It was hard for Prince to win over some sections of the music-listening public. He was part Jimi Hendrix, part Sly Stone, part James Brown with a dash of Little Richard thrown in and had an air of arrogance, both aurally and visually.
But with this album he established that popular music in the 1980s could be consistent and substantial. The fact that it is the soundtrack to the film ‘Under the Cherry Moon’ adds focus. There are suitable opening and closing tracks relating to the film’s main character, Christopher Tracy, and the French aesthetic serves to curb Prince’s tendency towards rock theatricality.
A seamless procession of understated classics.
Prince’s artistic identity was starting to fragment, and these tracks are interspersed with snippets of a mock interview with a music journalist trying to pin him down. A rock opera rather than a film soundtrack, this epic album is a series of massive arrangements of generally easy-on-the-ear funk and pop songs.
There is a mood, though, and it lasts from start to finish. It goes with the trademark symbol, which makes its debut here, as does the number 7 (in song form). Aside from the first two songs, stand-out tracks cannot be found, but the listener is able to enter another world and re-emerge 75 minutes later.
Not as exhilarating as the album that preceded it, but more unified.
According to its creator, the artist by this time formerly known as Prince was ‘born to make’ this triple album. Given its massive scale, there is plenty of room for experimentation, ie house music, cover versions and guest appearances. Unlike at other points in his career, Prince doesn’t repeat himself musically.
With his marriage to Mayte, the dawn of the internet and release from his hated record contract, the artist seems full of joyous satisfaction, which he shares over three discs, each lasting exactly one hour. There are plenty of beautiful instrumental passages as well as the contemporary sounds and floor-filling opening and closing tracks one expects.
A perfectly-proportioned R & B masterwork.
The Rainbow Children (2001)
A quasi-biblical narrative unfolds in between brass-laden jazz and funk grooves on this, the first album to come out after Prince reverted back to his original moniker. The Rainbow Children probably alienated and delighted sections of his supporters in equal measure. It was certainly a left turn, although it did employ a familiar technique, that of breaking up the music with a humorous commentary, provided by a modulated voice.
Perhaps Prince’s new bride Manuela and his recently-found faith as a Jehovah’s Witness helped create the extremely positive air which pervades the piece. A whole theology is created involving a digital garden and a new translation of a holy text. When you couple this with a retelling of the story of slavery and the civil rights movement, jazz seems the perfect musical vehicle.
Social, spiritual and, as always, extremely musical.
HitNRun Phase One (2015)
Prince’s penultimate release is lyrically light but musically heavy, except for a couple of catchy tunes. There is no uplifting spiritual message and no jazz, instead we’re in the land of gangsta R & B and in a pretty dark mood, which is nevertheless punctuated by the everyday concerns of black youth and the sounds of now.
A cool seventies soul feel (and image) is married with modulated vocal signals and overdriven synths. Eleven tracks blend into one another. There’s virtually no rock guitar. Not a single track is funky. It’s not humorous, nor is it sexy. But, like the title suggests, it is dangerous.
Prince must by necessity have been insulated from other people so much of the time, otherwise how could he have recorded so much music? This fan is grateful. And thanks to him, too, for speaking out against cruelty to animals.