Category Archives: The Eighties (80’s)

The 80’s is when it all came together for Prince, he was young enough to have the raw energy and explosive creativity and experienced enough to provide immense albums and unbeleivable live performances. This is the era of Purple Rain, Lovesexy and Sign of the Times – this is the decade where Prince ruled the world!

Batman 1989

Batman (1989) is the follow up to the brilliant Lovesexy

Batman is a return to commercial form for Prince, with the title track reaching number one in several countries as well as the album itself. The world was Batman crazy as Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson brought life into an old classic, and Prince (for the first time) making an album that was itself totally dedicated to a movie, thanks in part mostly to genius Director Tim Burton being a fan.

Critics mostly disapproved of Batman’s minimalist approach and saw this album as a weak point in Prince’s career. However, the album, in my opinion is a brilliant concept album and part of the brilliant string of Prince albums made by Prince in the 80’s.

The first two tracks, The Future and The Electric Chair are absolute amazing songs and brilliant starts to the album. The Future uses samples from the movie, but has a minimalist backing drum track, the Electric Chair is a rock minimalist song, with a dark broody feel to it. Both songs remain to this day two of my favourite ever Prince songs.

The next song, is the gothic downer, “Arms of Orion”, sand with Sheena Easton, which is a dull non entity of a song, kept on the album because of the previous success on SOTT of You got the look. Batman, was actually a much bigger album, songs like “I love U in me”, and “200 ballons” and “Sex” where supposed to be included, but executives wanted a single album so the songs left on the album I guess as the most commercial of the lot. In anycase, I much much prefer “I love U in me”, a more sincere, a more original and a more amusing song than the drab Arms of Orion. The good news is that you got that song (as the B Side) if you bought I love I in me (as I did at the time).

PartyMan, the less successful followup single to Batdance, with a very ambitious video to accompanying, is as much fun as Camille can get but still having that “dark” gothic feel to it. The video shows Prince as the “Joker”, both side of his personality, fun guy and killer at the same time – I feel Prince really saw himself in the Joker, and this song was his cheeky rendition of a song I guess that the Joker would have made. The multiple faces of Prince really suits the whole Batman concept, no better than Partyman. For me, however, the next song, the understated “Vicki Waiting”, is another Prince classic, in the “Dorothy Parker” storytelling type of mood. Vicki Waiting, is his own story, (with jokes thrown in) about the character Vicki in the movie. In a way, one of his greatsest songs, often overlooked. For me, critics don’t notice songs like Vicki Waiting, because there is no hype associated to them, but it is precisely these classic songs that Prince fans like to discover and rediscover over the years.

“Trust” is next, a late 80’s early 90’s sounding song, which is apparently one of the few songs on the album that you hear in the movie (the other is the title track Batdance in the end credits). Actually the movie was disappointing for it’s lack of Prince music! Trust, is an OK, upbeat song, but with a dark message, I believe about that he doesn’t really trust anyone (except “God”) – simple. It’s a pretty fun song though, and a good upbeat counter-balance to the rest of the gothic album. Not to worry though, because next up is the amazing “Lemon Crush”. What inspired Lemon Crush, and what it’s about is still a mystery to me, but its an absolutely brilliant song, dark and gothic like the rest of the album, but with a killer beat, and twisty turny ending, with enough twists to keep you wondering when it’s going to end. Its just a fun, fun song, and I feel not meant to mean anything. I see Prince just jamming with this song in his studio and having a blast. The song, like Vicki Waiting, wasn’t released as a single, isn’t well known and is another one of those brilliant Prince songs that us fans like to rediscover and immerse themselves into.

The last two songs, both singles. Scandalous, a sensual, ethereal tune, weirdly co-written with his Dad, is one of his greatest ballads, and almost as good as the opus from SOTT (Adore), and equally as funny lyrically. It was, however a very weird choice of single and as expected, not a big hit – but did come with a monster 3 piece 12 inch version, called the “Scandalous Sex Suite” (of course), which as per his other b-sides and 12 inches enhances or even improves upon the song experience. You really can immerse yourself in Scandalous and for this reason, along with some of the other great songs before it Batman is such an amazing album. The album ends with the big hit Batdance, which is amore of a sample collection of bits of the album, and the movie, which Prince of course makes works very well. It’s not my favourite of songs, and most times the album ends for me at Scandalous, but Batdance needs credit too. He could have remade the junk Batman song of the 60’s series, but he really makes this his own. The fast/slow changes in tempo in the song, representing the two faces of the Joker (and of Batman) and (of Prince), is an encapsulation of the album’s theme overall. Ultimately though, Batdance is just a big jam session, with lots of killer guitar solos and funk riffs, in fact everything but the kitchen sink from the school of Prince is thrown in. Love the 12 inch of this, the Vicki Vale (ooh yeah, I wanna bust that body) mix in particular.

Overall, I must confess though, that Batman is a private joy, my little guilty pleasure. There is just too much to like in this to care what critics say. For me, Prince is still in his Prime when this comes out, and this album is underrated, maybe because of it’s association with the movie, but listened to closely, it should be recognised as one his greatest, because it simply is!!

4.5 out of 5 (lost 0.5 because of Arms of Orion)

