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 work 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.