Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Yesterday, the Super Deluxe version of Sign O' The Times was released. Nine honking discs worth of 1987ish Prince. It was, of course, Too Much. Yea, yea, yea, Prince has a vault's worth of unreleased material. Sure, he was a perfectionist and control freak, so there are a ton of alternate versions not just to the songs we already love, but to songs we haven't even heard. And, ok, so there have been bootlegs of a ton of songs that needed to be officially released with better mastering. But there is some absolute chaff on these albums that you don't need to sift through.
This album is intended to show Prince in transition. Goodbye Revolution, hello inklings of The New Power Generation. There are a ton of different ideas for albums that run through this. It's not as All Over The Place as The Vault or some of the albums coming up in this discography. I think this has an album feel to it, but it's an album evolving. I will be listening to this more often than the later Prince albums, even though it's filled with songs that Prince didn't deem worthy of releasing. It is an album that slaps. Right in the face.
In a few entries, I'm going to start trash talking Yoga Prince, the soft music with the occasional inspirational mumbo jumbo lyrics. Flutes, sound effects, rattling noises. It's insufferably bland. This album starts out with many of those elements BUT not in a bland way. Visions is a jazz piano luller but it's engaging, and leads us into Prince informing the Revolution-era band how their next song is gonna go down.
Power Fantastic starts off in a 1940s noir mode that Prince will attack again several times in the future. The instrumental here is perfection and leads us into the falsetto Prince the world needs. He's breathy and ballady and, because this is a live in the studio recording, not supported by a guiding track or overly produced. This is just his voice at its purest with a noir funk track supporting him. It's glorious. It's probably the best use of flute in any Prince song.
Climbing out of the chillfunk is the much heavier riffage of Witness 4 The Prosecution. The lyrics are almost completely forgettable but the heavy guitar and the background chorus screaming Witness! are here to save us all. There is some serious NPG energy being amassed in this song.
Prince has a few songs that flirt with reggae, and with slim exceptions, they mostly don't work. There's Something I Like About Being Your Fool, though, is a nice sunny riff with very 1970s tinny horns and Prince vocals that sound effortless and plain compared to most of his work, but they don't sound uninspired.
Strap in. "There's Something I Like About Being Your Fool" ends with a return to the heavy riff that flows perfectly into Prince screaming about Ice Cream (which, yes, please, every day) during the twelve minute long, James Brown-esque Soul Psychodelicide. I probably should have edited this down, as it's hella repetitive, and I cooked and ate half of my lunch while this song was playing, but it's just such a peppy burner that I don't mind it's egregious length.
But, seriously, it's long. I paired it with the title track, Everybody Want What They Don't Got, because the latter is short and musically antithetical. Where "Soul Psychodelicide" is 1970s James Brown, "Everybody Want What They Don't Got" could have been a late 70s/early 80s Billy Joel song. The production is murkier, the synth and horns sound like they were recorded while floating in a particularly filthy bathtub. But it also sounds like something a teenager who grew up loving 1970's children's cartoon music might have recorded when they were fifteen or sixteen.
Sticking in the 70s, but speeding up the piano, we have And That Says What. An instrumental shoulder dancing rag.
Train pulls out of the peppiness with a definite late-Revolution feel. Prince still loves you, baby, but he won't stand in your way if you need to get on a train to get away from his Purple Creepiness. The near But Not Quite literal train beat in the background, and the literal train horns works in this track's favor in a way that Prince usually can't pull off (I'm looking at you overuse of clock noise effects in his 21st century output.)
We disembark the train to arrive at one of the many songs Prince wrote for Bonnie Raitt in the 1980s. I Need A Man does sound like it would have fit perfectly on Nick Of Time or Luck Of The Draw. As does Jealous Guy, the next track. I would love to hear Raitt tracks on a professionally produced version of these songs (there's a grungey mid-production track floating around Youtube), but the Prince vocals work really well on these.