Lovesexy 1988

The genius of SOTT continues in 1988’s unrated “Lovesexy”. From the incredible album cover to the “one track” album, you can see by this stage the success Prince had allowed him considerable artistic freedom. None of this freedom was wasted and in Lovesexy, you hear an experimental, almost completely free from boundaries album. A spiritual, concept album about heaven and sex and god. Lovesexy is Prince at the peak of his career as an Artist. Some say that Lovesexy started off as the “Black” album, which was due to be released (with some copies surfacing at the time), then with Prince pulling the plug last minute, thinking the album was too dark and too cynical. He then went out and wrote Lovesexy, a very positive reaction to the Black album. Thinking that he could die any day, and wanting to be remembered for being positive. The only survivor of the Black album was “When two are in love” which is the most sombre song in Lovesexy.
The album starts with a big party “EYE NO” is almost a mess of an ensemble, but somehow Prince makes it work. The funky bassline, the pounding drums and horns, and uplifting words (and made up words – Hundalasiliah). Ending with a preacher sermon being interrupted by people talking gossip in a party (“she got more holes than a gold course..” is clearly audible). Then Prince, in his frustration says “No!”. Cue the next song, “Alphabet Street”.
Alphabet Street is one of Prince’s greatest ever singles (and extended versions). The drum rhythm, the style and message was clearly ripped off by Michael Jackson a year later on his worldwide hit “Black or White”, but Alphabet Street really stands ahead of any song released in 1988. The sense of fun, and freedom in Alphabet Street, the personal references to old music, Tennessee, driving his car, and the fact he “likes to watch” are all about fun fun fun! This is Prince telling the world he has a light side to him, but he’s still a horny little devil. The accompanying video clip is also one of my favourites – all colourful and (almost cheaply made compared to other 80’s clips), yet it feels very honest and personal at the same time. Alphabet includes a Cat “rap”, which is similar to her “rap” in the Black album on Cindy C (which I think is better), but rhythmically, and in terms of funk, this is a triumph for Prince and one of his greats.
The greatness of Alphabet Street, makes the next song “Glam Slam” feel a bit like a let down. It’s clearly the most “commercial” song on the album, but in my opinion the weakest. However glam slam spawned a famous night club of the same name and also spawned two of Prince’s greatest ever remixes and B-side. “Escape – free yo mind from this rat race” is a superb bside, better than the a-side, and the 12 inch version of glam slam is up there with his best, almost a disco version of the song. Either song would have improved Lovesexy, but it was not to be. “Anna Stesia”, captures the sprit of Lovesexy, it is about Love and God, and in no way is this message hidden. As a song, it is a melodramatic piece, almost sad, while still being funky. I know its a fan favourite, and a classic.
The most interesting songs come next on side two. “Dance On”, possibly inspired by the weird drum licks in Tambourine is about being kids being in gangs rather than playing funk, kids making money selling drugs rather than making money playing music, it compares the sound of bass guitars and drums to guns and chaos. It’s what prince sees in the world, but the message conveyed is through the sound of Dance On. It’s not as clear a social message as SOTT, but there is a distinct unease you get from hearing the mangled drum and gun sounds.
Next song is the magnificent title track, if ever a song had a gender change it was this one. This song is about Prince’s spirituality, his love of god AND sex (hence Lovesexy), but musically, its a twisting, mutating song with so much interesting stuff happening in it. This is not your average 3 minute pop song! I love Lovesexy, and this song really represents the spirit of the album, uplifting, fun and darn funky!
Things slow down in “When 2 R in love”, a “Black album” left over, With it’s dramatic piano riff and intimate, almost gothic feel to it, it’s a nice break from all the intricacies of the rest of the album. The beautiful, but simple falsetto and haunting beat lead nicely to the next falsetto masterpiece..
“I wish U heaven”, like Glam Slam has an outstanding remix/12 inch version, unlike Glam Slam – is an outstanding (perhaps too short) a song. One of the singles from Lovesexy, perhaps not as big a hit as Alphabet Street, I wish U heaven is by far one of the catchiest songs ever made by Prince. And unlike the rest of Lovesexy is a very simple, driving song lacking the complexities of the other songs. It’s about love and spirituality but lacks any sexuality (but filled with sensuality at the same time) – I wish U heaven is just a masterpiece.
The last song, as if he wanted to drive home the message that this was “NOT” the black album is “Positivity”. Despite the name, its a sombre almost depressing sounding song. It has a clear message about the perils of the world, and about making the right choices. There doesn’t seem to be anything positive about this song, but perhaps the message is subliminal and a warning – be positive and stay focused in life, or else you will have a bad life (or at worst die young). Sombre ending indeed for the Lovesexy album, perhaps that’s why there are sounds of waterfalls and (beams of light) at the end of the album, which feels like the “light” of positivity.
I don’t know what Prince was thinking when he made Lovesexy, unlike the very articulate and brilliant SOTT, Lovesexy’s main messages are in the music, and it feels very unprepared, very ad hoc – but also feels like it comes from deep within his soul. And for that reason, like SOTT, Lovesexy is also an honest record. It is a depiction of his state of mind at the time, and frankly a major piece of work peak of his artistic powers.
This is most definitely a 5 out of 5

Sign O The times (1987)

Sign O the times is a minimalist funk piece, and the first single of the album. Along the lines of Prince’s other “first single” minimal songs (Kiss/When Doves Cry), this is a powerful piece, driven by loud drums and a tight funky bass. It was a bit hit for Prince, and unlike previous singles, had a sober message about the state of the world (in the late 80’s). Interestingly some of the questions posed on SOTT are still relevant today, rocket ships are still exploding and everyone still wants to fly, people still get AIDS and kids are still going to war. In a way, this song hasn’t aged, and is still very haunting. A splash of comedy at the end (calling his son Nate (if it’s a boy)) is a hint of things to come. SOTT starts sober, but it really a silly ride. The next song, Play in the sunshine shakes up the whole mood, snaps us out of our depression and just says – hell lets party! Play in the sunshine, for all intents and purposes sounds like a Revolution record, but in reality this is a solo effort from Prince, with a few helpers (Sheila E and Cathy Glover amongst others), and it sounds as personal as a Prince album as he has done.
The fun continues on Housequake, which sounds like a parody of James Brown, with the words “Shut up already, damn!” and “Bullshit” scattered all over it. It’s an old school sounding jam which is as popular as any Prince funk song to date, and was at the time a real innovation in his own sound. The “Camille” vocals, and the unusual rhythm just works and it’s a great fun song.
Next up is one of my personal, all time favourite songs – The Ballad of Dorothy Parker. Originally a demo, the song has so many ideas and is kept together by a pulsating funk slap bass. It has a very intricate drum, machine and is a real indication that Prince is working alone – this is not a song that the Revolution would have performed! Although it has had many incarnations, being played live so many times through the years – Prince has literally “dreamt” this song up and brought it to life. If there is ever a song that goes deep into Prince’s sync it’s Dorothy Parker. For me, the end fade out of the song makes it seem like a longer version is out there (although Ive never heard it). It’s the real gem of the album and many people’s favourites, as close to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, but very Prince through and through.
The next song (or demo) is Starfish and Coffee, with no drums, yet as rhythmic as any of his songs, Starfish and Coffee is about fun, yet again, but in a childlike way – almost revisiting his childhood but with an innocence and charm unlike anything he’s done before (perhaps Do you lie comes close). The song is so child friendly that it was performed on the Muppets.
Next up is the epic “It”, which is purely lyrically about sex. In contrast to previous innocent, sober, perverse or just silly songs – this one is deep rooted in sexual desire (almost desperation). But similar to the songs that precede it, “It” is very pure and from deep within. One feels Prince is writing and performing the bulk of SOTT alone, and IT is an unabashed personal feeling. The snog itself has an epic, Loud sound – with almost a soundtrack feel to it.
Hot Thing, follows on from “It”, and is on a similar theme, but more funky and a brilliant live song. “Slow Love” is a whimsical ballad, and almost a break from the personal, longing moods of the previous songs. Slow Love, is just about old fashioned love, and it has a feel of a song that could be on “Parade”. Side one finishes with another personal statement “Forever in my life” which is basically Prince and a drum machine singing a song that sounds like he made up on the spot, but no less as personal or brilliant that his other songs on SOTT. You feel like he wants to “grow up” on Forever in my life, and that he wants to stop the excesses of the past, to settle down to sober up. Just one side of his multi faceted personality coming through here.

