Prince was one of my first favorite artists, especially during the Revolution days. He's got it goin' on.
Information: NPG Music
Suggested first purchase/album: Purple Rain
Suggested best of: The Hits/The B-Sides
Prince: For You (1978) -- A decent little R&B album, one of those quiet debuts from a guy who will eventually go nuts and make the greatest albums in the world.
Prince: Prince (1979) -- The album is a little sexier this time around (I mean, he's shirtless on the cover after all), which is going in the right direction for the Prince. "I Feel for You" was later crappily remade by Chaka Kan (except the cool opening section), but Prince's original version is pretty nice.
Prince: Dirty Mind (1980) -- Prince becomes the Prince we know and love with this album. Not only is he even sexier (he's wearing only his underwear and a bandana on the cover), but the songs are less simple R&B and more poppy. "When You Were Mine" is one of the best Prince songs ever, not just this album. There's also that track about sleeping with your sister. The true beginning.
Prince: Controversy (1981) -- Prince takes the sexiness of the previous album and adds that unique Prince worldview that points toward future releases. By this point, Prince is very aware of himself and the album has a new sense of authority. The first and last songs ("Controversy" and "Jack U Off") are the best, the latter being pretty great with its gleeful and even funny approach to sex. You can feel that the next thing will be big.
Prince: 1999 (1983) -- Working with an embryonic version of The Revolution, Prince's sound is more full here, and it works great--none of the synth stuff is lost either, including those cool Prince drums. This is certainly the best Prince album yet. The only real setback are the over-long "jams," songs like "D.M.S.R" or "Lady Cab Driver," which last too long and don't do much. The highlights are "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious," and "Free."
Prince and the Revolution: Purple Rain (1984) -- The first album with the Revolution (with whom Prince would make his best albums), even better than 1999, one of the best soundtracks ever, and just a great album. Every track is pretty special. It's got that epic "Dearly beloved..." beginning from "Let's Go Crazy," all the good Wendy and Lisa stuff on "Take Me With You," the soul and screaming on "The Beautiful Ones," backward talking, sexiness, the insane "oh ahs" on "When Doves Cry," the irresistible voice-of-God "I Would Die 4 U" and it's companion, "Baby I'm a Star," and of course the closing nine minute "Purple Rain" that was more or less a religious experience to me as a nine year old. This used to be my favorite album of all time, and it's still in my top several. I love it.
Prince and the Revolution: Around the World in a Day (1985) -- One of my favorite things about Prince was always the way he created his own little world, where religion and sex battled it out on the playground. This album is a perfect example of that, setting up the show with the "Mystery Tour"-like opening title track into his world (continuing with "Paisley Park"), talking about love and sex and country and pop culture and the search for God (Prince finding him, or God finding Prince, on "The Ladder" and "Temptation" in which God teaches Prince a lesson about being too sexy and confusing it with love). The music itself is good, of course, too. Every song is fantastic, and I like this as much or more than Purple Rain.
Prince and the Revolution: Parade (1986) -- The soundtrack for Under the Cherry Moon (a movie I personally like as much as Purple Rain), this album is pretty underrated (as was the previous album). It sounds like the black and white French movie its doing a parody of (and people seem to miss that this album and the movie was a parody, not that it matters), but the colors black and white are expressed in the minimal arrangements and snaps of the drums. Every song on this album is wonderful, just like the previous two, and this ends the Revolution era, and the best of the Prince records.
Prince: Sign o' the Times (1987) -- This is considered to be almost on par with Purple Rain by many Prince fans and critics, but to me -- though I think it's a good double album -- it doesn't really come close. In fact, even if you took the best songs and made them into a one album set, I don't think it would be as good. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the Revolution-period Prince in the end, and not much of a fan at all of his more R&B stuff (which makes me a bad Prince fan, I suppose). That all being said, I'm still kind of impressed with this album, and that it doesn't feel long at all (something that wouldn't be true later of Emancipation), and I think it does have lots of good songs, the best being "Starfish and Coffee," "U Got the Look," the great lyrics of "If I Was Your Girlfriend," and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man."
Prince: The Black Album (1987) -- The "legendary" album that Prince pulled at the last minute. It sounds more like a personal fun project than a real album (which is probably why he yanked it), and it mostly features jams and novelty tracks. "When 2 R in Love" is the most real song, and it appears on the next album.
Prince: Lovesexy (1988) -- This starts off very strong with "Eye No," "Alphabet St." (the best on the album), and "Grand Slam," then tapers out a bit. Most of it is pretty listenable, though, and it's one of Prince's best of the "second tier" albums. The cover of Prince naked, of course, is priceless. Too bad Prince pulled an early David Lynch and made the album only one track on the CD so you can't skip around.
