Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Prince made several double and triple albums. Occasionally, like with Lotusflow3r, one of the discs is noticeably different from the others (in that case, a different vocalist is featured on disc one), but for the most part, they just sounded like long, disjointed albums, or, more often than not, a series of tracks he didn't feel like thematically linking.
An Honest Man Vs. The Truth is intended as a single album, but more a record or cassette than a CD or modern non-physical album. There is a Side A and a Side B.
As a whole, this album is more guitar oriented than effect or pop oriented, the pop and effect elements are here, but they're not the focus. Side A has a very traditional Prince sound, but it strips away some of the layers he's been building on the albums that lead up to this. Side B, which is all from his sort of unreleased album, The Truth. (All of Prince's unreleased albums were eventually released in some format, otherwise I wouldn't have access to them.) The Truth is an "acoustic album", in that the emphasis is on acoustic instrumentation, but it also has engineering effects and other instruments added because that's what Prince wanted to do.
This album also feels like the most Beatlesque of Prince's work, which I love. And maybe a little Peter Framptony by the end.
I've done this several times, and I'll do it again here. The album starts with acapella Prince. A chorus effect. A religious lovey lyrical chorus. Then instruments swell in beneath the vocals. An Honest Man isn't his finest work, but it's a sweet, brief, Princey intro.
What's My Name creeps in under the opening track with Prince doing a gravelly, pondering voice over a filthy bass, and some exquisite drum breaks. I love the table tennis between the vocal sections, and then the instrumentation. I'm talking, I'm talking, the drums come in, the music goes crazy while I shut the fuck up, I'm talking, I'm talking. I love it.
From gravel we swoop up into falsettotown with Crucial, which could have come off of any Revolution-era album. It also could have come out of the 1940s, or been slapped on the B-side of "Betcha By Golly Wow". I love this style of Prince falsetto (he is one of the few artists who has more than one falsetto style).
The drums pound out of the previous track and then we go all Beatle-synthy for Strays Of The World, oh, we are still in falsettotown. It's clearer here, though. And Prince sprinkles the lyrics with some la-la-las. It ends with a very 1970s epic space guitar solo that would be perfect to fade "Purple Rain" into.
Instead we've got Prince rapping through the close with New Power Soul, not to be confused with the nearly instrumental funk song "New Powersoul", this is a silly Prince sing-speaking over some poppy effects. The lyrics are silly and about loving one another, coming together, and getting freaky. But this song is less about lyrics and more about horns blending into a cheery song to make you smile. Macy Gray could be the vocalist on this track.
You'll be shocked to learn that Shoo-Bed-Ooh is also not a lyrical masterpiece. And it also sounds like a Macy Gray song. But, like, a really good one.
Some scat singing, howling, and horns, takes us into When You Love Somebody. Apart from the second track, this album has been pure joy, although with every sun shower there's pain. We also have one of Prince's clearest discussions of his polyamory, as he mentions how All my partners say that I need to dismiss ya / Until they see you smile / (Such a pretty smile) / All them fools are buggin' 'cause they just want your lovin' /In the backseat, huh, for a little while / (But I don't care). Then a break hits, Prince begins rapping. Suddenly we're back in the philosophical funk of "What's My Name", but there's horns.
We're staying heavy and haunted now as Prince implores that body to Get Loose. It's just a heavy dance number that ends with a screech.
Closing out Side A, (An Honest Man) Prince counts us into a funk jam, Calhoun Square. Prince no longer cares what you look like, just as long as you're freaky. It is almost definitely the best song ever written about a shopping district in Minneapolis.
Side B starts us off with Fascination, which has a decidedly folk song feel. But it's the guitars that make this sound like a completely different artist than we've heard so far. Prince is, and always has been, a phenomenal guitarist. It's sometimes easy to forget when he plays the same style of guitar with the same style of effects, you just get used to it. But when he mixes it up, like he does on this Side B (The Truth), and when he did on The Undertaker, you get a whole new appreciation for his genius.
You can almost see Prince, standing in a sold out stadium, with just this acoustic guitar, the entire audience silenced by The Truth. He barely even plays the instrument while he's singing. He doesn't have to. My one complaint is the stupid ticking clock element before he talks about time. I should have edited it out. His screeching comes out of pretty much nowhere, and yet, is a perfect counterpoint to the rest of his spare, whispery vocals on this track.
A wave of rain sound and animal noises tide us into Animal Kingdom. It's interesting to hear the acoustic guitar mixed with the engineered into fuzziness vocals. The effects floating around the acoustic guitar give it a very haunted feel, especially when the fucken dolphins show up and start chattering.
In my sophomore year English class, another student wrote a poem about The Other Side Of The Pillow. It was not as good as this song. Croony Prince and the doo-woppy background vocals of this track make it an absolute treasure.
Dionne keeps the pluckfest going, as well as the 1940s vocal feel. As for the inspiration of this love song? "Dionne lives in London and knows quite well the heart she broke. All Dionnes r heartbreakers!"
A bass drum and some effects take us into the follow-up, One Of Your Tears, which according to Dionne Farris, the alleged inspiration for the previous track, is a factual account of a mail exchange where he sent her a copy of an early version of "Dionne", and she sent him back a used condom. I guess Dionne doesn't fuck around, either.
Comeback sounds so incredibly mid-90s alternative acoustic that it could have been recorded by any recently hair-chopped feel-good rock band. They definitely used the footage from their Unplugged episode as the video. This track would make zero sense on any other Prince album.
Circle Of Amour is a happy, acoustic song about the power of loving high school friendships as only Prince could imagine them. We go from circle of friends to circle of sex because Prince.
The only super serious song on this Side B is Don't Play Me and it is the musical equivalent of that gif where Prince rolls his eyes in exasperation. Like, who would bother to mess with Prince, anyhow? Besides Dionne. And maybe Charlie Murphy.
The album ends with Welcome To The Dawn, a mystical acoustic song with some Yoga Prince effects in the background, and more of his religous-focused lyrics. But also with occasional talk boxing. A sweet way to use effects to close out the acoustic-focused (Truth).