Side Two starts with the album’s weakest moment, minor hit, “You got the look” with Sheena Easton is a standard rock song, made for radio. there is nothing especially ground breaking about this song, except perhaps it sounds like one of Prince’s few attempts to make a radio friendly song. I often skip this song when listening to SOTT. Side two really starts with the second song, masterpiece, “If I was your girlfriend”. From the beginning build-up, church organ and priest to the stunning drum rhythm and bass, this song is almost perfection from start to end. Lyrically about his desire to be so close to the one he loves he wants to be her “best friend” to the deeply funky (perfect) bassline. The neuro erotic speech at the end, and the orgasmic finale – one of Prince’s finest songs.
Next up, and perhaps because of the genius before it, “Strange Relationship” is often overlooked amongst Prince classics, but is really one of his best ever songs. Lyrically about a personal conflict of how he loves and doesn’t love someone at the same time, and succinctly explaining that he is at a point where he might do something rash – he questions the relationship and like all hard questions, really doesn’t have an answer. Like all his classics, this is a personal statement, couple with a really funky and catchy beat – one again the brilliant bassline being my favourite part.
The next two songs are not my favourites, but in reality are very important elements of SOTT. “The Cross”, a personal religious song, which is a fairly simple song bordering on heavy metal and devoted to God. And “It’s gonna be a beautiful night”, which is a fun (late 80’s) dance song, on the same lines as “Baby I’m a star”, take it or leave it song. Both are great live, and were probably written to be performed live.
Lastly, comes the classic “Adore”, perhaps one of Prince’s best ever ballads. Fittingly another deep and personal message from Prince, where he explores the extremes of his love and adoration (similarly to If I was your girlfriend). By the time you’ve reached the end of this song and of the album, you realise you are a million miles away from the sobering title track of SOTT and have been through a real adventure.
SOTT up to that year (1987) should surely be considered one of the best albums every made. And depending on personal preference, the best ever Prince album. It is undoubtedly his most honest offering to date, and this is reflected by the brilliant reviews the album received.
For me, this album is a 5 out of 5.

prince parade 1985

Prince Parade 1986 Soundtrack to Under the Cherry Moon

Prince Parade Album Review from 1986

Prince’s Parade from the mid 80’s (1986 to be precise) is just one of Prince’s best albums.

The man, the album, the year – Prince Parade 1986. Although initially receive well by the critics, and it is the soundtrack for a rather weird, some say rubbish (I say interesting) movie. The music is what makes Parade just irresistible. What makes for a good album? Well, in my opinion, its like high quality wine which ages and improves over time. Parade has no “time”, it doesn’t sound like an 80’s album in most cases, and it has a psychedelic, almost surreal quality reminiscent of Sergeant Peppers and his earlier Around the world in a day, except Prince’s work is more funky, funny and French?? Imagine yourself in the French Riviera, on hallucinogens? prince parade 1986 .

The album starts with the psychedelic trip “Christopher Tracey’s Parade” which is the Prince entrée to the treats to come from this 1986 classic. Its a short little pop tune with lush orchestrations, multiple voices with the distinctive Wendy/Lisa voices, and the feeling of a hectic trip to the merry-go-round. The song segues into the Caribbean retro funk of New Position, which is almost a throwaway, yet it is so head nodding and funky that you never get sick of hearing it, a piece of fun and joy. The Caribbean drum (bells??) are the highlight for me evoking a beach and palm trees, but strangely the song fits into this psychoscopic landscape quite well. New Position slows down and becomes “I Wonder U”, which is basically a Wendy and Lisa song, Prince’s voice is barely audible. I Wonder U is a slow hypnotic dreamscape that is way too short, and is a complete pleasure to listen to. The introduction of funky rhythm guitar in the mid song and the lush orchestrations of Clare Fischer are just astounding. The 4th song, “Under the cherry moon” seems to be the first “full” song on offer, and is Prince crooning at his best, the orchestrations are simple and the song is fairly simple, but the French (European) feel continues.

prince parade album sleeve 1986 wendy
prince parade 1986 wendy

The other striking feature of Parade, is Princes use of contracts, and dynamics to almost bring out the “colour” in his music. Its strange that the movie is black and white, but really the colour and vividness is in the music – I think Prince realised that when deciding to make the movie black and white. The banging drums to “Girls and Boys” are in striking contrast to what comes before is, “Under the cherry moon”, is a slow croon, and Girls and Boys is a loud party (in France?). Really Girls and Boys is one of Princes catchiest and most original tunes. The horns section contrasts to the funky bass and guitars, the “Camille” voice is prominent, as is the feeling you are listening to something immoral and wrong, and the French woman moaning throughout is Prince’s sex on a record perfected.prince parade 1986

The tempo builds up on “Life can be so nice” which has to be one of Prince’s most complex arrangements to date. It is an absolute joyful song and one that always evokes happiness and (I call is hysteria) at the same time. The pounding drums get ever so faster throughout the album until you are literally in a frenzy by the end (when the song suddenly stops). Not for the faint hearted.prince parade 1986 

Prince Parade 1986 O yeah!

 

prince parade 1986
prince parade 1986 album sleeve

 

The contrast continues on “Venus de Milo”, a Wendy and Lisa instrumental. Nice for dinner parties, but for me not a song I listen to a lot. However, the album seems to need Venus as part of the adventure. For me, Alexa de Paris (the B Side of Mountains) would have been a better choice, but perhaps side one was running out of space, so Prince added this filler in instead.prince parade 1986

Side 2 starts with Mountains. This was the second single off the album after KISS and to me is a superior song, it wasn’t a smash hit, but the song is so full of energy and happiness, and continues the European, lush orchestration and arrangements from the rest of the album, yet in it’s own way having some simple things, like the drums, the singing, and the horns, but the orchestrations take this song to another level – check out the 12inch version, which I believe is even better than the single and its a pity couldn’t be included on Parade (its just too long). During this period, Prince’s B-Sides and 12 inch extended versions were as good as any of his Album or single material and better than everything most other people were producing. This was the time where Prince was truly carving out his legend as a brilliant song writer and producer/arranger.prince parade 1986

After Mountains, the contrast continues with “Do you lie”, a quick, funny, jazzy, yet intriguing little song, sung without the cares of the world, in a truly relaxing and smooth as you like way. Do you lie brings together beautiful arrangements, marvellous vocal work and accordions :). Did I mention it’s “Frenchness”??

princeparademovie
prince parade 1986 movie black and white

Do you lie is so soft, so gentle, like a breeze. So to hear the ultra modern dance classic of KISS, Prince’s huge 1986 hit, is something of a shock (a good one). Kiss is in such contrast to every other element of this album, it’s arrangement sparse, no orchestration and no “Lush” feeling. Definitely not sounding French and is just a throwback to 70’s funk, like Sly and the Family Stone, and George Clinton. Its so different, that it actually fits into the album and provides that extra bit of balance. We have more Sly funk coming later (Anotherloverholeinyourhead), but Kiss is just a real piece of genius in that it takes a classic funk sound, strips it down, removes the bass line (ala When Does Cry) and is like no thing heard on the music charts to date. The key, however to KISS’s success is simply that it’s a good basic tune. Surrounded in techno funk. prince parade 1986

The last two songs, are for me the weak points of the album. Not saying their not good, but not as strong as what came before. Anotherloverholeinyourhead, despite it’s very long title without spaces, is a standard piece of funk music with a catchy chorus, almost designed to be a hit single (which it wasn’t). Once again, the 12 inch version of this song is far superior to the album version, as is the live versions. So there is really a good song in there, but I believe (could have done better) with the arrangement and sounds. Prince Parade 1986.

