Prince’s Legacy: The following is the Prince section from my copyrighted book, Everything Is on the One: The First Guide of Funk. While most of it was written some time ago, I had been in the process of updating and making it available in its entirety on funknstuff.net. Given the shocking news of his death, I thought I would post it now in tribute. I believe him to have been the greatest musical genius/performer of our lifetimes, and he meant a great deal personally to my family as you can read about in another post on this site.
RIP to the once and forever Prince.
PRINCE (born Prince Rogers Nelson, June 7, 1958, Minneapolis, died April 21, 2016)
The musical genius of his generation (and possibly of all time), the mysterious, multitalented Prince has exerted an immeasurable impact on popular music forms. With the heart of Mozart; elegance of Ellington; style of Miles; little of Little Richard; pelvis of Elvis; beat of the Beatles; sound of Brown; tone of Stone; tricks of Hendrix; swagger of Jagger; kick of Funkadelic; showiness of Bowie, wonder of Stevie; and spirit of Parliament, Prince is an amalgam of musical history’s greatest innovators and performers ― and yet he is an original unlike any other.
This classification encompasses Prince’s prodigious recording history as well as his work with protégé acts such as the Time, Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, Sheila E., the Family, Carmen Electra, T.C. Ellis, the New Power Generation, Madhouse and Mavis Staples. Even more so than George Clinton, Prince has contributed as producer and/or songwriter to more albums for more diverse artists than any other musician of his era.
Some of the countless projects that Prince has had a hand in but fall outside the scope of this category include Madonna; Miles Davis; Patti LaBelle; Earth, Wind and Fire; Tevin Campbell; Chaka Khan; George Clinton; Joe Cocker; Cyndi Lauper; the Bangles; Sheena Easton; Paula Abdul; Stevie Nicks; and Kenny Rogers. The dozens of songs Prince has released only as B-sides of singles and the hundreds of unreleased tracks (many of which can be found on bootlegs) he has stored away in his vault are likewise beyond the scope of this section. However, if you have access to these songs, most are worthwhile and many provide additional insight into the infinite realm of Prince’s musical personalities.
With doe-like eyes and a bushy afro, Prince strutted onto the scene in 1978 with his debut For You. Promoted as the new Stevie Wonder, Prince’s staggering gifts as a writer, arranger and producer are displayed on the nine-song, love-oriented collection. In addition, he is credited with playing 27 different instruments. Unfortunately, For You was light in the song department. The breathy synth single “Soft and Wet” and the jazz-rock fusion of “I’m Yours” were exceptions on an otherwise run-of-the-mill first effort. Prince’s limited falsetto singing further hindered the project.
Having fine-tuned and broadened his technique, Prince was rewarded with his first hit via his self-titled second album. The insistent guitar strumming that opened Prince and served as the driving force behind the gold single “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” made it immediately apparent that he was an artist to keep an eye on. That tune along with the rocker “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and the nasty funker “Sexy Dancer” got the LP off to a blistering start.
Alas, Prince only got it half right that time around as the rest of Prince, excluding the hard-rocking “Bambi” and the breezy “I Feel for You” (later made into the biggest hit of Chaka Khan’s career) faltered. “Bambi,” on which Prince pleaded with a lesbian that “it’s better with a man,” was a precursor to his racy new direction.
Prince made the first of what would be many controversial artistic statements with the sexually themed Dirty Mind. The LP came by its demo-like quality honestly as it was Prince’s management who convinced the artist and the label to release the material in its raw form. The album’s explicit lyrics and rock n’ roll attitude and sound contrasted sharply with Prince’s previous, more R&B-oriented outings.
By assimilating what new wave and punk had to offer and then marrying those emerging rock subgenres to funk, Prince had exhibited more growth and a greater willingness to take risks than any of his peers. In addition, Prince changed the face of dance music by using stabs of synthesizer, rather than horns, to punctuate the grooves. And, he did it without compromising the music’s gritty integrity. This technique was dubbed “The Minneapolis Sound.”
