I’ve actually been out of the house for the past 30 hours or so. Not sure what to do with myself. Went to Madison, WI, for a brief overnight trip and now I’m here at 11:00 PM trying to prepare a Daily Prince post. As I clicked the “randomize” button on the Daily Prince Randomizer, I thought to myself, “Give me something easy.” Then it landed on “When Eye Lay My Hands On U.” Looks like I’m gonna be here for a while.
“When Eye Lay My Hands On U” was recorded sometime in 2000. There aren’t really credits for the song, so it’s assumed that everything on the track is Prince. It was released for free to the NPG Music Club in February of 2001. Then in March of 2004 it was included as the first track on The Chocolate Invasion: Trax from the NPG Music Club Volume One. It wasn’t until 2015 when the NPG Music Club stuff was released on Tidal that this music was really known out side of NPG.
The song starts out peacefully enough. There’s no intro. Prince’s voice starts the first verse the instant the song starts. As the verse progresses there’s an uneasy vibe in the chord progression. Prince’s voice goes from soft falsetto to full voice like a dark omen. Then the chorus hits you in the face via distorted electric guitar with the tremolo depth cranked all the way. Prince’s vocals are layered and haunting, reminiscent of old Funkadelic work. The lyrics – like so many other Prince songs – address the juxtaposition of sex and spirituality.
Now I’m going to reach: My impression every time I hear this song is that it feels like a D’Angelo song. This song was recorded in 2000. It doesn’t have the organic analog sound of Voodoo, but the beat and vocals feel like D’s work. The layered vocals throughout the song are the first thing I notice, but there’s also a slightly disjointed feel to this song much like pretty much everything on Voodoo. We know D’Angelo was inspired by Prince, but is it possible that it was a two-way street? If it was, would Prince ever admit it? I don’t know. It’s more likely I’m a mile off base. There’s so much Prince in D’s work that maybe I have it backwards.
Possible proof that I am off base would be Prince’s reference to Santana late in the song, with a brief solo that sounds like it’s right out of Santana’s guitar. I don’t care. I’m sticking with my theory. I feel D’Angelo’s spirit in this song. Prince was coming off of perhaps his biggest commercial flop, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, and maybe needed some inspiration. Voodoo was getting a lot of love at the time and the guy who created the album idolized Prince. So, Prince decided to give the finest album of the 21st century a listen and it helped him find some songwriting mojo. I’ll just assume that’s what happened.
If you know me, you know that I believe Prince and D’Angelo share the same rarefied air far above all others. Everyone else is competing for third best. I hope Prince was listening to D when he recorded this. D is his finest musical disciple. It would be cool if for one song the teacher was actually the student. This is not one of my favorite Prince songs, but if someone asked me to find them a really deep Prince cut that they’ve probably never heard of that I like, “When Eye Lay My Hands On U” is on that list. Apparently I’m not the only one who felt that way, because you can find it on his Anthology: 1995-2010 compilation. Check it out and enjoy a great hidden gem in Prince’s catalog.