The album is now available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-family/id1233770814
Besides being a fan favorite, The Family was a relatively important album in Prince's musical career because it allowed him to test several musical concepts that he would later fully integrate in his music. First, it was the true beginning of his long-term collaboration with Eric Leeds. Leeds co-wrote the two instrumental tracks on the album, which were Prince's first step into jazz fusion, a genre he would later explore even more with his Madhouse side-project, and then under his own name in the 2000s. The Family also marked Prince's first collaboration with composer and arranger Clare Fischer, as well as the first time Prince added a symphonic orchestra to his music. Though the two men never met (Prince would only send tapes to Fischer with more or less explicit instructions about what he wanted), they worked together on a regular basis since then.
Reformation and fDeluxe
According to St. Paul's website, he fondly remembers his time with The Family and often plays songs from the album in concert. The Family reunited on December 13, 2003 for a single performance for charity along with other acts formerly associated with Prince. On January 26, 2007, The Family announced that they are returning to the music scene, with a tour and a recording of new music. Now called fDeluxe, they finally reformed in June 2011 and released a new record called Gaslight with four of the five original members performing.
- St. Paul (vocals, keyboards)
- Susannah Melvoin (vocals)
- Jellybean Johnson (drums)
- Eric Leeds (saxophone and flute)
- 1985 - The Family, Paisley Park Records
- 2011 - Gaslight (as fDeluxe), Rope-a-Dope and MiG/Art of Groove Records
- 2012 - Relit (as fDeluxe), Flat White Records
- 2013 - Live & Tight (As A Funk Fiends Fix) (as fDeluxe), Flat White Records
- 2014 - AM Static (as fDeluxe), Flat White Records
- "High Fashion" (1985), Paisley Park (single status in dispute, per the information in the above article text)
- "The Screams of Passion" (1985), Paisley Park
- "Drummers And Healers / Gaslight / Sanctified" (2011), Art Of Groove / MIG (12" Single)
- "Gaslight" (2011), Art Of Groove / MIG (CD)
- "Over The Canyon / Sanctified" (2012), Art Of Groove / MIG (CD)
- "Drummers And Healers" (2012), Art Of Groove / MIG (CD)
- "You Got What You Wanted" (2012), Flat White Records (CD EP)