Prince’s racial and sexual ambiguity underscored music that defied categorization. From the hypnotic repetition of the pulsing title song to the closing anti-draft anthem “Partyup,” Dirty Mind rose to a feverish lather and never settled below a sultry steam. The LP, which made Prince a critical darling, included the hit “Uptown,” the much-covered (Cyndi Lauper, John Mellencamp) “When You Were Mine” and one of the 1980s’ greatest funk jams in the lascivious “Head.”
It was during this time that Prince began dazzling audiences with his live show, which was backed by an early configuration of the Revolution that featured Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums, Andre Cymone on bass and Dez Dickerson on guitar. Prince also unveiled his first side project, the Time, which he produced under the first of many pseudonyms, Jamie Starr.
Composed of Morris Day (vocals), Jesse Johnson (guitar), Jimmy Jam (keyboards), Terry Lewis (bass), Jellybean Johnson (drums) and Monte Moir (keyboards), the Time were one of the baddest, tightest and amusing bands of all time. Although Prince is believed to have nearly singlehandedly constructed the Time’s eponymously titled debut before he assembled the band, the Time proved their mettle with a knockout stage show. Highlights of their act and jamming LP, which was like a looser, funkier version of Prince, included “Get It Up,” “Cool” and “The Stick.”
The next Prince album was aptly titled Controversy. In terms of style, it was basically a sequel to Dirty Mind, only a little funkier and a little less raunchy. Sexual themes continued to abound, but this album also saw Prince waxing political (an area he first touched upon on “Partyup”). The title track, a synth- and guitar-driven heaping helping of funk, was one of Prince’s finest-crafted tunes and summed himself up nicely with lyrics that addressed his Rude Boy image, prejudice and spirituality.
The disc also contained the shuffling new wave funker “Sexuality” and the bass-powered “Let’s Work.” But, the record was not as focused as Dirty Mind. The flipside of the “Let’s Work” 12-inch single features the Dirty Mind outtake “Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)” and began a Prince tradition of putting unreleased material on nearly every single. Before the year was over, Revolution bassist Andre Cymone was replaced with Brown Mark. Cymone went on to record a series of marginal albums before reaping success as Jody Watley’s producer.
As if a single album wasn’t enough to produce each year, Prince brought forth the two-record set (now a single CD) 1999. This overwhelming accomplishment stimulated the masses and proved to be Prince’s breakthrough release. The album is the work of a genius tapping into the deep wells of his miraculous abilities. Superior in production, musicianship and, most importantly, songwriting to any of his prior releases, 1999 also found Prince straying from his falsetto to prove himself a singer of uncommon emotion.
It would be easier to list the LP’s shortcomings than its high points. The first three songs, “1999,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious,” were all pop hits, while “D.M.S.R.,” “Automatic,” “Lady Cab Driver” and “International Lover” all scored at black radio. The album was both Prince at his most accessible and at his funkiest. There were a few misfires to be sure (observe the disturbing “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”), but if you want to check out pre-1987 Prince, 1999 is the place to start.
Prince’s triumphant year didn’t stop at 1999. Rumored to have stolen beautiful Denise Matthews away from Rick James while they were on tour together, Prince renamed her Vanity and placed her at the forefront of the lingerie-clad trio Vanity 6. Their self-titled debut is thought to have been almost entirely created by Prince. Regardless of who was involved, the record was an enticing blend of funk, new wave and unbridled sensuality. The girls’ limited singing and bimbo imagery precluded the LP from being taken too seriously, but songs such as “Nasty Girl” and “If a Girl Answers (Don’t Hang Up)” were fun and funky.
The Time returned with their second effort, What Time Is It?, and succeeded in building upon the momentum of their sterling debut. While still produced by Prince, the members of the Time are believed to have played a much larger role than previously. The result was an even better, more cohesive, fatter-bottomed collection. Lengthy throwdowns like “Wild and Loose,” “777-9311” and “The Walk” were the bread and butter of the LP, but even the ballad “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” worked well.
