Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Prince album by album




(Let's go purple - it's time to get a move on.....finish listing the albums from Purple Rain onwards....)


I quite like Prince's music, though I have tended to regard him as a pop stylist copying and blending the music and  ideas of others, but not actually taking them into new or meaningful directions. I've seen his music as likeable, but not serious. Prince, to me, is pop - bright, frothy, flashy, and enjoyable, but lacking in the commitment and authenticity of other musical styles, so it feels superficial - more about the style than the content, and rarely saying or doing anything meaningful, aesthetically special, or touching. What I get is the commercial appeal rather than the artistic appeal. He is the Paul McCartney of pop, rather than the John Lennon. His best moments seemed to come when others covered his songs - mainly when the other artists invested something in the song, such as
Sinéad O'Connor or Tom Jones; and there is often this sense that he is trying too hard, and over egging his pudding.

However, while working my way through 1001 Albums To Hear Before You Die,  which lists three of his albums, and before reviewing them for my blog on the 1001 Albums,  I thought I'd go through his entire career to get a firmer grasp on his achievements, and to get a greater understanding of what the LA Times called "our first post-everything pop star, defying easy categories of race, genre and commercial appeal." 

Influences:  Funkadelic - Funkadelic  (1970) 


Wikipedia:

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and filmmaker.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince was known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant fashion sense and use of makeup, and wide vocal range. Prince was also a multi-instrumentalist;[1][2] considered a guitar virtuoso, he was also skilled at playing the drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer.[3] His innovative music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funkrockR&Bnew wavesoulpsychedelia, and pop. He sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.[4] He won eight Grammy Awards,[5] six American Music Awards,[6]Golden Globe Award,[7] and an Academy Award for the 1984 film Purple Rain.[8] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.[9]
Prince developed an interest in music as a young child and wrote his first song at the age of seven.[10] He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Recordsat the age of 17, and released his debut album For You in 1978. His 1979 album Prince went platinum, and his next three albums—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy(1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, showcasing his prominently explicit lyrics and blending of funk, dance, and rock music.[11] In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as the Revolution and released Purple Rain, the soundtrack album to his film debut. It quickly became his most critically and commercially successful release, spending 24 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200[12] and selling over 20 million copies worldwide.[13] After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded, and Prince released the double album Sign o' the Times (1987) as a solo artist. He released three more solo albums before debuting The New Power Generation band in 1991.
In 1993, while in a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol (Logo. Hollow circle above downward arrow crossed with a curlicued horn-shaped symbol and then a short bar), also known as the "Love Symbol", and began releasing new albums at a faster rate to remove himself from contractual obligations. He released five records between 1994 and 1996 before signing with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" again. He released 16 albums after that, including the platinum-selling Musicology(2004). His final album, Hit n Run Phase Two, was first released on the Tidal streaming service on December 2015. Five months later, at the age of 57, Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

AllMusic:

Few artists have created a body of work as rich and varied as Prince. During the '80s, he emerged as one of the most singular talents of the rock & roll era, capable of seamlessly tying together pop, funk, folk, and rock. Not only did he release a series of groundbreaking albums; he toured frequently, produced albums, wrote songs for many other artists, and recorded hundreds of songs that still lie unreleased in his vaults. With each album he released, Prince showed remarkable stylistic growth and musical diversity, constantly experimenting with different sounds, textures, and genres. Occasionally, his music was inconsistent, in part because of his eclecticism, but his experiments frequently succeeded; no other contemporary artist blended so many diverse styles into a cohesive whole.

Albums


For You (1978)

Prince's debut album is recognisably Prince - it's rooted in contemporary R&B and  has Prince's smooth, versatile voice, his rock influenced guitar play, and his trademark introduction of other music styles - here he brings in some Prog Rock guitar. The songs and production are slick, polished, appealing but fairly superficial. It is on the whole, while pleasant and from a clearly talented individual, quite empty and forgettable. There's nothing here to really make it stand out artistically - but its not a bad album. 

