(NOTE: This post was originally something I banged out on Facebook back on April 27, 2016. Since I left Facebook some months ago, I thought I would repost it here for preservation purposes and whatnot.)
Since his passing, I’ve shied away from sharing much about what Prince meant to me. After all, I’d hate to get lumped in with the folks that are just hitching their wagon to the “look at how much I care!” train, and to those who may not understand how important major influences can be to a musician, it can just come off as weird.
So, while everyone is reminding each other how great 1999/Little Red Corvette/Let’s Go Crazy/When Doves Cry/Purple Rain/Kiss/Raspberry Beret are, I thought I’d look back at my favorite Prince records and pick one of my favorite deep tracks from each. (In many cases, its these particular tunes that have stuck with me the most over the years. His monster singles weren’t necessarily the best of what he gave us.)
ALBUM: “For You” (1978)
TRACK: “For You”
This opening track is massively short and is comprised of nothing more than Prince’s vocals, but man is it gorgeous. Right out of the gate he’s making it abundantly clear that he had one hell of a unique voice and skills to match.
ALBUM: “Prince” (1979)
The first record was pretty soft, but he definitely kicked things up a notch with his follow-up. After all, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is on here, but to me, the star has always been “Bambi” — a bonafide rock tune that gives us a good glimpse of Prince’s guitar skills. (And that tone…that TONE!)
ALBUM: “Dirty Mind” (1980)
Dirty Mind saw the dawn of Prince as the “rude boy”, and while the album had plenty on it to freak the ever-living shite out of Tipper Gore and the NPRC, “Sister” lead the pack. (With lyrics like “Incest is everything it’s said to be”, how could it NOT?)
ALBUM: “Controversy” (1981)
TRACK: “Annie Christian”
This track has a certain wonderful ambience to it that the rest of Controversy lacks. The religious/political lyrics are thought provoking, and the guitar is smoldering. Easily my favorite track on this record.
ALBUM: “1999″ (1982)
TRACK: “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”
I’ve always found this track to be one of the highlights of 1999, and it really leads the way for some of the more moody stuff from Purple Rain, like “The Beautiful Ones” and “Computer Blue”. Speaking of which…
ALBUM: “Purple Rain” (1984)
TRACK: “Computer Blue”
The obvious deep track of choice is “Darling Nikki”, but its been so co-opted by everyone over the years (from Tipper Gore to Foo Fighters to Rihanna), that it feels almost as played out as “When Doves Cry” or “Purple Rain”. As such, I’m gonna shine a spotlight on “Computer Blue”, a song I love as much as any other on Purple Rain. The vocals, the guitar, that badass instrumental breakdown in the middle, and of course, that intro by Wendy and Lisa that has ingrained itself into the mind of anyone who has ever heard it. 100% brilliance.
ALBUM: “Around the World in a Day” (1985)
TRACK: “Around the World in a Day”
I know this tune threw a lot of folks for a loop when it was released (“This don’t sound like no Purple Rain!”), but I absolutely loved it from the first listen. Psychedelic Prince just works for me, and I totally dig the middle-eastern vibe. (I also like how he couldn’t entirely get away from the Minneapolis Sound and incorporated it in the breakdown near the end.)
By the way, I have to mention “Tamborine”, which I almost went with for this pick. Prince’s drum and bass performances on that track are top-notch, and since ’85, I don’t think there’s been a time when I’ve sat behind a drum kit to practice and didn’t launch into this tune.
ALBUM: “Parade” (1986)
TRACK: “New Position”
This is a terribly underrated album that served as the soundtrack for a truly terrible movie (Under the Cherry Moon). Lots of good tunes to choose from here, and it’s a tough pick, but I’ve simply never tired of “New Position” and it’s funky goodness.
ALBUM: “Sign O’ the Times” (1987)
“Shut up, already…damn!”
Best party song ever? Yeah, probably.
(Fun Fact: Back in ’87, I learned more about multitrack recording from trying to cover this song than anywhere else. And this was way before I got my hands on any type of actual multitrack recording equipment. I had a stereo system, a boombox, and a lot of cassettes.)
ALBUM: “Lovesexy” (1988)
TRACK: “Dance On”
Lovesexy is a bit of an odd album. On one hand it’s generally a tad underrated, while on the other, it definitely foreshadowed the dip in quality that would come about in the 90’s. Still, though, I dig the record overall, despite Prince losing some of his edge and adopting a certain type of sound that really turned me off on later records. With that said, “Dance On” stands out for being reminiscent of pre-NPG (New Power Generation) Prince and could have easily been on an earlier album.
ALBUM: “Batman” (1989)
TRACK: “Vicki Waiting”
This project seems just as weird now as it did back in ’89. Even though the Batman TV theme was the first song he taught himself to play and nostalgia was certainly in effect, it just seemed like producing songs for a Batman movie was so out of his wheelhouse.
Anyways, we actually got a decent record out of it (“Batdance” and its corresponding video are prime examples of Prince’s mad genius brilliance), and of the deep tracks, I think I dig the cool groove of “Vicki Waiting” the best these days.
ALBUM: “Graffiti Bridge” (1990)
TRACK: “Release It”
I’m a sucker for Prince’s funky drum & bass tracks, and this tune is no exception. Plus, you get Morris Day on the mic. Word.
(But then again, “The Question of U” sure is quite stellar. Hmmm…)
Alright folks, I’m gonna call it a day there, ‘cause once he got full into his ‘New Power Generation’ era, things started to get really dodgy for me. Sure, I can point to enough tracks from Diamonds and Pearls (1991) and the Love Symbol Album (1992) to make ONE great record, but we’re talking about a lot of filler being left on the cutting room floor.
And while good tracks certainly showed up every now and then over the following years, Graffiti Bridge was the last Prince album that really moved me in any way. And while the newly born NPG thing almost derailed that, thankfully many of the tunes were strong enough to make up for the less desirable parts of that record.
While I’m on the topic…
There was just something about the the too-slick, too busy production; the forced rapping (he was still begging forgiveness for the unreleased Black Album); the almost ‘adult contemporary’ sounding tunes of the NPG era that left me cold. It seemed like he was getting to a point where he had to have so much of everything thrown into a song, that it choked the central performances, the mystery, the uniqueness. And sadly, his insistence on incorporating rap into his music on those early 90’s records makes them sound REALLY dated. Not in a good Public Enemy/Boogie Down Productions/Beastie Boys/N.W.A kind of way…we’re talking full-on C&C Music Factory here. (Who was buying into that anyways? I always felt like The Black Album’s “Dead On It” track summed up precisely how Prince felt about the rap game.)
Anyways, I’m glad of where he eventually ended up…back on that guitar, in a more stripped down, authentic setting. (That 3rdEyeGirl stuff aint too shabby.)
Farewell, you royal badass.