Unless you weren’t born yet or were living under a rock, you’re already familiar with Prince’s Purple Rain period. From the point the sparse, haunting “When Doves Cry” bolted to an extended stay at the top of the charts, everything fell perfectly in place for Prince in 1984. The loosely autobiographical film and accompanying album were unqualified smashes, and deservedly so. For the first time, Prince shared billing with the Revolution, which now featured Wendy Melvoin on guitar in place of the departed Dez Dickerson. It was one of several personnel changes that swept through Prince’s camp during this period.
The Purple Rain album incorporated the rock element of early Prince with the songwriting acumen of 1999. Prince toned down his libidinous references and softened up the funk just enough to win over millions and skyrocket to superstardom status. Six of the disc’s nine songs were released as singles. Ironically, the three nonsingle cuts were among the best on the record. Besides the stunning “Doves,” the LP also contained the rousing rocker “Let’s Go Crazy,” the dramatic ballad “The Beautiful Ones” and the playfully lewd “Darling Nikki.”
Even the B-side of “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Erotic City,” became a sizeable radio and club hit, and marked Prince’s first collaboration with percussionist Sheila Escovedo, later renamed Sheila E. Although most hailed Purple Rain as Prince’s crowning achievement, funk pundits were not quite so enamored. Tracks such as “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star” were clearly pop compromises, and nothing on the record approached the brazen funk of “Head” or “D.M.S.R.” Prince was at a crossroads; would he continue to pander to the fickle tastes of the general public, return to his renegade roots or seek to conquer new territory? The answer fortunately turned out to be the latter.
George Orwell had it all wrong. It wasn’t Big Brother who was everywhere in 1984, it was a little guy from Minneapolis. Prince not only spearheaded the multimedia assault that was Purple Rain, but also oversaw albums from Sheila E., the Time and Apollonia 6. Coming from a family of respected musicians, Sheila E. stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight on her debut The Glamourous Life. The spicy title track, featuring Sheila’s flashy timbales banging, became a huge hit, and the springy “Oliver’s House” and the taut instrumental “Shortberry Strawcake” enlivened the balance of the LP.
The Time carried on despite the absence of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who Prince had fired for working on outside projects. Of course, Jam and Lewis went on to become the most successful producing team of all time. Ironically, Ice Cream Castle became the band’s bestselling album. It wasn’t as strong as their past efforts, but with dance jams such as “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” the LP was certainly worthy of the Time’s name. Even the title track and the rock-edged “My Drawers” had merit. However, the ballads were painfully woeful.
With Vanity departed, allegedly because she demanded too much money to star in Purple Rain, Patricia Kotero was chosen as her replacement. Renamed Apollonia, Kotero took over the upfront spot in what was now called Apollonia 6 for their self-titled album. Apollonia 6 was more straight-ahead funk than the Vanity LP, but it suffered from weak vocals and a general absence of zest that even the best production could not conceal. The disc included the marginal hit “Sex Shooter.”
The following year, Prince threw everyone for a loop with the 1960s-influenced Around the World in a Day. Prince’s answer to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Around the World in a Day was the first album released on his new Paisley Park label. A radical departure from his preceding work, ATWIAD found Prince moving farther away from funk and synthesizers, toward a more organic sound that incorporated denser, more grandiose arrangements, Middle Eastern flavorings and real horns.
In addition, songs such as “The Ladder” and “Temptation” represented the most overt religious messages of Prince’s career. It was refreshing to see Prince move away from the insanity of Purple Rain, but ATWIAD was his weakest outing since his humble beginnings. The wistful “Raspberry Beret” was the record’s one truly memorable song. Prince did contribute a winning tune to the USA for Africa’s We Are the World charity album with the spiritual, stripped-down “4 the Tears in Your Eyes.”