From Bonnie Raitt to Miles Davis, we go for Can I Play With U. There could stand to be more Miles on this track but I love that the collaboration took place. There are plenty of articles on how much Davis respected Prince, and you should read them. I'm just glad they had a mutual love society going on. This track would have been insane to see performed live.
Rising out of the jazz is the ethereal background vocals of All My Dreams, a very early 90s produced intro to a Revolution-era backing track with some cool Prince vocal effects. This doesn't sound quite like any other Prince song I can think of, but it is unquestionably purple. It's just fun/nothing ethereal before becoming very NPG with the slowed down Prince vocals that he would use extensively on Rainbow Children.
The Undertaker album is one of my favorite Prince side projects that didn't get officially released. I just love the blues feel. Blanche, while not precisely bluesy would have felt right at home on that album. One of the rare Prince songs that I could imagine people line dancing to, and having it make me smile instead of cringe.
Forever In My Life is practically the same song as Blanche but with different lyrics and a more piano focus rather than twangy guitar. I know this song is actually on the real Sign O' The Times album, but it didn't make the cut on my version, and I like the early vocal track from the new release of the album more than I like the original. I usually enjoy the loud fuzzy bass guitar in Prince songs, but it really conflicts with the lyrics for "Forever In My Life". I'm glad this cleaner version of the song did find a home on an album, though.
Wally is probably the oddest inclusion on this album. It's a letter to a friend about a bad breakup. It's not Prince's usual tone when he's talking about his prowress with the ladies, and I love his repeated mention of Wally's glasses. With it's da-dee-dahs and it's cool attitude, it feels more silly than deeply personal. And it's a nice alternative silly to the silliest track on Sign O' The Times, "Starfish And Coffee".
A bunch of songs on the back half of this album would make good closers. Love And Sex is no exception. Eventually sped up and given to Sheila E, I really enjoy Prince's take. Mainly for the guitar's clash with the vocals, and how it's clanging bell ending perfectly segues into
the final track on the album, A Place In Heaven. I've included the Prince vocal version. Not because this is a Prince-focused album but because I don't think Lisa's vocals on this track are very interesting. This is such a great showcase for Prince's voice, and a perfect close to this album.
All good things must come to an end. Ok, terrible things end as well. And mediocre things feel like they're going on forever and ever, but they also end.
This is the end of the discography that represents the music that Prince intended for release before he passed. There have been a couple of posthumous releases, and more are on the way. Some day, I might sit down and make a 14th entry called Posthumous.
HITnRUN was a series of albums Prince released with his final band, 3rdeyegirl. Only two were released, and they're ... of variable quality. But I've put together an EP length collection.
It's a summer day. For some reason we're on a boat. A voice we haven't heard before, Hannah Welton-Ford, is singing about the weather. A guitar kicks in. So Prince is somewhere on this boat. With a guitar. The thing is, we're not here for another protoge, even though this one is very talented. She has a clear voice that you don't often hear in a Prince song. The Whitecaps slap the boat, as the guitar breezes over the deck. Then, somewhere in the vocal mix of the second chorus. It might be Prince. He's still under the deck, maybe, somewhere?
We get off the boat, and on to a train. Prince is Definitely part of the vocal mix now, playing the guiding track to Hannah Welton-Ford's leads. Look, Prince, I'm going to Stopthistrain if you don't get on vocals. These slowjams are nice, and definitely have your fingers all over them, but we're not here for your fingers, Prince. As the last line echoes out, we're waiting for you to hit the spotlight. One more ... ohhhh ...there.
The lick of a bass. Prince shows up. Talking about his old days, taking the stage in our underwear. Who can help but Stare at Prince when he's on stage? And now that we've put the proper funk into the music, we're in familiar territory. He even pulls out the "Kiss" lick to remind us who he was. Ok. But who are you now, Mr. Nelson?
The drums hit. The ... is that an accordian in the background ? The fuck kind of 70s slow jam is this? Oh, there's the falsetto. When She Comes could have come off of Come or maybe Lovesexy, something that's not one of my favorites. But this would have been one of my favorite tracks if it fell between two absolute bangers. But there's no bangers yet, so this weird respite feels unearned. But damn it's nice to hear that falsetto.
