Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Some of the fun of playing around with the discographies of Prince and U2 involved rearranging classic albums into new configurations. Prince and U2 each have a few albums which didn't really need to be reimagined, as they were already great. But it was fun to come up with new angles to approach the music from.
I love Queen. Freddie Mercury had one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history, and the entire band combined their efforts to make a few really creative and mesmerizing musical experiences, and some very straight forward jock jam classics. But they only had one good album. The other fourteen studio albums are all collections of one or two great songs, maybe a good song, and then mediocre songs in the style of whatever was trending: disco, new wave, prog rock, heavy metal. While their prog rock album, Queen II, is actually a very good progressive rock album, I'm no longer seventeen, and don't ever have the urge to listen to Rush, Dream Theater, early Genesis, or Queen II. And while I'm sometimes in the mood for disco or new wave, I'm never nostalgic for Queen's songs in those categories.
So, this discography is going to be brief, concise, and vastly different from their actual discography. Therefore, with the exception of the good album and a half (A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, which I've blended into one album), even the names of the Queen albums will be completely different from the originals.
The first two of the five album discography are roughly chronological, the final album is a concept album, and the third and fourth albums are stews of the delicious leftovers.
The first album, A Flick Of The Wrist, is a combination of Queen's debut album, and their third album, Sheer Heart Attack. If you like progressive rock, you should totally check out Queen II, on its own merits, but it stylistically clashes with everything else on this album, so I've left it out entirely.
When Prince drops the word "Prince" into his song, he is talking about his purpleness. Queen is not of the same ilk, despite also being royalty. So opening up with Queen Killer is not the same as starting out with "My Name Is Prince". This is not a thesis statement. This is a very 70s classic rock pop song. Noodly rock guitars, AM friendly keyboards, but Freddie Mercury classes up the song with his wide-ranging vocals, which is the highlight of the band, and the reason for their success, despite Dr. Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon all being fantastic musicians in their own rights. "Queen Killer" is just a fun little riff about praising an object of desire, she's never disparaged, her figure is never mentioned, it's just a "Hey there's this rich lady who's good at what she does, and while that might be sex, it might also be amateur magic, playing Trivial Pursuit, or hosting parties. She's just great! Guaranteed to blow your mind."
It's A Hard Life falls right out of "Queen Killer"'s final chord. It's a generic "I'm sad because I've been dumped" song, but it has a great keyboard track, some cool background vocal tricks, and hints at Queen's operatic future. It also has a very 1970s guitar riff-off in the third quarter of the song. The lyrics are so generic, that it's impressive that Mercury is able to pack so much emotion in them.
Some hand clapping and light drumming lead us into Liar, the most 70s of all the Queen songs that survived into this discography. It launches into a guitar riff-off right away, and then the sweet AM style vocals croon in. This track is the most stark example of the "Am I talking about sex, religion or both?" category where both U2 and Prince flourished. Mercury doesn't go there as often, but he's all-in during this song. The staccato liars almost demand you sing along with them. The talking section (it's definitely not influenced by rap, it's just musical talking) where he switches the genders of his conversation from father to mother lead into an ending that you can almost imagine would have been a hard rock Billy Joel song, if Billy Joel could sing.
The bass and the guitar wind around each other in a very pleasing banjo-like progression as we segue into Keep Yourself Alive. The chorus is pretty weak, and the lyrics continue to be generic, but now generic self-help, instead of generic love. This is one of the songs where the instruments outshine Mercury's voice. Mixing it up from the previous songs is that the third quarter of the song has a drum-focus for a solid thirty seconds before the guitars come back in.
Now I'm Here has an echoey Marco Polo beginning, as Freddy Mercury tells you where he is. Sometimes it's here, sometimes it's there. He was super good at Hide & Go Seek. Once the echoes are over, we're solidly into 70s layered vocal rock. A heavy metal inspired guitar riff, and an overall feeling that you should be listening to this song in a tractor trailer truck, speeding down a highway in 1974. You are almost required to grow a mustache to sing along with this track.
A clearly ballady piano with a little country guitar twang rise out of "Now I'm Here" to give us Doing All Right, which could have come out of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar. It's not religious, it just has the spare instrumentation, and the very late 60s/early 70s trio backgrund vocals that devolved out of R&B and Doo-wop to be utterly spineless "oooooh"ing. Then, of course, the guitars kick in, and we're in very familiar riffy territory.
Bring Back That Leroy Brown, with its honky-tonk piano and bass lines, is a nice little anomaly for early Queen. It's from a Western movie. It's from another planet. It's from Freddie Mercury's super brain, and Roger Taylor's expert hands.
We fall back solidly into 1970s classic AM rock with Stormtroopers In Stilettos. It's Brian May on vocals, and mainly him and John Deacon on strings. Without Mercury's vocals, it could be from almost any band from that era. But the heavy breathing and drum outro give away the song's Queenness.
Freddy is back for the prog-rock influenced Mad, The Swine. Originally cut from their debut album, it showed back up on rereleases. It's really a precursor to Queen II, with its fantasy elements and more spacey guitar work. If this is your favorite track on the album, definitely check out their second album from their real world discography.
From prog rock to heavy metal, Stone Cold Crazy launches out of "Mad The Swine", trailing guitar riffs behind it. The combination of the guitars and Mercury's vocals are unlike anything else that was happening at the time, but once the late 70s/early 80s hit, this was a more common style of vocal for metal songs.