Prince contributed significantly less to Sheila E.’s sophomore effort Romance 1600 than he did to her debut. But in producing, writing and performing most of the material on her own, Sheila E. proved she had learned well from her mentor. Just as enjoyable as her first LP, Romance 1600 did include one major Prince boost in the 12-minute-plus funk hit “A Love Bizarre.” Sheila E.’s subsequent albums all have value, but Prince’s involvement was minimal at best.
Another release to emerge from the Prince camp in 1985 was the self-titled debut of the Family, which was in essence the new Time. Comprised of former Time drummer Jellybean Johnson, former Time valet Jerome Benton, saxophonist Eric Leeds, Susannah Melvoin (Wendy’s twin sister) and St. Paul (who does a great Prince impersonation), the Family disbanded almost immediately after the release of their album. It’s too bad because there was plenty of good music to be found. “Mutiny” is a chunk of meaty funk, while the single “The Screams of Passion” and a pair of instrumentals hit the mark as well. The disc also contains “Nothing Compares 2 U,” later made into a chart-topper by Sinead O’Connor.
Before the year was out, former Time members Jesse Johnson and Morris Day delivered their solo debuts. Johnson’s Jesse Johnson’s Revue was a highly successful record that was heavy on funk. But, whether intentional or not, Johnson never managed to rise above sounding like a second-rate Prince, and his expert proficiency as a guitarist was curiously not evident. The album contained the R&B hits “Be Your Man” and “Can You Help Me,” which on the B-side of its single, featured the best cut from these sessions in “Free World.” Of Johnson’s subsequent releases, 1988’s Every Shade of Love was easily the most worthwhile.
Morris Day’s The Color of Success was a flat, uneventful effort that featured the hit “Oak Tree.” The rest of Day’s solo catalog has been equally disposable. The fact that both Johnson’s and Day’s LPs posted solid sales was probably due more to the fact that Prince decided not to be funky that year than because they were outstanding recordings. In a fence-mending move, Prince donated the hit song “The Dance Electric” to Andre Cymone’s otherwise forgettable second album, A.C.
The next year saw the release of another Prince film (Under the Cherry Moon) and accompanying album (Parade). The movie, a comedic tragedy, was a travesty and a dismal flop. But, the LP was quite an impressive bit of work that required repeated listening to unravel. Parade continued the de-emphasis of electronics and the deployment of intricately layered arrangements that characterized ATWIAD. Only this time the music had a jazzier quality, the religious overtures were muted and the eclectic excursions were broken up by Prince’s funkiest tunes since 1999.
“New Position,” “Girls and Boys,” “Anotherloverholenyohead” and the No. 1 smash “Kiss” served notice that Prince was embarking on an exciting new course, one that would not include the Revolution, which he cut loose (except Dr. Fink) later that year. Even the waltzes “Under the Cherry Moon” and “Do U Lie?” were intriguing. However, the ballad “Sometimes It Snows In April” was annoyingly underdeveloped.
In yet another attempt to replicate the magic of the Time, Revolution bassist Brown Mark produced the eponymous debut of the seven-piece glam-funk outfit Mazaratti. Not up to the specs of the Time, but considerably better than the Jesse Johnson or Morris Day projects, Mazaratti was highlighted by the Prince-penned down-tempo funker “100 MPH.” The song was a substitution for “Kiss,” which Prince had pulled back for himself at the last moment. Mazaratti turned out to be another of several Prince-affiliated one-shot wonders.
Freed of the constraints of a band, Prince unleashed the landmark double-disc Sign ‘O’ the Times in 1987. Originally earmarked as a three-LP set, this tour de force was not only the ultimate achievement of an already brilliant career, but it was also arguably the greatest album of the rock era. A more impressive fusion of funk, rock, pop, folk, social commentary, romance, dance, spirituality and quirky eclecticism had never been borne, and when it was, it was realized almost entirely by a single individual.
There wasn’t a single throwaway among the discs’ 16 compositions. The title song was hypnotic; “Housequake” was the epitome of funk; “U Got the Look” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” were pop perfection; “If I Were Your Girlfriend” was enchantingly spooky; and “Forever in My Life” and “The Cross” were earthy and exhilarating. Sign left no doubt that Prince’s best work manifested when he was left alone in the studio with no outside help or contributions. Other musicians simply diluted his gifts.