Here we go, Prince wants to make this woman scream in Hardrocklover which is half slow jam, half rock track. All Prince. This is the first production that sounds 2010s. It could be a Frank Ocean track. Beyonce could be on vocals here.
Fixurlifeup sounds like a Foo Fighters track. A really good one. The lyrics are generic fixyourlifeup bumper sticker wisdom. But the guitar is a buzzing wasp, killing everything in its path.
Another Love has a riff and vocal pattern that screams turn of the millenium rock. Incubus is the strongest contender. It's interesting to hear this musician who was such an influence on modern music evolve to sound more like the people he influenced than the people who influenced him. And while it's not his best material, he pulls it off much better than most musicians trying to sound like younger bands.
The drums bang in, and suddenly the riff from Rage Against The Machine's "Revolver" is in a Prince song. Plectrumelectrum was originally released by 3rdeyegirl member, Donna Gratis. Prince has funked it up a bit with a Very Prince guitar solo but this is 100% Donna's instrumental song (minus the heavy RatM influence).
I got a little worried when mixing the album that the last track was Revelation. I thought, didn't I already use this on Musicology? Turns out, that was "Reflection". This smooth jazz piano is a little bit too Kenny G for me. I wish there was something stronger from these albums to go out on. But at least we have a falsetto goodbye. I just can't get into the 90s brass, or the soft cymbals. It just screams vaselined camera shooting white curtains flowing in the breeze. I want a better final bow. But I guess I'm part of the army of haters for this album. Only, I don't hate it. I just want more from it. I appreciate the eventual fuzzy guitar. I just wanted more of it. But I guess that's the trick. To leave us wanting more.
The end of this discography is nigh. This is the final full-length album, filling out his 2005-2011 music. It's less boring than Musicology, but it's still lacking a lot of early Prince flair.
Still, I wouldn't want to lose any of these songs, particularly "Breakfast Can Wait", from which this fictional album takes its name.
We start dark and effect heavy as the uncredited background vocalists tell you You need to Lay It Down. This is a futurefunk track. Like people from the 70s might have imagined funk would sound like in the 90s. The reference to being the purple yoda is cute, but would have been more powerful if he'd only said the line once.
The Guitar is aptly named. It sounds 100% Revolution-era Prince with an added guitar track from the 2000s. It's silly, fun, and danceable. If Prince has ever sounded more like Richard O'Brien (Riffraf / the playwright who wrote The Rocky Horror Show), I don't remember it.
The channels change on an old fashioned TV set, and the soft rock synths rain down with occasional piano trills as Prince extolls the virtues of a kiss on the neck, when she doesn't expect in the lyrically all-over-the-place Clouds, which Prince doesn't need. This is also the first time we hear Lianne La Havas as the future-voice guiding Prince out of his time being cryogenically frozen.
Charlie Murphy had a hilarious story about Prince on the Chapelle Show in 2001ish. Prince loved Chapelle's portrayal of him so much that he returned the satirical favor as he writes this goofy-ass love song about fucking instead of breakfast. Breakfast Can Wait. Parts of it legit sounds like Chapelle's Prince impersonation more than it sounds like Prince. Not the super up-pitch portions.
Le Havas is back for the affirmation intro to My Way Back Home. Here, Prince sings about how he never wanted a normal life, but, he, uh didn't want to be famous, he just wanted to be treated like he was famous? I think that's a pretty common desire.
All The Midnights In The World is a short, Christmas caroly sounding happy Prince song.
The future-funk comes back with Future Baby Mama, which has a riff and a vocal pattern that always makes me think of "Tomorrow" from Annie. The tracks flows right into
Sea Of Everything. The vocals are back in falsettotown, as Prince wonders what one of his old loves is up to without him. He makes a pun on his name in the chorus, which feels about thirty years late. Maybe he thinks the joke
gets Better With Time. Falsettotown Prince continues his journey of looking back, this time focusing on a relationship that's going well. So, maybe his marriage? Wouldn't that be nice.