It is in the then popular disco/R&B style which was also being explored by white artists such as The Bee GeesAverage White BandHall & Oates (who by 1977-78 had started to incorporate rock into their Philly soul sound, such that "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Heart" (1977) sounds like a Prince track before Prince had even started recording), and Bowie. Contemporary disco/R&B/funk albums: Isley Brothers - Showdown, Earth, Wind & Fire - All 'n All,  The Jacksons - Goin Places,  Michael Jackson - Forever Michael (1975); Off The Wall (1979),  Commodores - Commodores, Chic - Chic (1977); C'est Chic (1978), Ohio Players - Angel, The O'Jays - Travelling At The Speed Of Thought, Chaka Khan - Chaka, Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove

Looking at various Best of Prince and Top Ten Prince lists, nobody places this one highly, but nobody places it low either. It's generally listed around the high middle of his 39 albums. 
Score: 3


Prince (1979)

This is even more recognisably Prince, it is a step forward, and contains some extended pop-funk that is associated with him. There are no great tracks, and it is very patchy. The lyrics are a matter of personal taste - some like the sexuality. I find the sexuality borders on sleaze - but sleaze is hot currency in today's instant YouTube pop, so I am clearly not part of the masses. And I think that's the thing with Prince - he appeals to the many rather than the few. He doesn't offer anything much for those who are not part of the heaving, sweaty crowd - nothing for those on the fringes, nothing for those who are vulnerable, thoughtful, a bit different, or who want a little more from their art.

Most lists have this just above or under the top ten, so it's a respected and popular album - though nobody's strong favourite.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
Score: 4


Dirty Mind (1980)

And now we enter the Eighties, which is Prince's main period. His music fits the Eighties - simplistic drums forward in the mix, electronic instruments giving a cold repetitive feel to the sound, and rather hedonistic/self-indulgent lyrics - about sex or partying. This album, considered by a number of critics to be a significant step forward in his career, is even more recognisably Prince - very poppy, and skilfully and intelligently blending in rock and funk. It may lack meaning and substance, but it is artfully commercial. This swings along pleasantly, and is an attractive album. Not something I'd look to put on, but enjoyable enough while its playing. Hmmm - the more I play the more I like it. It's short, clean, energetic, focused, very funky, easy listening, and has flashy (sexy?) glissandos of guitar and keyboard. The utter focus on partying and sex - big bold comments on sex - playful, open, cheeky, sexy - works. Yes it's superficial and throwaway, but that appears to be what it wants to be. Quickly written, used, and disposed of. Let's move onto the next one baby. It embraces its own lack of seriousness.  "When You Were Mine" is a very poppy New Wave song, weakly echoing ideas from Elvis Costello.

Most commentators rank this highly - usually something like 4th place.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 5


Controversy (1981)

Prince is taking a step forward a bit in musical and lyrical maturity here - the lyrics are a little less school boy sex fantasy; there a sense of wanting to engage in the real world, but also to make some kind of political statement about liberality in attitude (including, of course, sex). The musical structures of Prince's songs tend to divide between James Brown style funk and Philly soul ballads, though he throws in new wave rock-pop styles now and again.

Anyway, though Prince has stepped forward to more mature and ambitious musical and lyrical content, he has stepped back a little in entertainment value. There is still this sense that he is working a little too fast and not questioning his work enough - though, as his throwaway style matched perfectly during the Eighties with the casual mood of the day (people appeared not to want serious art - preferring  Prince's flamboyant and obvious "let's party, have a good time and jack everyone off; fuck being serious man - let's make money and spend it like there's no tomorrow"), he was the right person at the right time to make superficial, careless party music which occasionally glanced around at the real world to make an obvious comment which in context would seem to the ecstatic partying crowd to be profound, and to become hugely popular as a result.

Most critics see this as the transition album between Dirty Minds and 1999 - part of what is seen as his creative peak. It is fairly universal that "Jack U Off" is considered the essential track - a sort of good time throwaway T. Rex / Chuck Berry boogie which echoes "I Love To Boogie" and "No Particular Place To Go", but for an Eighties audience.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score: 2 1/2


1999 (1982)

Well, here we are - Prince's breakthrough album, and contender for not only his best album (the two other contenders are Purple Rain and Sign "O" the Times) but for one of the "1001 albums to hear before you die".  It contains "Little Red Corvette", the single that caught my attention, and apparently thousands of other people's - and I think that still remains my favourite Prince track, and the one I consider Prince's best. This album is packed with poppy, melodic, attention seeking and attractive songs. Not all of it works for me, but it starts with the James Brown funk of "1999" then the slick R&B pop of "Corvette", so it gets off to a heady start.  It follows with the electronica  of "Delirious" and "Let's Pretend We're Married" capturing the Eighties desire for cold robotic repetitive music and utilising ideas from  "P-Funk" and other tracks by Parliament.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 6 1/2