A concert film documenting the Sign ‘O’ the Times European tour was also released. This terrifically photographed and performed movie features Prince’s most impressive band and is highly recommended. The lineup included Sheila E. on drums and sexy dancer Cathy (Cat) Glover as Prince’s stage foil. Prince also teamed up with Sheila E., bassist Levi Seacer Jr. and sax man Eric Leeds for the jazz ensemble Madhouse’s debut 8. The act went on to record a second album before subsequent releases were simply credited directly to Leeds. All were competent, but unspectacular.
This was an incredibly fertile period for Prince. Before the year was up and while Sign ‘O’ the Times was still generating hits, he had intended to release another album, but pulled the plug on it just as it was to go into production. That aborted project came to be known as The Black Album, and it became possibly the most bootlegged LP of all time. Actual pressings of it were rumored to have fetched $10,000 or more. Its wide circulation warrants inclusion here.
More than a band project than Sign, The Black Album was Prince’s funkiest album yet. From the opening “Le Grind” to the closing “Rock Hard in a Funky Place,” the funkathon eased up only for the tender “When 2 R in Love.” The jovial “Cindy C” was a saucy paean to Cindy Crawford, “Dead on It” pokes fun at rappers and “Bob George” was a funny, sinister tale of a jealous husband turned murderer. Any enthusiast is urged to hunt down a copy of this one.
Former Revolution bandmates Wendy and Lisa also released their self-titled debut in 1987. The album was a mildly engaging brew of jazz- and folk-influenced pop that at the very least demonstrated that the girls were indeed talented in their own right. The catchy “Waterfall” was one of the highlights. However, Wendy and Lisa, as well as their subsequent efforts, were more pleasant than distinctive or memorable. More impressive was the self-titled debut of longtime Prince sidekick Jill Jones. Prince was highly involved in the project, and it showed. The rock-funk tune “All Day, All Night” was one of many highlights.
With The Black Album derailed, it only took a few months for Prince to come up with its replacement, Lovesexy. This ambitious, musically complex LP showed off the Sign ‘O’ the Times band to good effect and was easily Prince’s most devout statement of spirituality. The tunes, except for the overblown “Glam Slam,” were solid, the grooves were for the most part funky and the artistic vision was reasonably clear. Amazingly, Lovesexy is better and more accomplished than The Black Album.
Lovesexy’s highlights include the bouncy “Alphabet St.,” the powerful ode to liberation “Anna Stesia” and the swinging title track. The LP’s only drawback was that some of the music was overarranged with parts sometimes stepping on one another. Prince also donated the song “Good Love” to the Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack. Sung in Prince’s electronically altered, or Camille, voice, this tune was a bubbly pop-funk number.
A natural match was struck in 1989 when Prince was contacted to compose songs for the much-ballyhooed Batman movie. Quickly warming to the film’s conflict of an enigmatic hero battling dark and evil forces, which so closely paralleled the soul searching of his previous music, Prince came up with an entire album in just a few weeks’ time. Having jettisoned the Sign ‘O’ the Times band, the Batman LP was another one-man endeavor.
Considering how swiftly the disc was produced, it was an astonishing piece of work. After all, it did return Prince to the top of the charts. But the collection’s nine songs are a decidedly mixed bag. The novelty hit “Batdance,” happy-go-lucky “Baby I’m a Star” retread “Trust” and sugary, bland Sheena Easton duet “The Arms of Orion” should not have made the final cut. However, tracks such as the brooding “The Future,” “Vicki Waiting” with its off-balance harmonics, and the highly erotic “Scandalous” kept the album from being merely a vehicle of whim. Prince began assembling his new band around that time and also discovered Candy Dulfer, an equally attractive and talented Scandanavian saxophonist who would go on to solo success.