Who is Chelsea Rogers? An unknown Prince lovechild? An ex? A current mistress? A fictional creation from Nelson's head? Whoever she is, Prince wrote a banger about her. Once again, the background vocals lift this up from a good song to a great one. Still got butt like a leather seat may be my favorite wtf lyric from 21st century Prince. The horns and bass on this track are on-point.
There's no mystery that Prince calls himself Mister Goodnight in this slow jam about his lovers' inability to keep secrets because he is So Good At Sex. His outro rap is ... not his best, but also not his worst.
Love Like Jazz sounds like head bopping 70s elevator fodder. So not the amazing jazz you might have been hoping for. The background vocals seem slightly off, but I think it's intentional. "Off, but intentionally" being a decent description of most 1970s soft rock.
And then we bring the disco in for 1970s dancin' (definitely no "g" here) to Lavaux, as Prince jams about ... using international vacations to get over the disappointing race relations in the US ? Maybe. It's a nice uptempo bass-funk song.
The One U Wanna C is almost a 1990s Sheryl Crow song. (Crow doesn't appear in this reimagined discography, but she does pop up at least twice in the real world discography.) Prince ain't tryin to be a hater here but he wants to remind you that his penis is still available. Ladies.
U're Gonna C Me seems to be the anti-"On The Couch" song, as Prince bought a bed for his main honey, and he spends this song lamenting that she's not in it with him. He's so sad and so in love that he references It's A Wonderful Life, or maybe this is a secret shout out to Scott Woods.
Another slow jam serves as the final track. This Could B Us is neither Prince's finest closing track, nor his most inspired jam. But it's definitely a windy encapsulation of his 2005-2011 output.
If you were to rank my Reimagined Discography from least favorite to favorite, Musicology would be on the bottom rung. Prince was throwing a lot of pasta at the wall, and it stuck. And contrary to 80s movies about Italians, that's a terrible way to test pasta. Any pasta that sticks to the wall is overdone. And the Musicology era is Overdone.
It's mixed to death. The production turns some otherwise perfectly listenable music into what sounds like the original material from a mediocre Prince cover band. Even many of the vocals fall flat.
There are at least three albums of instrumental tracks from this era, and two of them are great, and one of them is Yoga Prince bad. I probably could have switched Musicology out with Shut The Funk Up: The Best Of Instrumental Prince, but it isn't the path I chose.
So here's the songs from the early 2000s that I enjoy more than the other songs.
A plane lands. A guitar wammies. The vocals hit. I really loved Supercute when I first heard it, and for years afterward. It was an automatic choice for a first cut on this album. But when I was listening to it for editing purposes, it sounded muddy. This is the first Prince song that doesn't sound good on headphones. It sounds great on my computer, or over the sound system at work, but it just sounds ... swampy on headphones, and not in a deliberately creative awesome way. So take your headphones off and blast this perfectly fine, happy, catchy song about how much Prince is totally into someone.
Prince screeches his way into Daisy Chain next. It's synth-funky, and a perfect follow-up track. It's like a popular B-side to "Supercute" that you wish was on the actual album. The creepy effect laugh leads us right into
The Word. The vocals on this album so far have had a particular campfire sing along chorus effect. In this song Prince employs the people listening to let's get saved, which, unfortunately isn't a euphemism for sex. The lyrics are all Creepy Preacher Prince. Instead of a laugh, we go back to a screech.
Confession: I had already mixed this album before I heard of When Will We B Paid, but Prince's reparations B-side is, by a landslide, his best B-side from this era, and is better than a bunch of tracks on his actual albums. The lyrics are pretty basic. But it's not a topic Prince usually addresses as head-on as he does here. And the vocal mix on this track is A+.
A dance groove with a super irritating wheezing sound introduce us to Black Sweat. The wheeze drops as the lyrics hit, and the rest of the track is hand-clappy dance nonsense. But in a good way. If you've seen the video for the supposed Black Sweat dance, you know it's uninspired.