Purple Rain (1984)
There's some attractive songs on this, but the album as a whole feels a bit patchy.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 4 1/2


Around the World in a Day (1985) 

Contains "Raspberry Beret". The rest of the album I can't get into at all.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score: 3


Parade (1986)

Contains "Kiss", a popular Prince song (which for me lacks the sexuality, humour and impact of the Art of Noise/Tom Jones version), but the rest of it I'm not getting on with, apart from "Mountains", which is quite pop-funky.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 9
Score: 3

Sign 'O' the Times (1987)

There is a sense here that Prince wants to write a socially-conscious album, say in the style of What's Going On", and audiences are always up for popular singers making some reference, no matter how superficial and exploitative, to social issues. His lyrics appear to be thrown down with  little attempt at shaping or crafting them: "My pants were wet, they came off / But she didn't see the movie / Cuz she hadn't read the book first / Instead she pretended she was blind / An affliction brought on by a witch's curse". Each to their own, but those words do nothing for me.  This is one of his most respected albums so I need to try harder, but I am struggling.....

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 2 1/2


Lovesexy (1988)


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score:


Batman (1989)


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 5
Score:


Graffiti Bridge (1990)

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score:


Diamonds and Pearls (1991)


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score:


Love Symbol Album  (1992)

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 9
Score:

The Hits/The B Sides (1993) 


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AllMusic:
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Come (1994)


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 4
Score:


The Black Album (1994)

Intended for his black audience, and originally scheduled for release Nov 1987, Prince held back the release at the last minute and had all copies destroyed. Some pirate copies emerged, so it was given an official release in 1994.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Score:

The Gold Experience (1995) 

I'm liking this. More focused and less poppy than his earlier albums. There's some awareness of hip-hop and what modern musicians were doing with it. Now and again he falls back on the lighter, poppier, and superficial pop R&B/Soul on which he built his fame, such as the Bee Gees influenced  hit single "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World", but the pop and hip hop influenced funk of "P. Control" is tight and compelling, even if sounding too much like Will Smith for genuine credibility.  "Endorphinmachine" is a bit like Nu metal sieved through Eighties Prince, but it holds together and is entertaining enough. All in all not an album to completely admire and recommended, but I'm finding it a more varied, professional, and listenable album than much of what the boy has done.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Score: 5


Chaos and Disorder (1996)

Opens with some MOR Rock and the repetitive signature Prince beat that we heard in Batman, and wasn't good then, and now, seven years later, is really outstaying its welcome. Mostly stays within that popular MOR Rock sound. Listenable, but nothing special.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
Score: 4


Emancipation (1996)



Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score:

Crystal Ball (1998)

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Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)

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The Rainbow Children (2001)

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One Nite Alone... (2002)

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Xpectation (2003)

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N.E.W.S (2003)

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The Chocolate Invasion (2004)

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The Slaughterhouse (2004)

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Musicology (2004)

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3121 (2006)

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Planet Earth (2007)

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Lotusflow3r / MPLSound (2009)

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20Ten (2010)

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Plectrumelectrum (2014)

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Art Official Age (2014)

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HITnRUN Phase One (2015)

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Discography

For You (1978)
Prince (1979)
Dirty Mind (1980)
Controversy (1981)
1999 (1982)
Purple Rain (1984)
Around the World in a Day (1985)
Parade (1986)
Sign "O" the Times (1987)
Lovesexy (1988)
Batman (1989)
Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
Love Symbol Album  (1992)
Come (1994)
The Black Album (1994)
The Gold Experience (1995)
Chaos and Disorder (1996)
Emancipation (1996)
Crystal Ball (1998)
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
The Rainbow Children (2001)
One Nite Alone... (2002)
Xpectation (2003)
N.E.W.S (2003)
The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
The Slaughterhouse (2004)
Musicology (2004)
3121 (2006)
Planet Earth (2007)
Lotusflow3r / MPLSound (2009)
20Ten (2010)
Plectrumelectrum (2014)
Art Official Age (2014)
HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)