Beginning around 1987, Prince began showing much more interest in his musical forefathers. While he had never released any recordings written by others, he was increasingly interjecting cover tunes into his live performances. This back-to-roots fascination led to the signing of R&B warhorses George Clinton and Mavis Staples to his Paisley Park label. Prince mostly left Clinton to his own funky devices, but he played a large role in Staples’ solo debut Time Waits for No One.
As the lead singer of the gospel-pop group the Staples Singers, Mavis established herself a vocalist of uncommon fire and soul. She proved she still had it on hot cuts such as “Jaguar,” but it wasn’t until her 1993 follow-up, The Voice, that she and the music fired on all cylinders. Buoyed by the gritty funk of “You Will Be Moved,” “The Undertaker” and “Melody Cool,” The Voice is one of the most pleasing Prince-associated projects to ever surface on Paisley Park.
Prince took aim at reviving Purple Rain mania in 1990 with a planned sequel and album, titled Graffiti Bridge, and new material from the reunited Time. The magic of 1984 went asunder as the whole undertaking fell far short of its intended mark. The muddled film was held back for several months and made one think that maybe Under the Cherry Moon hadn’t been so bad after all. The soundtrack was an unfocused affair that included appearances by the Time, teenage sensation Tevin Campbell, George Clinton, Mavis Staples and Prince’s new band the New Power Generation (NPG).
But as disjointed as it was, the album had some highly accessible funk-pop that would undoubtedly have been more successful had the movie been more competent. Only Campbell’s youthfully exuberant “Round and Round” realized its potential, even though Staples’ “Melody Cool,” the Time’s “Shake!” and Prince’s “New Power Generation” were equally worthy. The LP also contained Prince’s most compelling creations since Lovesexy in the evangelistic “Elephants and Flowers,” neoclassic “The Question of U” and mesmerizing “Joy in Repetition.”
The much-publicized Time reunion album Pandemonium was like old times in the sense that Prince was the primary force behind it, but it lacked the raw firepower of the band’s first two releases (with all the original members). Which is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. The Janet Jackson-like title song, wacky dance single “Jerk Out,” and funk-rockers “Blondie” and “Skillet” were all serviceable. But the best grooves were the James Brown-influenced “Chocolate” and the cocky, drums-driven “Release It,” which was only available on Graffiti Bridge.
A pair of Prince-associated debut albums appeared in 1991 by two people who did not sing or play a lick. Graffiti Bridge co-star and would-be poet Ingrid Chavez was backed by easygoing, theatrical music on May 19, 1992, while would-be rapper T.C. Ellis’ True Confessions transformed Prince and George Clinton tunes into hip-hop beats. These were the sort of LPs that even diehards put on once and then filed away forever.
Prince’s first full-fledged album with the NPG arrived late in the year and was called Diamonds and Pearls. Several elements marked the LP from Prince’s previous recordings. To begin with, it featured his first foray into rap, courtesy of NPG rapper Tony M. Secondly, it included the soulful vocals of Rosie Gaines, the most prominently featured non-Prince voice to ever appear on one of his albums. Thirdly, it was mostly a band project with more traditional instrumentation and fewer electronic devices than in the past. Lastly, it contained some of the most conventional-sounding pop of Prince’s career.
While D&P did go on to become Prince’s most successful album since Purple Rain, spawning four hit singles, it was an uneven, frequently awkward effort that confirmed he was in a creative tailspin. The concession to rap was unnecessary, particularly since Tony M’s delivery and rhymes were vapid and rudimentary. Songs such as “Walk Don’t Walk,” “Push” and “Money Don’t Matter Tonight” were bland and boring. “Thunder” and “Insatiable” were retreads of past releases. And, “Strollin’” and “Willing and Able” were better suited for B-sides. The Sly Stone-influenced “Daddy Pop,” infectious “Cream,” slamming “Gett Off” and rowdy “Live for Love” supplied D&P’s few highlights.
