Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
There is a perfectly good Prince album titled The Vault, which Warner Brothers released at the end of Prince's contract to mess with his Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic release. That album is not represented here. This is a collection from an era of Prince that, as a whole, I'm not a fan of, but which did produce some excellent songs.
In order to both fill out the aforementioned contract, as well as kickstart his new contract, Prince put out a TON of material. Every release was two discs, three discs, a box set he found inside a box of Cap'n Crunch. And a lot of it is ... fine. It's not that this was a terrible time for Prince, it's just that his perfectly good material was drowning amongst his perfectly adequate material.
I remember being in Madison, Wisconsin, hanging out with some new friends to hide from a creepy ex (who had done some creepy thing to my new friends, as well), and seeing they had the full Prince discography. There were so many albums I hadn't heard. I spent the week devouring them, and ... I got super burnt out on Prince, and for a few months, imagined I was just Over Prince. I imagine actual fans felt even more oversaturated in this era. It's not so much an embarrasment of riches, as an embarrassment of adequacy. How do you even slog through this to find the gems?
Take your time. Listen to things a bunch of times, and try and figure out the shape of an album. And when that doesn't work, and it won't, make a Greatest Hits album of the era that has the feel of a few albums interacting with each other. The Vault. Imagine it's a double album, because it's a bit long.
I find Prince's more Message Songs not to be to my taste. I agree with them, but his lyrics are better suited for sex than peace. I like his politics when they come out of nowhere, like in 1999. Jarring Prince is such a better lyricist than straightforward political Prince. We March is an exception to that rule for me. It's orchestrated so well that the simplistic nature of the lyrics doesn't at all bother me.
The Jam Of The Year practically falls out of "We March". Similarly to my feelings about political messages, are the vast songs about being a singer that Prince has. It's like he and Bono went to the same content seminar in 1986. But "The Jam Of The Year", if not THE Jam Of The Year, was at least a contender. It's super dancey, and very Prince.
All that glitters ain't Gold, but this track would have felt perfect on Diamonds And Pearls. Everyone wants a tale that's already been told is sort of true here. I love this song because it reminds me of an era of Prince that I preferred to what was, at the time, the current Prince era. Is it his best song? Hell, no. But it is a glittery anthemic reminder of 80s into 1990 Prince.
The na na nas of "Gold" fade naturally into the Da Da Das of the next New Power Generation track. Scrap D does the rap duties, and it definitely feels like mid-90s rap before Prince comes in with his "we should all love one another" verse and then the killer crunch of his guitars followed by a very percussive outro.
Time to get back to the funk with New Powersoul. An almost instrumental track that just fucken cooks. I've avoided all of Prince's instrumental albums in this discography, not because they're bad, but because I don't have the language to discuss why I like certain instrumental tracks and not others. If there aren't lyrics involved, my opinions are mostly varied to "instruments good, RHYTHM BAD", which isn't very helpful. Also, a couple of Prince's instrumental albums are like yoga music for expectant hippie mothers, and I have a problem even reckoning how those are Prince albums. But this is perfect background funk with just a touch of lyrics as the NPS sings the title every once in a while, and then some old man stumbles in to talk over the ending.
Croony Prince enters over some weathery effects for Curious Child. It's a sweet song that your mom (whether she's doing pregnant yoga or not) would like. It's soft, and has some cheesy trilling pianos, but for a soft, cheesy Prince song, it's great. It could also be baby's first Prince song.
And while we're being childlike, I'm a HUGE fan of Joan Osborne's first album, Relish. I saw her perform most of the tracks before its release, at a festival headlined by the P-Funk All-Stars. It was an amazing show. One Of Us is one of the weakest tracks on her album. I much prefer Prince's cover. It's still soft and juvenile (he switches out the word slob for slave, in case you couldn't read his forehead) but his performance of the track is perfect album filler for me, you can idly sing along to it without having to actually rock out.