Turn off your cell phone, ladies. Now that the minimal "Black Sweat" has been perspired out of you, Prince is gonna get you Satisfied real soon. This has elements of Revolution-era Prince. A constant rising funk swell with an almost-falsetto vocal, and an occasional break that has him actually going falsetto. At 2:43, I don't think he got her very satisfied before he quit.
Te Amo Carazon is smokey, club, jazz number. It hits all the right notes, but it lacks Prince's usual vocal passion. I would love to hear a version recorded ten years earlier, or five years later. It's nearly a great song. Focusing more on his vocals and piano would have put it over the top.
People who only knew Prince from his hits might, mistakenly, assume Incense And Candles had pitch-corrected vocals because Prince was being trendy. Nah, if you've been listening to this discography, you know he had almost an entire album with pitched-up vocals in the mid-80s. But this track is the most pop-radio friendly / on-trend usage of the technology Prince has ever pulled off. He also has a decent rap about halfway through.
Perfect pop falsettotown and drums break through in the beginning of the timeless funk ballad, Call My Name. This is another track that could be on any Prince album, and would always be a highlight. This might be Prince's best 21st century song.
The Dance is Prince at his James Bondiest. The synth riff screams spy flick while Prince doesn't want to fall in love again. I'm sure that will stick. It gets more and more Eastern as the song goes on but never loses that espionage feeling.
A guitar lick and a phasing church organ. Prince is finally being sent to sleep On The Couch. This has been a long time coming. I do enjoy that he references everyone's favorite movie featuring Regie Gibson, Love Jones, while he tries to convince his partner that he shouldn't be punished. Prince, you DEFINITELY cheated on whoever has you on punishment. You are guilty. Even if they're wrong about this specific time. Grab some purple throw pillows and fetal-position it up, Mr. Falsetto.
Happier days abound in U Make My Sun Shine. Angie Stone is co-lead singer on this gospelly funk track.
Reflection jams like a late 90s Prince track with a generic 70s vocal. You can almost see two forty somethings falling in love, montage style, with this song playing in the background. A TV movie, not a film. A film would have had an actual 1970s jam. It's interesting to end this album with Prince finally acknowledging his ass (and most of the rest of him) is getting old.
On the border of the 21st century, I lost my love of Prince music. It wasn't his fault. Sure, he had oversaturated the market with a series of multiple disc collections of varying qualities, and his production sound changed radically when he left Warner Brothers, but I was also moving around with my five 100 Case Logic CD booklets, and not buying a ton of new music. I had done my time working in record stores, and had moved full time into the restaurant industry, where I got most of my music through their terrible licensed retail stations.
Being inundated with pop, and also moving to and living in a variety of hipster areas, I drowned myself in grunge, modern British rock, and whatever the hell that one popular Moby album was.
It wasn't until 2004 that I saw a video for "Muse 2 The Pharoah" and thought "Wait, what's Prince doing now?" But I didn't follow up for a couple of years. And by then, there were a hundred and fifty new Prince albums of varying quality, and I only knew one song from the whole bunch. So I arbitrarily concluded that I only liked 20th century Prince.
Now, I do *prefer* 20th century Prince. Like most artists fear, he was at his peak in his 20s and 30s, but there are still a few albums worth of good material from The Purple Yoda. Like my version of The Vault, there are a few covers on this album, but they're not better than his original 1999-2003ish songs. This collection is mostly from Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (and the remixed Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic), The Vault (the actual Prince album, not my reimagined version), and The Rainbow Children.
I really didn't know until I was mixing, and editing, and relistening to, and reordering this album, how much I love the title track Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. That intro draws me right in, and then falsettotown Prince getting his screech on, like it was the 80s again, matched with the spare guitar riffing, keeps me there for the whole track. Even the deliberately wonky horns and the mostly forgettable lyrics work together for a classic Prince track.
