Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
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.