Was Prince losing it? As evidenced by his next album, the answer was an emphatic no. Titled for a symbol combining the biological emblems for male and female, the same moniker that Prince would later change his name to, the LP has been called the Symbol or Androgynous album. By any name, it was Prince’s strongest work since 1988. The disc was chockfull of state-of-the-art funk and intoxicating ballads. He was still working with the NPG, but the kinks had been ironed out and a new member, exotic belly dancer Mayte, was added to the troupe. The rapping was much less obtrusive and the departure of Rosie Gaines shifted more vocal responsibility to Prince, whose singing never sounded better.
It really didn’t matter that the album’s theme of a popstar’s romance with a 16-year-old Middle Eastern princess, featuring segues with actress Kirstie Alley, was muddled. Funky highlights included “The Max,” “The Continental,” “I Wanna Melt With U” and “The Sacrifice of Victor.” Ballad highlights included “The Morning Papers,” “Sweet Baby” and “Damn U.” Also included was the Biblically inspired hit single “7.” The LP only misfired on the flimsy reggae tune “Blue Light” and the bombastic “3 Chains O’ Gold,” which was a blatant rip-off of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
In the tradition of Vanity and Apollonia, came a new “fabulous babe” called Carmen Electra. Prince and members of the NPG played a major role in her enjoyable self-titled debut. The album served up lots of spirited funk such as “S.T.,” an update of the Ohio Players’ classic “Skin Tight,” “Everybody Get on Up,” “Fun” and “Just a Little Lovin’.” It was a shame that the LP did not get the attention it deserved.
Prince dropped a couple of bombs in the first half of 1993 by announcing he was retiring from recording and that he had changed his name to the symbolic emblem of his most recent album. But the year still saw new releases from him as a greatest hits collection was packaged three different ways. Available as either the single CDs The Hits Volume I and The Hits Volume II or the three-CD set The Hits/The B-Sides, these discs represented the first attempt at summarizing Prince’s towering contributions to popular music.
While most of the songs on The Hits are best appreciated when heard in the context of their original albums and many of them appear in edited form, these curiously sequenced compilations were ideal for casual fans. The three-CD version was also worthwhile for serious followers since it included new material, such as the glowing “Pink Cashmere,” hard-rocking “Peach” and hip-hopped “The Pope,” and rounded up the majority of Prince’s B-sides. Most of the B-sides, including gems such as “She’s Always in My Hair” and “Erotic City,” had not been previously available in digital form. But many of them are presented in abbreviated versions.
Gold Nigga, the New Power Generation’s debut album, dropped before the year was out on Prince’s new independent label, NPG Records. Although not mentioned in the credits, Prince contributed significantly to the project. With Tony M moved up front, the LP’s sound was similar to the rap-based songs that had appeared on Prince’s previous two releases. Despite the absence of an especially distinctive song, the band was much more palatable as a separate entity from their boss. Meanwhile, debuts were anticipated from Rosie Gaines and Mayte.
Prince’s “retirement” lasted all of a year as he yielded the lightweight pop ditty “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” early in 1994. He reportedly had assembled a new five-piece band called the Beautiful Experience, was returning to the guitar- and keyboard-driven funk-rock of the early 1980s and was gearing up for a new album. What else was he going to do, settle down and have a family? That’s for common folk, not for a man born married to his music, a restless perfectionist who used to be known as Prince.
(Editor update: Prince’s retirement, name changing and other antics during the 1990s were due to him wanting to get out of his Warner Brothers contract and also own his master recordings. In 1996, Prince married Mayte and lost his only known child a week after birth due to a rare skull defect. They soon divorced, and years later Prince subsequently remarried and divorced again. Around the year 2000 he began referring to himself as Prince again, and in 2014 he finally assumed ownership of the Warner period masters. Must-hear/have later albums include The Gold Experience [1995, FUNKY]; The Rainbow Children [2001, FUNKY]; 3121 [2006, FUNK]; Art Official Age [2014, FUNK]; and Hit N Run Phase 2 [2016, FUNK], and also New Power Generation’s Exodus [1995, [FUNK]) Prince’s April 21, 2016 death at 57 stunned the world as he had appeared to be in strong health apart from a bout of the flu.)
