So far, every album has failed to live up to its memory for me. I sort of wish I hadn’t gone backwards to excavate it, and this despite two flat out masterpieces among the first five. But here at # 6, Prince’s most popular album Music From The Motion Picture Purple Rain sounds much better than I remember.
Once you get past the hits, and there are a lot of them, everything else sounds good as well. The first side of the album is just about the greatest and the second side is the greatest. On CD, the album is a a handful of good to great tracks, bookended by two masterpieces of arena rock with Prince joined by the Revolution. It never sinks, it floats through one piece of hard rocking greatness to another, and, as a soundtrack to “The Kid” winning the 1st Avenue wars with Morris Day’s sleazy and harsh The Time, and getting the girl, and getting away from his family and becoming the superstar of the 80s all in one hard rocking funk warped triumph, it proves itself capable of all those things. There is nothing getting in the way here, nothing to stop his reign from happening.
The vinyl album is a little different.The vinyl album is more in keeping with Prince’s previous album 1999. It opens very strong with statement of intent teenage moondream “Let’s Go Crazy” and the Appolonia duet “Take Me With You” and then the next three songs aren’t quite as good. “The Beautiful Ones” is fine but minor, “Computer Blues” is a dated instrumental and … You may remember how Lesley Gore freaked out after hearing one of her children singing the “Masturbating with a magazine” line from “Darling Nikki” -it isn’t even the hook. This lead directly to the “Parental Warning Explicit Lyric” labeling which has done so little for so many. It is a pity it isn’t a little better, it is a pity it isn’t “Little Red Corvette” or the still to come “Raspberry Beret”, all three are female sexual power songs.
Still, if the first side isn’t as great as you may have remembered, Side Two is much better. “When Doves Cry” needs no explanation here, if you don’t know it why are you reading about Prince? One of the strongest teenage angst and romance and “oparent rebellion songs of the 80s, it trounces everything else. And it doesn’t step backwards over the following three songs, three crossover pop songs, “I Would Die For You” moves on its programmed drums, “Baby I’m A Star” is a study in the self-evident as well as his epithet, “I don’t want to stop, till I reach the top”, and the title track (loosely based on Journey’s “Faithfully” according to Pitchfork) remains his defining moment.
As fans reacted to his death, they turned to “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain” to define where the weird one met us somewhere in the middle. These are arena singalongs, they are calls to unite from a man in his mid-twenties, who finally invited everybody to the party. And his band, The Revolution, only helped. Both songs have that definable thing that makes songs anthems, anybody can sing the hook to the title track and more, EVERYONE can sing the coda,. The guitar solo in the middle isn’t a sop to whitey, they are a guitar god reminding you he can do anything. The “uh oh let’s go” from “Let’s Go Crazy” flies in the face of the album, it leaps off it, from ‘uh oh” to “oh oh”, the songs are the opposite of gerrymandered: they are of a piece waiting for the world to claim them.
Purple Rain is not why Prince is a genius, Sign O’ The Time is his Prince is a genius moment, but it is why he is a star, it broke him all the way to the top, it made him “The Kid”. The album sounds so good today, if you back to back it with Born In The USA, they both express what Robert Christgau wrote about the latter: ” the aural vibrancy of the thing reminds me like nothing in years that what teenagers loved about rock and roll wasn’t that it was catchy or even vibrant but that it just plain sounded good.” Those words are equally true when it comes to Purple Rain, an album time has been kind to in ways it hasn’t for some of his earlier work.
playlist after playlist pushing the same handful on songs
sweet soul music
“All Night Parking” is so great it causes us to overestimate the album
This ain’t rap music, this straight literature
“an anthem for all the ones that have experienced getting manipulated,”
An abysmal top ten as we reach for the end of the year
a smooth and cagey sound
Azealia Banks has two nights at The Novo
lost all working class crdentials