Lastly, Sometimes it snows in April, is a touching, poignant song. Many of my friends loved this song, but I was never into it that much. For me the album ends at KISS. prince parade 1986

STARS 5 out of 5 prince parade 1986     

 

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princereviews.com prince around the world in a day album reviews

Around the World in a Day (1985)

A psychadelic, oriental flute blows in the background, a guru like voice announces “Open your heart open your mind”, pyschadelic colours. What can be more different than Purple Rain? This is “Around the world in a day”. A song, an image and a repertoire of sounds that remind us that Prince is not just a rock God. Its there to filter out the wheat from the chaff in terms of fans. He challenges fans with a new sound and to some there is real disappointment. For me, there is wonder and amazement. Around the world in a day isn’t musically the best thing Prince has ever done, it’s also got a lot of flaws. In parts it seems rushed and hurried, but considering the world around Prince whilst in the midst of Purple Rain “fever”, this album is almost a miracle. The easiest thing in the world would have been for Prince to make Purple Rain part II. The whole world was waiting for it. But really, no album before Purple Rain sounded like Purple Rain so why should Around the World in a Day (ATWIAD)?

ATWIAD is almost two fingers up to the expectations of Purple Rain, although never completely losing the purple thing and still managing to be very funky in parts, this album is not very commercial (With the exception of the single Raspberry Beret) and is a more serious attempt at social commentary. It’s an album that demonstrates how immensely brilliant arrangement can transform average songs into masterpieces (listen to Condition of the Heart). I love ATWIAD not for what it is but what it could have been, it’s an album where the b-sides are as strong or even stronger than the album “She’s always in my hair” is always considered to be a fan favourite, yet is just a B-Side, as is “Another Lonely Christmas”. The fact that these brilliant songs were left out of ATWIAD shows either a real lack of judgement by Prince and Warner Brothers, or perhaps jus the very fact that Prince did not want ATWIAD to be too commercial.

The title track is all weirdness and fluff. It’s the first “Purple Rain” fans foray into Purple Rain part II. And the reaction was either disgust or curiosity. Mine was the latter. ATWIAD draws you in, and if you make it through, you dive further into the next classic “Paisley Park”. It’s hard not to like PP because it has a Beatlish aura to it. Almost trippy, but it essentially a social commentary with a childlike innocence to it, but a thunderous guitar rhythm and thumping drum beat.  Condition of the Heart is (as above) a wonder of arrangement and classical style. It is completely heartfelt and interesting story but it gets you every time. The first listen is a real test for “new” fans, the piano introduction is wonderful and the tune is as catchy as anything he has done, the falsetto is haunting. Condition remains one of my favourite Prince songs ever – its originality, a brave but confident stride into “adulthood” for Prince.

 

more to come…

 

Purple Rain (1984)

Purple Rain Prince 1984

Prince in the film purple rain

 

 

Purple Rain – Prince

Purple Rain will be forever known as Prince’s Opus and his most commercial and famous piece of work. Artistically there is more to come but in terms of his status on the rock world, Purple Rain puts him up there with the legends of Rock.

So what makes Purple Rain (PR) so special? PR is the culmination of build up in momentum in Prince’s popularity, and although the commercial success of 1999 increased Prince’s exposure to the masses he still not quite a superstar, and still had that “mystery”, only the cool kids knew who he was. The next thing that made PR so special was the rock and roll movie and subsequent publicity that went with it. This could all have been an expensive failure, but Warner Brothers had so much confidence in Prince’s ability to pull it off and he did. The movie was fantastic for it’s time, if you were a young teen at the cinema watching Prince being (well Prince…) you felt like you were watching a piece of magic and you didn’t want it to end. There are several memorable scenes in the movie, but the ones that stand out are the live performances, particularly the title track and the magnificent “The Beautiful Ones”. The scenes with Vanity are so kooky that they really work, and then there’s the charismatic Morris Day and his role as the comic villain.

 

purple-rain

The Music

The Album is filled with all round classics. The beginning of the album is “Lets go crazy”, single number 2 and one of Prince’s craziest and most “fun” songs ever made. The beginning of Lets go crazy, Prince begins with a sermon, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life and that’s a mighty long time!” and the rock riff then starts – its an instant piece of 80’s rock magic with Prince’s Linn Drum machine rocking it through. The ending is almost as brilliant as the beginning, ending in a wailing guitar scream so sexy that I still get goose bumps listening to it. Perfect in every way!

After the guitar orgy of Lets go crazy, the next song, Take me with U is a piece of fluff in comparison, a duet with Vanity, the song is actually really catchy and fits well in the movie – althuogh its not my favourite. Listen to his new song “Rock N Roll Love Affair” and you hear a distinct similarity to this song with the big sounding keyboard riff and banging drums. The video clip Prince rides his Harley through the country side and this song conjures up images of a trip through nature – very nice, very breezy.

Third up is “The Beautiful Ones”, to this point the best Ballad Prince has produced, some would argue its his greatest ever ballad, (but I like Adore and Insatiable more…..). However, this is different, its a ROCK ballad, with all the hallmarks of youthful lust and exhuberance, that begins with a soft piano and Prince’s soft falsetto, mid tempo drums, and a nice catchy verse. The chorus is also very catchy, and although never released, this could have been a smash single if they decided to bring it out, the song continues to build pace and as the guitars are introduced Prince screams in ecstacy and keeps going until the song ends in a type of “orgasmic” ending – I defy anyone to listen to The Beautiful ones and not shed a tear as it’s such a deeply moving song, yet the lyrics are purely about desperation and need, sexual need. It drives so hard and is so loud that youll never forget this song. It also makes for a turning point in the movie. Classic!

“Computer Blue” is the 4th song on the album, and a strange type of song. On the face of it, it starts off as a rock funk song with a pop type of vocal, and then changes and becomes a mid tempo instrumental, with the guitar taking the lead, all along the drum machine carrying the song through. But, like the Beautiful Ones before it, Computer Blue takes a few twists and turns and gets heavier and faster as it progresses, ending up in another orgasmic scream at the end joining onto the perverse “Darling Nikki”. Computer Blue remains one of my all time favourite Prince songs, its hard to describe why – I think it doesnt really fit into any specific category of song, and it doesnt really sound “finished”, yet it offers so much and its darn funky! The guitar solo in it is beautiful and ends up grungy and funky, also as a song its a good bridge between Beautiful Ones and Darling Nikki. Finally, despite being dragged through by a 80’s drum machine with little variation, and a topic matter that’s very “80’s” in Computer technology, it still sounds fresh, to me it hasnt really aged badly. Always the sign of great classic music.

Darling Nikki, picks up at the end of Computer Blue and is the albums most perverted songs, almost harking back to the “Dirty Mind” era in it’s subject matter. But theres no grey area here, this is a purely sexual song about a prostiture, masturbation and other dirty things – it probably gave some insight into Prince’s mindset at the time as a young man too, and cemented his place in music history as a perverse but highly genius talent. As a song, Darling Nikki is minimalist and tribal, loud banging drums, almost a fairy tale type of tune and Prince’s howling, craving and wailing throughout the song. The end of the song, sounds like “rain” (Purple Rain?) and Prince singing multitracked and backwards blessing the lord. Like so many other Prince songs, he puts in the tribute to God after a dirty sex song almost as an apology or guilt trip, and recording it backwards so it’s not so obvious.