A clap of thunder. Some rain. Snarey drums. Scatty vocals. Somebody Somebody is a little on-the-nose effect heavy with the ticking clock, when he mentions time, and the weather whenever he mentions weather. But, y'all Prince is LONELY, and he just wants someone to cuddle with. But he's gonna get screechy about it. And there's not enough screech in this era of Prince, so this is a welcome sound.
Horny Prince now wants to change the narrative. He wasn't lonely, YOU were lonely. But he can help you, baby. He has something every girl should know, and he's gonna give it you One Kiss At A Time.
While he's dispensing knowledge, Prince would like to dip out of his falsetto and get religiousexy with you. The Love We Make is a rare Bumper-Stickery trck where Prince gives you little kernels of knowledge you might see on a passing Prius. His delivery is impeccable though. We'll call this the end of disc one of the double disc album.
The Same December is a very different Prince from the previous track. I don't mean that it's way more upbeat and Prince's vocals are up about an octave, though both of those things are true. But here, he's telling you not to listen to the type of narrator he just was! Everything's gonna be the same, y'all forget those stupid wisdom dispensers, you only know what you know! He also gets kind of Rocky Horror near the end.
Here comes some bass to the rescue, though, with some very 90s background samples as the New Power Generation goes Joint 2 Joint. Whatever you do, though, don't give Prince a picture of your mother. I don't care what he says. Ninety-9 drops the rare female MC verse in a male dominated song, and then ... Savion Glover ... tap dances .. the percussion ? because Prince enjoyed Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in ' da Funk. Sure. Then there's a narration break where Prince tries to convince some poor woman that he's ready to settle down. THEN HE HANGS UP ON HER to hop on
My Computer. His songs about technology are awful, But this one feels deliberately fuddy-duddy. As Prince scans his computer looking for a site so he can talk to someone. Guys, he's still So Lonely. If you were on AOL in the 90s, the sound effects might make you nostalgic.
Sonny T tackles the vocals on Hallucination Rain, after ingesting some funny tasting soup. The electric violin on this track, playing against the funk synth tones is perfection.
Rising out of the hallucination is Prince going back and forth between his narration voice and his all-over-the-place-climbing-ivy vocals in Dreamin About You. A nice little guitar strummy ballad with flower images.
The guitar continues strumming right into the summertime jam Count The Days. I just want to drink some lemonade while rockin' chairing it on a porch, singing Here's a muthatfucka I gotta blow away.
At the end of those days, sits The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. By far, Prince's most radio friendly hit song of the mid-90s. Maybe of the entire 90s. It sounds much more engineered by a studio executive than a musical genius. But it totally works.
Let the syrupy pop continue! Prince takes the Stylistics' Betcha By Golly Wow and Princifies it only a bit. As covers go, it's not very imaginative, it's just a surprise that he covered it at all. This was the only track I heard from the album before the Madison trip. I still enjoy it.
Soul Sanctuary has a bit of a Caribbean flavor. But only a bit. It's still falsettotown balladville for Prince. This time he's totally not telling the person he's in love with that he's in love with them. Shhhhh.
Then he Hey girls his way into The Delfonics' La La La La Means I Love You, which is right on par with "Betcha By Golly Wow". It's not inventive but it works. And I'm not sure how many 90s kids were listening to 1940s soul hits.
Prince pretty much does what he wants on this album because he's got Style. And on this track he tells you, in his narrator-almost-rap voice, what style is. Without the background you got it vocals, I'm not sure I would have included this track. It's braggadocio feels pretty limp. But, like, he *does* have style.
Cherry Cherry sounds like the third part of the 1940s cover trio on this disc, but it's a Prince original with guest vocals by Sonny T again. It's a fun throwback riff with the occasional modern lyrics about watching a basketball game.
Closing out the album is another cover. This time one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt songs, Eye Can't Make U Love Me. It's a nice simmering ending to the double album. Unlike "One Of Us", I do prefer the original to Prince's cover but I have enough love for both versions.
Thus ends the Greatest Hits Of An Era album. The next reimagined album is much more cohesive.