I've used the remix of Undisputed from the in2 album instead of the un2 album. Even though it's only been a couple of weeks since I put the album together, I can't remember why I disliked the original so much, but I did. The remix was a pleasant surprise. The opening get freeeeeeeeeeeeeee drags us into a funk dance party with robotic vocals. How you gonna get my back when you frontin' might be my favorite individual line from this album. Chuck D's verse is a decade and a half late, but it's a nice nostalgic trip.
Next up is the perfect groove of Muse 2 The Pharaoh. Some of the best latter-day Prince harmonies over a jazz drum and piano. It's ending drums lead right into
Man O War. This is a weirdly bullshit premise wherein Prince acts shocked that his partner has accused him of infidelity. Like, have you heard your own music, Prince. You clearly have wandering penis syndrome. And you just said that loving your partner is a waste of time. Oooof. I will throw this song in my catalogue of I Weirdly Know A Bunch Of Stuff About Lenny Kravitz, as he and his song "Fly Away" get namechecked here.
Now, in a stunning 180, Prince is always going to be supportive of his partner, no matter what, as Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do / (he) will always be there for you. Always being there for you is a tired musical trope that I never believe. Has Jon Bon Jovi really always been there for me? Mariah Carey? The Rembrandts? The Jackson Five? Nah. And neither has Prince. I mean, they're always somewhere, but for me? Nah.
There aren't enough Prince piano ballads. Eye Love U But I Don't Trust U is an utterly gorgeous 1970s style falsettotown croon. It almost sounds like a remixed track from his first album. The breathy echoes at the end of certain lines are a vocal trick I don't remember him employing on any other track, and it works really well.
Effects swallow the piano notes as we enter The Digital Garden, a harder drumbeat than we've heard for a while, but mixed with soft pop rock effects and more falsetto. This is one of the few tracks that I saved from The Rainbow Children. Most of the album has a low pitch corrected narration from Prince that I just don't enjoy. But this is a brief, oddly paced soft rock song that really works.
It takes Five Women to take us to the next track. This is a smokey bar, saxophoned night club jam. Joe Cocker released his cover about a decade before Prince released the original, and it's ... fine. It does sound like a Joe Cocker song, but it doesn't deviate too much. The only part of the cover that I wish Prince had employed was the focus on piano.
Mellow Mellow is a synth punctuated conversation between Prince and yet another person he's totally into right now. But in a mellow way. This is one of the many songs where he mentions eating (no, not like that). Offering a spot to go grab dinner. Usually, he's going on about breakfast, and the occasional noticing of what someone else has for lunch. It flows perfectly into
She Loves Me 4 Me. No, not because I look like Leonardo. It's great that there's someone to love Prince who isn't as judgey as Prince has been on pretty much every album.
An orchestral swell leads us into Old Friends 4 Sale, which sounds like something from a late 80s / early 90s noir film. Not an actually serious noir, something like Dick Tracy or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Something that's an homage to the 1940s but it's all wrong, but in the most entertaining ways.
But cutting through the ending is the clear winner for best single from this album The Greatest Romance That's Ever Been Sold. The lyrics are generic Prince love lyrics but the hook is sharp, and the breathy echoes are back.
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful begins the first classic Prince funk song on this album, Prettyman. It is, remarkably, the first song I can think of where Prince admits to kissing his mirror and smelling himself. It's remarkable that we're this far into the discography and hearing this info for the first time. I also enjoy the James Browns-esque calling out of Maceo Parker.
The Rest Of My Life takes the mood from "Prettyman" and makes it softer, but still containing all the joy. And the saxophone.
The slow, low-pitched narration of The Rainbow Children album is not my favorite, but I needed it to bridge into that title track. Slow funk keeps the trite religious discussion of women that threads throughout his discography in the background. This is definitely a music, and not a lyric song for me. I love the intermittent guitar riffs and breakdowns. I just pretend the lyrics don't exist.
Closing out the album is one of Prince's perfect "credits start to roll" songs. The piano is back in full ballady force for How Come You Don't Call Me No More. A song that would feel at home on any of his albums. But always as the closer.