ALBUM RATINGS (5-star format as indicated by spelling out the word FUNKY, i.e. FUN = 3 stars) . . .
Prince – For You (Warner Bros., 1978) – FU
Prince – Prince (Warner Bros., 1979) – FUN
Prince – Dirty Mind (Warner Bros., 1980) – FUNK
Prince – Controversy (Warner Bros., 1981) – FUNK
Prince – 1999 (Warner Bros., 1982) – FUNKY!
Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain (Warner Bros., 1984) – FUNK
Prince and the Revolution – Around the World in a Day (Paisley Park, 1985) – FUN
Prince and the Revolution – Parade (Paisley Park, 1986) – FUNKY
Prince – Sign ‘O’ the Times (Paisley Park, 1987) – FUNKY!
Prince – The Black Album (Unreleased, 1987) – FUNKY
Prince – Lovesexy (Paisley Park, 1988) – FUNKY
Prince – Batman (Warner Bros., 1989) – FUNK
Prince and the New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls (Paisley Park, 1991) – FUN
Prince and the New Power Generation – O(+> (Paisley Park, 1992) – FUNKY
Prince – “The Most Beautiful Girl In the World” single (N.P.G., 1994) – FU
Apollonia 6 – Apollonia 6 (Warner Bros., 1984) – FU
Ingrid Chavez – May 19, 1992 (Paisley Park, 1991) – FU
Andre Cymone – Survivin’ in the 80’s (CBS, 1983) – FU
Andre Cymone – A.C. (CBS, 1985) – FU
Morris Day – The Color of Success (Warner Bros., 1985) – FU
Morris Day – Daydreaming (Warner Bros., 1988) – FU
Morris Day – Satisfaction Guaranteed (Warner Bros., 1993) – F
Sheila E. – The Glamorous Life (Warner Bros., 1984) – FUN
Sheila E. – Romance 1600 (Paisley Park, 1985) – FUN
Sheila E. – Sheila E (Paisley Park, 1987) – FUN
Sheila E. – Sex Cymbal (Warner Bros., 1991) – FUN
Carmen Electra – Carmen Electra (Paisley Park, 1992) – FUNK
T.C. Ellis – True Confessions (Paisley Park, 1991) – FU
The Family – The Family (Paisley Park, 1985) – FUNK
Jesse Johnson’s Revue – Jesse Johnson’s Revue (A&M, 1985) – FUN
Jesse Johnson – Shockadelica (A&M, 1986) – FUN
Jesse Johnson – Every Shade of Love (A&M, 1988) – FUNK
Jill Jones – Jill Jones (Paisley Park, 1987) – FUNK
Eric Leeds – Times Squared (Paisley Park, 1991) – FUN
Eric Leeds – Things Left Better Unsaid (Paisley Park, 1993) – FU
Madhouse – 8 (Paisley Park, 1987) – FU
Madhouse – 16 (Paisley Park, 1987) – FUN
Mazaratti – Mazaratti (Paisley Park, 1986) – FUN
The New Power Generation – Gold Nigga (N.P.G., 1993) – FUNK
Mavis Staples – Time Waits for No One (Paisley Park, 1989) – FUN
Mavis Staples – The Voice (Paisley Park, 1993) – FUNKY
The Time – The Time (Warner Bros., 1981) – FUNKY
The Time – What Time Is It? (Warner Bros., 1982) – FUNKY
The Time – Ice Cream Castle (Warner Bros., 1984) – FUNK
The Time – Pandemonium (Paisley Park, 1990) – FUNK
Vanity 6 – Vanity 6 (Warner Bros., 1982) – FUN
Wendy and Lisa – Wendy and Lisa (Columbia, 1987) – FU
Wendy and Lisa – Fruit at the Bottom (Columbia, 1989) – FUN
Wendy and Lisa – Eroica (Columbia, 1990) – FUN