Side Two begins with the highest selling and most famous of Prince’s single released – “When Doves Cry”. Although the lyrics are hard to truly understand and sound semi-autobiographical, I spent may years trying to work out what the lyrics mean, but lately I have mostly given up, realising that they are written to sound deep and meaningful, but really are not. Prince was the master of cool around Purple Rain and anything he said was cool, regardless of what is meant (or didnt mean). I think the real strength of When Does Cry is its stunning musical sound – a real revelation for it’s time in the 80’s. A pounding beat and a driving voice, and no other instruments – in terms of music a real revolution, no bass guitar either! The deep driving vocals mean that a bass guitar sound was not needed, and on the higher end of the sound spectrum a typical Prince synth sound also adding flavour to the sound. Also, those lyrics are insanely catchy, deep, and purposeful (even if they dont mean much) and set a tone for the movie as well. As a smash hit single, the song was probably one of the key reasons why Purple Rain was so successful – and I would say When Does Cry was probably the song that elevated Prince into superstardom overnight. Forever a classic – listen to it loud and it still gives you goosbumps today. The album version is very long, and contains an extended version with what sounds like classical organ sound (sped up), although its an impressive organ solo, it kind of takes something away from the moody sound of the song in the first place. When Does Cry ends and “I would die for you” starts, and this song is very diffrernt in many ways, this song has better lyrics, and is very religiuos, however it has a really interesting sound and the long version of this song is actually quite interesting (if overlong as well!). The album version is short and cute, and is a really good segue to the next song which is “Baby Im a Star”, in my opinion one of Prince’s weakest ever songs, but at the time it was a filler album track that suited the movie’s needs, basically being the happy ending of the movie – if you watch the movie, the song is great and you feel like dancing along – but as an album track its pants. and it’s long. and it’s live. everything that really I wouldnt want from a Prince song. For me the brilliance of Prince is in his handling of sounds, song writing, arrangement and execution of brilliantly crafted songs, I would imagine Prince writing “Baby Im a star” in 5 minutes on the back of a fag packet. Average.

the final and one of the greatest Prince tunes is the title track. “Purple Rain” is extroardinary in that it still sounds fresh today after all these years, also that it sounds like a country song, but played by a funk maestro and so many people around the world still love it. The guitar solo at the back end of the song is hauntingly beatuiful and one the best ever solos made on record. The ending is perfect, almost operaticand cinematic at the same time – its the song where Prince win’s over the fans in the movie and in real life this song won him lots of plaudits, its the song most non-Prince fans know and its an epic and high qualtiy experience to listen to, the lyrics even make sense as Prince uses the “purple” as a metaphor and sings about lonliness and longing for love. Its no sexual teenage boys lark, this is grown up Prince and things are going to be different from now on…

Purple Rain as an album can only be considered a classic with few weak points. It redefined music in it’s time and sold buckets full of copies. It made Prince a global star and brought his music and his style to millions. It was the face of the “minneapolis” revolution and he created and promoted the minneapolis funk sound to the world. Once a music backwater, now anything that was from minneapolis was hot, anything and anyone. Prince had made it and it would be interesting to see what reaction this would have to his music after 1984 – the year of Prince.

1999 (1982)

1999 is Prince’s first double album, with 4 interesting and diverse flips to an already incredible career.

The 1999 album is a trip, it is a ludicrous, crass, sexy, funny, political and LONG (with 9 songs over 5 minutes) adventure. It is a seminal Prince record and an important contribution to the great albums of the 80’s. It is also Prince’s first flirtation with serious commercial success and was successful enough to convince executives to provide the genius with a budget to produce a full length motion picture. However, in a way it was also a dark and shady record showing some creepy sides to Prince’s persona, and a self indulgent side too.

The first song, and title track is up to this point, Prince’s most commercial offering and ends up being his biggest hit. The song had a futuristic sound to it at the time, with a mix of funk, rock, dance and downright fun – a catchy hook and sexy white girl backing singers which was all the rage in the early 80’s. The song begins with Dez Dickerson and Lisa Coleman on lead vocals, both having strong but fairly flat vocals, seem to emphasise the third vocalist (Prince’s) tone. Prince then takes over the whole track, and talks about the end of the world over a pumping funk rhythm. This song really showcases Prince’s enigmatic persona and is the first time we all see him in his royal colours “purple”, which are his way of combining the fact he is from Minnesota and the royalist nature of his name. The metaphoric “purple banana” is about to be fully peeled to the world. Whilst not a major hit in the US, it was a breakthrough hit in Australia and many other countries, and was a sign of his massive commercial potential. The whole side one of 1999 was an attempt to gain the commercial market (and attention) that he so craved. 1999 the song was really a bridge between Controversy and Little Red Corvette. To release LRC too quickly may have been a just too far from his underground artist status. The 1999 song encompasses Prince of the time and the potential for superstardom.

The segue into Little Red Corvette continues the commercial music theme, in the tradition of “when you were mine”, LRC is a real “white song” meant to be played on “white” radio and more importantly, on MTV. Released virtually the same time as Michael Jackson’s huge hit “Billy Jean”, this was a time for Black American artists to take the USA and the world literally by storm. Prince was literally in the right place at the right time with Little Red Corvette. The song duly became a US hit, making him a household name. The song also made him well known around the world, with many confusing Prince and MJ (hugely different) styles as the same. The only similarity is that they were two black US artists who had released their most commercial songs at the same time. Unfortunately this type of confusion stuck for many years, and it seems the death of MJ people (who are not Prince or MJ fans) are truly starting to realise the difference, and yet valid contributions both artist had to global music culture. Going back to the song, LRC is really a simple 3 chord song with lead guitar and broad synth strokes. The vocals are very much in the nature of the mainstream artists of the time, like John Cougar, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams. Delving deeper into the song shows Prince’s sinister side and wicked sense of humour, the song is really about pussy and a bleeding one at that. There are a bunch of similes and  double-entendres to make you smile throughout the song, between him, the pussy, the car, parking sideways, lasting the course, going to fast and the colour red there’s a lot to keep you amused.

Next up to bat is third hit, “Delirious”, which is a more commercial version of the superior “Horny Toad”, and in the rockabilly tradition of Jack U off, this song can really be described as a throw-away hit record, which has really aged quite badly. The silly drum machine and the funky synth lines and repetition of the chorus are hard to listen to now – but the lyric is still funny (and overtly sexual of course) and the song had it’s purpose at the time. The baby laugh at the end of the song is almost a relief to listen to. End of side 1.

Side 2 of 1999 contains just two (let me repeat – TWO) songs. Probably not too unusual, some of Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder early records had only one song on one side of their LP’s. The two songs in question are Lets Pretend Were Married and Dance Music Sex Romance (DMSR). Both songs will be reviewed in one go because although they sound different, they represent to me, the same thing. The extended “version” was starting to come of age at the time, as well as the Dance remix, Prince wanted to give it to us on the album version – this allowed him to swear expletives (nearer to the end of each song) in order to give the song a chance of being a cut down hit single, and it also allowed him his now famous self indulgent variations of rhythm and tempo. As if to prove a point to the world that HE HAD ARTISTIC freedom, he was saying to us that he was able to do what he liked. If he wanted to make a 10 minute song, he would! The songs themselves are great, very catchy, very funky and can be played easily at any party. Lets Pretend… has a darker them to it, almost a crazed delusional stalker type of feel to it, while DMSR is just a party record that just goes on and on. Its about big beats and well.. the title says it all. Both songs have a radical free wheeling sexual feel to them and are really now considered great Prince songs. So yes, its only two songs but they are really fantastic songs!