Prince: Batman (1989) -- It struck me as weird at the time (and now too) why Prince did the soundtrack to Batman (the pop songs that is--Danny Elfman did the score), or why they chose him (other than his Warners affiliation), but if nothing else we got "Batdance," a cool sorta megamix of the entire album, even if the entire album isn't that great.
Prince: Graffiti Bridge (1990) -- If this is meant to be the sequel to Purple Rain, then it's certainly nowhere near that masterpiece. Of course, this is not just Prince, but all his pals too (The Time notably). The album is pretty much just paint-by-numbers Prince, with a few standouts like "Thieves in the Temple" and "Graffiti Bridge."
Prince and the New Power Generation: Diamonds and Pearls (1991) -- The first album with the New Power Generation, kinda decent, though it's lacking the uniform greatness that I like about Prince. Lots of it sounds both plastic and redundant, like Prince has forgot what he's doing. Though the highlights "Cream," "Gett Off," and "Diamonds and Pearls" show that he hasn't completely.
Prince and the New Power Generation: -o)+> (1992) -- The last album with the New Power Generation, known as the "Love Symbol Album," this seems to be the one critics site as one of his best in a while, but to me it suffers from much of the post-Revolution stuff, which is a plastic sort of sound rather than the mystical but pure rock sound of the Revolution. The songs might be good, but the production and self-indulgence get in the way. The highlights are "My Name Is Prince," "Sexy M.F.," and "7."
Prince: The Hits/The B-Sides (1993) -- This was pretty much the perfect time to have a greatest hits album for Prince. This was the year he changed his name to -o)+> and he would eventually plunge into weird internet albums and generally getting on his fans' bad sides. Up until this point, however, even if all his albums weren't as great as Purple Rain, they at least produced two or three good singles, and most of them are collected here. It might be nice to hear a chronological sequence, but the chosen sequence here works as well ("Purple Rain" has to be the last song on the disc, for example). The two hits CDs contain one masterpiece after another, throwing in a few new cuts (like the amazing "Peach") for good measure. Most of the songs are the single mixes (some aren't); this fact and the very good B-sides make this a great thing to have even for someone who has all the album to this point.
Prince: Come (1994) -- Not as bad as everyone says it is, though not great either. Everyone's just fed up with Prince at this point, I guess--right down to the fact that he'd changed his name to -o)+> right before releasing this album as "Prince." It's an album about coming, essentially, so that counts for something. It's fun enough.
-o)+>: Chaos and Disorder (1996) -- The last of Prince's Warner Brother's records, and put out in order to get out of that obligation, you can forgive the music if it's not as interesting. He's even got a note inside that says it was originally intended for "personal use." What's funny is that this album is actually better than the non-slave Prince album that followed, Emancipation. The songs here aren't his best and there isn't anything that especially stands out, but it's certainly listenable, unlike the three CD set. I suppose there's something to say for shackling Prince after all.
-o)+>: Emancipation (1996) -- I respect the ambition of three CDs at once, and am proud for Prince and his happiness in getting to make this album (and not be a slave anymore), but I just didn't enjoy most of the songs. A few stand out: mostly the covers he does, showing me that while his performances are always good, the songs he wrote for this one weren't necessarily good. The few originals that stood out for me were "Joint 2 Joint" and "Holy River" and maybe one or two more.
-o)+>: Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) -- In a hopeless attempt, Prince brings in all kinds of "featuring" artists like Gwen Stefani and Cheryl Crow (even covering one of her songs) to bring him back to the real world. When the album starts, even Prince fans are basically listening for these artists to pop up, hoping they will add some spark to the dull album. But they don't--in fact, you'd barely know some of them were there unless the liner notes said so. An album so average it's bad.
Prince: The Rainbow Children (2001)
Prince: Musicology (2004) -- Essentially the first "real" album since 1996's Emancipation. It isn't necessarily great, but it makes old fans happy to see that he's having fun doing decently good music again.
Prince: 3121 (2006) -- Prince is having a slow crawl back to the top, but this one continues from Musicology in the right direction and provides us with some truly great (not just good) Prince material. The first four songs would make a perfect EP. "3121" sounds like old school Prince, doing a "duet" with his pitch shifting character, Camille, from earlier albums. "Lolita" is a superfun song with a lot of little changes that keeps it interesting. "Te Amo Corazón" is cool and slow and lets us relax and bit. And the funky and irresistible "Black Sweat" tops it off with the best Prince single since "P Control." After this, the intensity lets off, but -- even without the first four songs -- is better than most recent Prince albums. One that you'll listen to a lot.
Prince: Planet Earth (2007)
Copyright (c) Jan 2001 - Jul 2008 by Rusty Likes Music