Misfire ooohs and ahhhs us back into layered Mercury pop. He spends much of the time in his smooth falsetto range, which isn't quite as cool as his screech falsetto, but works well with the rotarying guitar riffs.
Lap Of The Gods sounds like it's from a C level sci-fi movie soundtrack (where Queen will end up in just a few years). It's our first rare occasion to hear Mercury's voice distorted, to give it a more alien feel. I don't ever want to see the movie that would feature this song. Fun trivia fact, the really high falsetto scream in this song is the highest note on the album, and it's not even Freddy Mercury, it's Roger Taylor.
Taylor takes over the vocals for Tenement Funster (and Deacon takes over guitar from May), the first part of a trilogy of songs. Flick Of The Wrist is the second part, with really cool occasional octave spaced vocals, and Dr. May's background vocals. The trilogy concludes with Lily Of The Valley, a piano focused ballad about ... love, of course.
Mercury's letter to his sad peers, Dear Friends, is another piano ballad. It has a more Beatlesesque feel than any other track on the album, as it lullabies us to the album's close
Prince Vs. U2: LEaving Their Reimagined DIscographies Behind 4 Now (No Closure ... Like Those Assless Chaps)
andI never met Mozart, I never met Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker, I never met Elvis. But I met Prince - Bono
Making the decisions for the U2 discography was simple. I've heard all of their albums, apart from the most recent two, hundreds of times. I've heard their two most recent albums enough times to make educated decisions about them. I consider myself an expert on U2.
I'm an amateur Prince fan.
I've owned most of his albums, but apart from Purple Rain and Sign O The Times, I didn't really sit down and listen to any of the albums straight thtough on a regular basis. There were four albums of his that I hadn't even heard of until I started this discography.
I can't say I learned anything from making the Reimagined U2 Discography. It was fun, and I enjoyed sharing some of the albums with people, but I didn't come out of it with a new appreciation for their music. I already liked what I liked, and was familiar with what I didn't enjoy.
I had forgotten that I have a bootleg of Prince and Bono singing "The Cross" from Sign O The Times, but recorded two years Before the release of Sign O The Times. I'm almost afraid to listen to it, even though it's from a time when everyone involved in the performance was at their peak. I'm hoping the reason I don't remember it is not that it sucks, but that I was unfamiliar with the song, and stopped listening as soon as it got Jesusy.
What I learned from listening through Prince's discography and then condensing it, and remixing parts of it is that I'm a much bigger Prince fan that I thought. I once believed that the only Prince that mattered was the one producing music between 1985 and 1995. That everything after that was forgettable, and everything before it was inferior. I was very wrong.
Here's my ranking of the Reimagined Prince Discography from Least Favorite to Favorite. (Please note, I like All Of The Albums, That's Why They're On The Reimagined Discography, I just like some more than others.)
12: The HITnRUN EP
10: An Honest Man Vs The Truth
9: The Breakfast Album
8. Diamonds & Pearls
4. The Vault
1 Sign O The Times
The top 10 Prince songs, based purely on how often they get stuck in my head:
10. "Count The Days"
9. "Purple Rain"
8. "Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic"
7. "Little Red Corvette"
5. "Diamonds & Pearls"
4. "Starfish & Coffee"
2. "Sexy M.F."
1. "Crystal Ball"
I've been playing the remagined albums in the store, and have had several conversations with people about them. I had a pair of women around my age talking about how they were trying to get more familiar with the mid-90s Prince, and they wanted to get their hands on my version of The Vault. I also had someone say how much they liked Purple because it was better than Purple Rain, his friend was quick to tell him he was wrong. Their discussion got more intense, so I hung back and nodded, rather than try and change anyone's opinion on what is, essentially, the same tracks in a different order, with a couple of additions.
Looking at the entirety of Prince's Discography, album to album, I'm not going to try and rank them all, but I will put them into categories. I'm not including any Greatest Hits collections, live albums, or any posthumous releases.
Nah, You Can Keep That Trash Outta My House: Chaos & Disorder, Kamasutra, Lotusflow3r, MPLSound
I'm Not Going To Send The Whole Meal Back, I'll Just Eat Around The Parts I Don't Like: Lovesexy, Graffiti Bridge, Crystal Ball, The Rainbow Children, Musicology, The Slaughterhouse, HITnRUN Phase One, HITnRUN Phase Two
Not My Cup Of Tea, But I Understand The Appeal: C-Note, NEWS, X-pectations
Cool: For You, Prince, Dirty Mind, The Batman Soundtrack, Come, The Gold Experience, The Vault, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic/Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic, 20ten, The Chocolate Invasion, Plectrumelectrum
Hell Yes, I Need More Of That: 1999, Parade, The Undertaker, Emancipation, Planet Earth, Art Official Age
I Will Play This On Repeat Until My Friends Love It, Too: Controversy, Around The World In A Day, Diamonds & Pearls, Emancipation, The Truth, 3121
Truly, The Best Of The Best: Purple Rain, Camille, The Black Album, Sign O The Times, Love Symbol, Goldn----a
I plan on coming back to this discography much later, and adding in a live album, a Best Of, and a posthumous album. But, for now, I'm pleased with where this journey took me. I am nowhere near tired of listening to the reimagined albums, even though I've been futzing around with them for about six weeks, listening to at least one album every day.
If you're looking for more writing about Prince from an actual expert on the subject, you should check out Scott Woods Makes Lists, and buy his book.
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.