Side 3 begins with the Prince classic “Automatic”, another epic rollercoaster of a song with a strong BDSM theme to it. The song has a pulsating drum machine rhythm which doesn’t change too much throughout the song. The start of the song is a standard pop song with dominant female vocals, almost a look in to the future “Take me with U”, and sugary synth lines throughout. By itself the first 2 minutes of the song doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t have a memorable chorus or anything substantial to it, but as with many Prince songs, you have to listen to ALL of it to really understand where the song is going. When the video was released, all the hard work done by Prince in commercialising himself in 1999/LRC could have been undone in one swoop, not only was it banned by MTV, the decision to put the whole 9.28 minute extended bondage mix into the video really annoyed bosses at Warners. However, whilst not the most catchy or most commercial of efforts, AUTOMATIC is one of Prince’s most interesting and funny songs to date, and Im sure helped people around the the world to realise his genius and in a way did further good in establishing him as an enigmatic, interesting pop star, whilst the 80’s was churning out cookie cutter pop music at the time… The meat and veg of the song are the middle parts, including when the driving lead guitar solo merges into women moaning and Prince appearing to go into “Pilot” mode, flying off into the sky.. The last part is a repetition of the words A-U-T-OMATIC throughout, until Prince says “undress me”, moving onto another part of the song where he whispers a lot of things, the most audible part is “I’m going to have to torture you now”..  Actually the lyrics are so funny and brilliant here they are below….

Don’t say that no man has ever tasted your ice cream

Baby, U’re the purple star of the night supreme

U’ll always be a virgin

4 no man deserves your love

I only pray that when U dream

I’m the one U dream of

I pray that when U dream

U dream of how we kiss

Not with our lips, but with our souls

Stop me if I bore U

Why is it that I think we’d be so good in bed?

Can U hear me?

Why do I love U so much?

It’s so strange, I’m more comfortable around U when I’m naked

Can U hear me?

I wonder if U have any mercy, don’t torture me

Stop the music, baby

Automatic fool!

When it comes 2 U, I’m automatic, baby

There’s no one else like me

I’m the best U’ll ever find

No one else could understand U

U’re 2 complex

They say nothing’s perfect

But they don’t know U

It’s automatic 2

Can U hear me?

Honey, I’m so addicted 2 your pleasure

I’m addicted 2 your pain

It’s automatic

Automatically insane

Undress me 

Fasten your seat belts

Prepare 4 takeoff

I can dream of how U kissed me

Not with your lips, but with your soul

With U I’m never bored

Talk 2 me some more

I can hear U

I’m going 2 have 2 torture U now

Side 3 continues with another legendary song which I think it one of my favourites of all time – in “Something in the water” he pumps up the Linn drum volume and adds a very fast hi hat program, in terms of sound, he puts on the lead/soft synth, which is slightly detuned and no bass line or guitar of note. In a way SITW is a precursor to the massive (no bassline) hits When doves cry / KISS released 1-2 years later..  The song is astonishingly weird, even for Prince and the mood is dark and well.. moody and bizarre at the same time. The lyric of “some people say I’ve got great legs, cant figure out why you make me beg” says a lot about the egotistitcal, yet desperate mood of the song, the song is basically about an oversexed guy who doesn’t understand why the women who are with him are not as horny as him. “Must be something in the water they drink, that’s been the same with every girl I had, why else would a woman treat a man so bad”. Desperate, horny, poor man Prince. The reason why I really love this song (actually there are two reasons), first is the amazing chorus, the song goes from moody depression into a country and western style swig, and it really works. The second reason is the high pitched howling (this is the best way I can describe it) at the end of the song. Enjoy that, as you will never hear anything like that ever again on a commercial record. Brilliant.

Years later I discovered what is apparently the “original” version of Something in the water which was never actually released. This is also a fantastic song, as it has a bass line and less prominent drums, means it sounds more like a standard pop tune. The good thing about this version is that you realise that in the 1999 version, he has basically dressed up a fantastic pop song into a weird, moody, crowd killer.. but fans got it, and I would say it’s song like these that helped Prince amass so many devoted fans over the years.

 

Side 4 starts with anthemic, sober “Free”, the contrast with the esoteric and gothic side 2 couldn’t be more emphasised. In Free Prince seems to be shouting the voice of America and freedom and it’s an insight into his patriotism, pop stars have many qualities, but how many pop stars are republican freaks like Prince? The song is sung in a falsetto (the first time you hear falsetto up to this point in the album) and has a driving guitar and pulsating drum, and is quite sweet to listen to compared to the freakish songs that came before it. Ultimately though, the song feels more like a distraction to the rest of the record than a reason to listen.  Fortunately the nastiness continues in the next killer tune, Lady Cab Driver… LCD is all funk, rhythm guitar, slap bass and hand claps, feels more organic than the other songs but still retains the rawness and edge making it a standout tune. Vocally, Prince is quiet and the female backing vocal is pushed up so it’s hard to determine who is really leading this song, this is perhaps because you gain the illusion that you are actually in the back of a taxi through out the song, the sounds in this song provide visual imagery, you feel like your in the taxi, the hand claps feel like people walking outside the street, the synths sound like car horns. There’s even a part of the song, midway through where it sounds like he just got home and start’s washing his face – before he lifts it up a notch to another really memorable lyric, where each (literal shag) is accompanied by a statement.. ”

“This is 4 the cab U have 2 drive 4 no money at all

This is 4 why I wasn’t born like my brother, handsome and tall

This is 4 politicians who r bored and believe in war

This — Yeah, that’s 4 me, that’s who that 1’s 4

This is 4 discrimination and egotists who think supreme

And this is 4 whoever taught U how 2 kiss in designer jeans

That 1’s 4– That 1’s 4– 4 U have 2 live

This 1’s 4 the rich, not all of ’em, just the greedy

The ones that don’t know how 2 give

This 1’s 4 Yosemite Sam and the tourists at Disneyland

And this 1– ooh! Yeah — That’s the 1.

That’s 4– that’s 4 the– the creator of man

This is 4 the sun, the moon, the stars, the tourists at Disneyland

This is 4 the ocean, the sea, the shore

This is 4– and that’s 4 U, and that’s who that 1’s 4

This is 4 the women, so beautifully complex

This 1’s 4 love without sex

This is 4 the wind that blows no matter how fast or slow

Not knowing where I’m going

This galaxy’s better than not having a place 2 go

And now I know (I know)”

Remember it’s 1982, he’s 22, and pretty horny. What else is he gonna write about 🙂

The ending of Lady Cab Driver segues nicely into “All the critics love you in New York”, you can hear cries of “taxi, taxi!” and traffic throughout, the rhythmic drum track of ATCLUINY pumps throughout and the lyric is sparse and android(ish). The song is full of great (and cryptic lyrics), which probably mean something to HIM, but perhaps he could have been talking about Bonfire Day (5th November) , who knows..  It’s time 4 new direction, it’s time 4 jazz 2 die 4th day of November, we need a purple high

For me, the most interesting lyric (probably because it makes me laugh whenever I hear it) is nearer the end of the song where he states “Yes, we’re certain of it He’s definitely masturbating” The picture of a guy peering through his binoculars comes to mind. Creepy.