10 Best Prince Songs

  1. "Purple Rain"
  2. "When Doves Cry"
  3. "Let's Go Crazy"
  4. "Sign 'O' The Times"
  5. "1999"
  6. "Little Red Corvette"
  7. "Kiss"
  8. "Darling Nikki"
  9. "Raspberry Beret"
10. "The Beautiful Ones"

* Smooth Radio
  1. "I Wanna Be Your lover"
  2. "1999"
  3. "Diamonds And Pearls"
  4. "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World"
  5. "When Doves Cry"
  6. "Purple Rain"
  7. "Let's Go Crazy"
  8. "Kiss"
  9. "Sign 'O' the Times"
10. "Raspberry Beret"

 * Top Tens
  1. "Purple Rain"
  2. "When Doves Cry"
  3. "Little Red Corvette"
  4. "1999"
  5. "Kiss"
  6. "Let's Go Crazy"
  7. "I Would Die For U"
  8. "Raspberry Beret"
  9. "The Beautiful Ones"
10. "Sign 'O' The Times"

* The Current.org Top 89
  1.  "Purple Rain"
  2.  "Let's Go Crazy"
  3. "When Doves Cry"
  4. "Little Red Corvette"
  5. "1999"
  6. "Kiss"
  7. "Raspberry Beret"
  8. "7"
  9. "The Beautiful Ones"
10. "I Would Die For U"

  1. "Purple Rain"
  2. "Kiss"
  3. "When Doves Cry"
  4. “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  5. "Erotic City"
  6. "The Cross"
  7. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”
  8.  "Raspberry Beret"
  9. “Ballad of Dorothy Parker”
10. "The Beautiful Ones"

CoS Top 10 Definitively Prince

  1.  "Purple Rain" (1984)
  2. "Sign 'O' the Times" (1987)
  3. "Little Red Corvette" (1982)
  4. "Let's Go Crazy" (1984)
  5. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (1979)
  6. "Take Me With U" (1984)
  7. "Breakfast Can Wait" (2014)
  8. "Emancipation" (1996)
  9. "Controversy" (1981)
10. "If I Was Ur Girlfriend"


* Ranker Best
  1. "When Doves Cry"
  2. "Purple Rain" (1984)
  3. "Little Red Corvette" (1982)
  4. "1999"
  5. "Kiss"
  6.  "Raspberry Beret"
  7. "Let's Go Crazy" (1984)
  8. "I Would Die For U"
  9. "Sign 'O' the Times" (1987)
10.  "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (1979)


NME 20 Best Prince Songs
  1. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (1979)
  2. "Little Red Corvette" (1982)
  3. "Raspberry Beret" (1985)
  4.  "Purple Rain" (1984)
  5.  "Alphabet St." (1985)
  6.  "When Doves Cry" (1984)
  7. "1999" (1982)
  8.  "Kiss" (1986)
  9. "Sign 'O' the Times" (1987)
10.  "U Got The Look" (1987)



* Top 20 UK Hits 
  1. "Little Red Corvette" /  "1999" (re-released as a double A side 1985)
  2. "Purple Rain" (1984)
  3. "When Doves Cry" (1984)
  4.  "Kiss" (1986)
  5.  "Let's Go Crazy" (1985)
  6. "Raspberry Beret" (1985)
  7. "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" (1994)
  8. "Batdance" (1989)
  9.  "Gett Off" (1991)
10. "Sexy MF" (1992)


* Rolling Stone 25 Essential Prince Songs
  1.  "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (1979)
  2.  "When You Were Mine" (1980)
  3.  "Controversy" (1981"
  4.  "1999" (1982)
  5.  "Little Red Corvette" (1982)
  6.  "Delirious" (1983)
  7.  "When Doves Cry" (1984)
  8.  "Let's Go Crazy" (1984)
  9.  "Erotic City" (1984)
10.  "Purple Rain" (1984)



The top songs

"When Doves Cry"  Written at the last minute during the making of the Purple Rain film by request of the director in order to cover a boring transitional segment of the movie, and having all instruments played in a somewhat simplistic but compelling style by Prince, does not sound like the premise for a great song, but this works. 



He released over 500 songs. 

Links

* Lyrics 





7 April 2019 

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