Prince “Prince” (1979)
Prince’s second album is self titled and a more polished piece compared to For You. For You was not a big seller, and Prince had a 3 album contract with Warner Brothers at the time, so this album appears to be an attempt at a more commercial set of songs. The outcome is a set of polished pop songs, big ballads and catchy funk tunes, fusing together his funk/rock/pop influences and using the sounds of the late seventies to good effect. It is also the first time he had full control over the production and composition of the album.
The album kicks off with “I wanna be your lover”, the catchiest song he has made at that point and the first single. This song is very commercial and was a hit on the R&B charts. It achieved Prince’s aim for some commercial success, and allowed him to experiment in other areas. This song is not my favourite, but it’s an important piece in Prince’s career progression. Many fans would have first encountered his music through this song. The most interesting part of the song for me is the second part, which (like For You’s “Just as long as were together”) has a funky, bassy disco ending.
The second song is very much more of the same, but with more of a rockier edge “Why you wanna treat me so bad” is perhaps a good insight to Prince’s “white” music influences, a very rock and radio friendly song except for the falsetto which doesn’t really go with the rock feel, but Prince at this time sang all his songs in falsetto because he felt more in “control” of his voice there was also the late 70’s falsetto disco/ballad classics (like Bee Gees, Chicago, etc) which were really popular at the time as well. “Why you wanna treat me so bad” is a taste of things to come in terms of Prince’s general rock direction, in a way it is quite similar to “Little Red Corvette” but in a falsetto voice and high heels. For me, the album really kicks off on the third song….
I wanna be your lover live..
“Sexy Dancer” is a real classic, this song to me is the first time he seems natural on a song. It is ahead of it’s time, super funky and yet again a taste of things to come. You can see how powerful Prince’s influence is in recent pop music (ie Timberland, Rihanna, Timberlake) and you can hear Sexy Dancer all over their records…
Listen 2 Sexy Dancer
The mood changes from funk to slow stuff with “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow”, this ballad is has a hypnotic piano charged tempo, and is as fragile as they come – it is sung in gentle falsetto and builds up pace as the acoustic guitar and drums blend in at the end. The song is sparse, but superb – with so little he achieves a lot and to my one of the best songs on the album. One of the criticisms of “For You” is that it appears to be a bit childish in parts, this song seems to be an attempt to quell this notion, as it is very much a mature and thoughtful song.
The second “side” of the LP, start off with another ballad – “With You” is the spiritual successor to “Baby”, it is sugar sweet, yet it is a really big ballad, that in years to come is covered by female artists. It’s almost as if Prince’s Diva lets loose on this song, it is in a way really camp and over the top – but it’s ultimately a great early ballad from Prince. Then there is a surprise in the next song – “BAMBI”, what a song, is a growling, screaming, rock funk song, that is very much the successor to “I’m Yours” in the For You album, however, this time he really get’s it right, bringing the noise and upping the tempo to tell everyone about a lesbian that he is not so much trying to seduce, but trying to convert into heterosexuality first (Prince doesn’t do things the easy way round). By saying it’s better with a man” he means it’s better with him, great fun, and really done with a tongue firmly in cheek.
The mood changes again for the next song, which sounds almost like country and western, in “Still Waiting”. It’s clear that Prince is still very much in an experimental mode trying to determine what his audience like best. He played all these songs in concerts too to gauge reception. The fact that he does very little country now, is a sign that “Still Waiting” wasn’t probably as well received as his other music. There are touches of country throughout his career, “Purple Rain” one of his greatest ever songs, could be sung by any country and western singer and it wouldn’t sound strange. “Right the Wrong” on his Chaos and Disorder record sounds downright country. All in all, “Still waiting” is OK, and a nice song which you could sing along to, not the most memorable song though..
But the lull doesn’t last too long, because the next song is one of Prince’s best – “I feel for You”. This song is a classic funk masterpiece, brilliantly covered in 1983 by Chaka Khan, and is one of the biggest selling songs of all time. You wouldn’t know it by listening to the version on “prince” as this version is failry low key (no Steve Wonder playing harmonica here ) but the falsetto of Prince is really much improved by the soaring voice of Chaka and the more modern dance beats of 1983. In any case, the structure of the song, the look and feel is still there – the bass line is amazingly funky and for this reason it still is a stand out on this record. If you are not sure whether to buy this record, “I feel for you” should be a compelling reason. One of the first song’s Prince wrote, he was playing it with his early bands as a youngster when he was only a guitar player (not the singer). The song was probably written when he was a teenager, in his bedroom, doing nothing one day – amazing!
(4 out of 5)