Lastly, the album ends off with the grandiose “International Lover”, a lush, strings arrangement and big DIVA voice is another contrast this time to the minimalistic sound of the songs before, this one could be played on Broadway or the West End if it didn’t have such filthy lyrics. The song itself is a great tune and good fun to listen to, keeping on the “mechanical” theme of Automatic, this song see’s Prince as a pilot “Pilot Prince” driving the plane in an Sinatra-esque romantic journey of a song. Following the theme of the other songs, the ending is very funny, and involves a lot of grunting and a sex scene. “Good evening this is your pilot Prince speaking… “ .. Perhaps this is the best ending you could have to the apocalyptic 1999 because what better way for the apocalypse to take us all than being in the sky, being taken around the world and making love to your pilot?

1999 was a great album for it’s time and I still believe it sounds better on vinyl than on MP3 or CD, but if you want to go for a crazy adventure for one hour, download 1999 and listen today J

 

4 out of 5

 

listen to 1999…


Prince – 1999 by djarnaldo

Controversy (1981)

 

The inventors of the Accujack?

Controversy is an album seeing Prince in transition from the 70’s to the Prince the world now recognises of the 80’s, a movement from 70’s disco/new wave punk, funk to the 80’s drum machine, rhythm guitar pounding funk. This album showcases Prince’s growth as an artist, with more refined political messages to slow move away from his falsetto range to a more dynamic style of experimentation. This album is bold and more than that, it’s a statement of intent. The fact the album is called “Controversy” is Prince ramming down our throats here I am, and I am controversial! Whereas with Dirty Mind, his message was actually controversial, in this album he no longer shocks because the controversy is blatant and in your face. As a result, the message of this record is unclear, he talks about “the new breed” in a song called “Sexuality”, which ultimately makes little sense. Here you are listening to a song you think is about sex, but in fact you get a mouthful of politics. The songs where the message is clear (ie Private Joy, Do me Baby) are it’s strongest because they have some type of sexual purity. Musically, this album is as good as it get’s with contrasts from song to song, the rhythm and placement of songs seems deliberate, from the measured side 1 to the fun variation of side 2, Prince keeps things interesting, not only from song to song, but within each song there is always something going on in Controversy..

The album starts with Prince’s most catchy song to date, the title track Controversy is a real modern, 80’s funk adventure. With synths and rhythm guitar dominating alongside a pulsating bass line, this is the essence of the 80’s and is a real statement of intent to listeners – here Prince is saying, I am now going in a new direction, I am now the funkmaster – this is the future. In fact this song is the future, Controversy could easily fit in next two albums (1999 and Purple Rain) than on this record. As a song of over 7 minutes in length, there are three distinctive parts. The main verse/chorus and bridge, the song itself is hugely catchy but very repetitive. The second part of the song is Prince’s recital of the Lords Prayer. Really, the Lords Prayers comes out of nowhere and seems to be Prince’s attempt to be Controversial.. As a young man listening to this, I always felt uncomfortable listening to this part, perhaps because of the deep hypnotic way he says the prayer, perhaps it struck a chord in me, but the Prayer kind of works as a shock tactic, if not a way to extend the length of the song! Very rarely in pop music do you hear a prayer, so it could also be considered an innovation. The third part of the song is a chant where Prince repeats “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude, I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules”. In essence this statement is a combination of his will to be controversial as well as a little political statement, in addition to people talking about him. The song itself is a deep insight into Prince’s persona. The man himself trying to tell the world that while yes he is a controversial person, he wants us to think – what’s all the fuss about? In addition, if not to confuse the matter that I want to be nude, I may be horny, but I have the religious confidence to read the Lords Prayer and if you don’t like it here’s my middle finger. It is a show of narcissism, but also a show off, self indulgent type of song. Controversy is a very important song in the transition from Independent artist to huge star.

Sexuality, the follow up song is a fast paced song with a very complex drum arrangement, in contrast to the pulsating rhythm and simplicity of Controversy. The song is preachy, but also funny and showcases Prince’s humor for the first time on record – “we look at life through a pocket camera – what no flash again?”. There is a pulsating rhythm guitar which is the heartbeat of this song. This song is a more in your face political statement – where he talks about being nude (again), the second coming and the fact that he wants to organise a revolution, new age revelation and the fact that sexuality is all we actually need. The song has three distinctive parts again, the start of the song which is the main song and the second part which is a chant where he announces “The new breed of leaders stand up organise” repeatedly. The last part of the song, he also chants “Sexuality is all we ever need, sexuality let your body be free” over a pulsating rhythm guitar and no drum part, and is my opinion the best part of the song, showing that sometimes all we need is Prince and his guitar. Sexuality with it’s twists and turns is in someway similar to Controversy in that it has three distinctive parts to it, it has a controversial message(s), and has a lot of preaching and chanting. But it is also a very different type of song, it cannot be called a repetitive song, and it is also a lot of fun to listen to. T song’s message is confusing and ultimately disappointing, however considering this song came out 1981 (31 years ago), I think we can listen to it without caring about the message too much and just enjoy it as a great song.

The next song, “Do me baby”, continues Prince’s tradition for falsetto love ballads with questionable sub-text. The song is basically about wanting to shag someone and basically doing it now, there is a sweetness in the song though and the piano/string arrangement with the slap bass really means you can lure your woman to the dance-floor but after a few seconds push your thigh into hers… Sneaky.. Sexy.. The song also showcases some of Prince’s best vocals since “For You”. In fact, this song is rather good and like the albums first two songs comes in parts. The first part is a beautiful ballad, with a very sexual overtures. This is nothing new, but it just seems that little bit dirtier with Prince singing it. I’m sure may babies were produced with this song in the background. The second part of the song is Prince talking as if he and his girl were in bed and he is about to penetrate her. He grunts and groans, and finally climaxes in the end. As a young man I found this part of the song difficult to listen to, now I just find it funny – and maybe it was supposed to be. Remember this album is called “Controversy” after all…..

Flip over to side two, and the album suddenly sounds different, the songs are shorter, catchier, less serious.. Private Joy is the epitome of this, the song is about Prince’s penis and it’s personal relationship with his hand. The pulsating beat, hand claps and keyboards very much have a 1981 sound to it, and the song has aged, but in a good way. The song is just fabulous (if you can get beyond the lyrics), and has some amazing vocal work with a distinctive, confident sounding vocal in the lower registers. It’s just so catchy and funny that you cant ever get sick of it (after 31 years I still love listening to it), and the contrast to the “Controversial” songs on side one is such a breath of fresh air, that sometime I just start the album at this point. The ending of the song segues to howling guitars, very nicely onto another fantastic (and another very dated) song called… “Ronnie talk to Russia”. This is yet another humorous (or is it) song where Republican Prince asks Ronnie to talk to Russia about stopping the world from blowing up. This is a much simpler political message than Prince’s other songs (Party Up, Sexuality), but somehow makes more sense. The guitar in this song is used as a very effective sound effect as a gun shooting and through out the song you get a sensation of apocalypse and destruction. It’s a nod to punk but it’s fast paced drum banging is more fun than I’ve ever heard from a Prince song and probably will ever likely hear again.

Let’s Work, Prince’s super dooper dance funk classic, is a real contrast to Ronnie – its not political, it’s just about hitting the dancefloor. Work your booty and just have fun. The bassline on this song is memorable (go to youtube to see how many people attempt to do the Lets work bassline). The drum rhythm is thing of beauty as well, the whole song just showcases what a remarkable entertainer Prince can be if he took the preaching and politics out of his songs. The 12inch version of this song is the first 12 inch that I remember hearing from Prince and the song itself sits well among Prince’s all time greatest hits – this song could be played today and it would still fill the dancefloor. The most interesting thing about Lets Work is that it has lasted the test of time as a dance floor classic and it really overshadows the more illustrious title track over the years as the MAIN reason to buy Controversy. (although there are a lot of other good reasons, like Private Joy for example).

The next song, is a song which has always and still mesmerises me, Annie Christian. Yes you could say Prince is trying to be different and controversial. But what exactly is this song about, serial killers, the devil or are they one in the same? Why is the killer called Annie? Is Annie the devil? Is she the anti-christ, and why should she be crucified, and why would Prince want to live his life in taxi cabs? Annie Christian was a whore, who happened to kill John Lennon and tried to kill Ronald Regan.. Whatever is going in Prince’s head, I love it. From the hallucogenic synths to the el cheapo drum machines, to Prince’s awesome Hendrix guitar solo’s, Prince somehow comes up with a winner. From day one to today, I will always love listening to this song, even if I don’t know why… Songs like Annie Christian set Prince apart from other artists – the guy is either really weird or hugely creative, and the fact is no matter what you think of the guy, you will never be bored!

The last song of the album, Jack U Off is another comic song by Prince, and in some ways a slight disappointment. The good things, awesome vocals, and brilliant instrumentation, is outshone by the fact that this song is just TOO in your face. The superior and much more fun b-side “Horny Toad” would have been a much better replacement – for no other reason in that it’s just a better song all round. Jack U off is so in your face that I remember as a 12 year old not even caring much for the song. But Im sure it would have been a favourite at live events, and the LOUD ending is a pretty good ending for a record as remarkable as Controversy.

Say what you want about Controversy, you may love it, you may hate it, but you cannot ignore it. Without Controversy, 1999 may not have been possible and Prince as we know him might not be the same. Controversy is a very important moment in the early career of Prince as is a must for any self professed Prince fan. Enjoy the journey!

3.5 out of 5 (replace Jack U off with Horny Toad to get 4.5 out of 5)

Dirty Mind (1980)

DIRTY MIND 1980
Prince Dirty Mind recorded in 1980

DIRTY MIND (1980)

Dirty mind was a game changer. It’s the first time you felt Prince was taking a risk with his music career and it was a total change of direction that would permanently redefine his career as music genius and sexual pervert. Some things were the same, Prince playing all the instruments in the album, same (similar group members and musicians), and the falsetto was as high as ever. But this was different, Dirty Mind is a more raw, post punk guitar throbbing and more honest than his previous outings. It was also more a guitar album with anthems such as “When you were mine” (would not be out of place in a Springsteen catalog of songs) but there were still catchy dance funk tunes (Head, Uptown) to keep old fans happy. When he does talk about sex, he does so in such an insidious way that it makes the listener uncomfortable (note the song about incest called “Sister”) and when the album closes with “Party Up”, you think your getting a party tune, but your getting a thinly disguised and very angry political message. This album is perhaps TOO honest and it is probably Prince making what he may have though at the time would be his last. The previous records For You and Prince sold well but were not huge successes, and in those days artists were handed 3 album deals and Dirty Mind was the last of that three album set. In one way it backfired because Dirty Mind wasn’t a huge hit, and there were no discernable hits on the record – but ask Prince fans and they know how important this album was. In one respect it made Prince into the artist he is today by introducing that sexual persona to the world, but in another the album would win critical acclaim simply because it is so consistent, honest and has brilliant and very listenable pop songs.

Dirty mind 1980 - promo shot, what a sl*t!

The album starts with the title track, “Dirty Mind” the pulsating (and slightly out of sync) synth/organ and bass pushing the song along. This is a mid tempo song that really sets the scene for the rest of the adventure. The lyrics are plain as day and it’s honesty appeals – “I really get a dirty mind whenever your around”, nothing else needs to be said. Ok, maybe. There is something insidious about this, but really this song is similar to the opener in the Prince album where Prince wants to do something, but you are thinking that its just him talking to himself. “I want to be your lover” would tell us what he wants, but perhaps by the time we reach Dirty Mind he is fed up “I really want to lay you down in my daddy’s car”. Just in case we didn’t get the message… “I want to do it all night” the second song, he tells us something he wants to do. This song is faster and more synth/organ based than the opener, but perhaps a little more fun. The song hops along quickly with Prince really showcasing his outstanding keyboard skills is a real delight – almost a perfect pop song. It kind of feels like your in a smoky bar when you listen to “Do it all night”, and when it ends it segues perfectly onto “Gotta Broken Heart again” which you could say is the only real ballad on the album. It’s a short throw away song which is probably only meant to break the album up and it does this perfectly because you spend two minutes listening to it waiting for the album’s opus “When you were mine”. To me, this is the best song that Prince has made up to this point. The song which was remade by Cyndi Lauper for the second time (after the genius “I feel for you” in “Prince”) is where Prince showcases his amazing song-writing variety. This is an almost like a folk song which is about as catchy as you can get – also it’s not very rude for Dirty Mind (well not unless you listen carefully) – put it this way you could play it to your mum. The opening synth line is mesmerizingly catchy and the 80’s drums and guitar riffs are brilliant and suit the era.

Next up is “Uptown” – this is one of the stand out songs on the album, although it’s very catchy it’s also quite meaningful and describe’s the environment Prince grew up in (which still sounds pretty cool – “our clothes our hair we didn’t care”). The vocal is also louder and more aggressive than before and really demonstrates a growing musical confidence. “Uptown” is also an attempt at a disco sound, but he doesn’t quite pull it off which was a good thing anyway as it makes the song unique and not part of any existing genre. The song also has that raw dark “feel” to it which is really a theme of “Dirty Mind” throughout.

The next song “Head” is even more interesting, it’s a raw funky song about… well you guessed it. Head…. with morals of course. This is Prince here. Prince’s fantasy dirty little mind goes into overdrive as he imagines a woman about to get married and he getting it on, but of course that would be WRONG, so she decides to just give him head. The song is a gem and never grows old. It’s about as funky and dirty as you can get but its also a lot of fun. You just don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny or if he is really that deluded – the line is blurred and you just have to enjoy the ride. There are similar songs to come (for example “Lady Cab Driver”) that take this theme to the next level, but a funkier song you will never hear again.

The fantasy continues “Sister”. This is probably the dirtiest and strangest song he ever made (and he made a few), about.. incest. Probably a song subject matter that no one had ever approached or tried to approach before him. This was (and still is) a real taboo subject and Prince sings with anger and passion throughout, but it’s really a strange song that sits a little uncomfortably. This is why this album is such genius, it makes you think and feel at all sorts of levels.

The final song is mid-tempo funk song “Party Up”, which sounds kind of innocuous compared to the other songs preceding it, but it ends up with an angry athemic song about revolution. It’s almost as if he is getting us ready for the future – The Revolution.

LISTEN TO HEAD!