While writing this,I am still reeling from the sudden death of Prince Rogers Nelson. He passed all too young at the age of 57. It happened on what was in my neck of the woods a warm sunny Thursday. Those were the same circumstances in which the world lost another 80’s era icon of funk in Michael Jackson almost eight years ago. My perception of Prince’s life is quite a bit different. Right now,I cannot bring you an Anatomy of THE Groove article on any of his songs due to Prince’s music being absent from YouTube. So have decided in tribute to focus on his most significant full albums of his through the decades.
Prince’s 1978 debut comes across as his most creatively satisfying albums of his first (and very short) decade as a recording artist. The fact that songs such as “Just As Long As We’re Together” are very instrumental oriented make the funk of this album some of his funkiest. Above all,the fact Prince used Polymoog synthesizers to play the horn charts and string arrangements on this album make it the official beginning of the Minneapolis sound. A debut that I feel more Prince admirers would be wise to give another chance.
The early to mid 80’s were generally Prince’s peak period of creativity. But on the other hand,his third album of the decade really pulled it all together. Featuring his band the Revolution featuring bassist Dez Dickerson,drummer Bobby Z and keyboardist Lisa Coleman this album contained some of the finest music of Prince in whatever genre he was embracing. The funk was on fire on the title song,”D.M.S.R” and “Lady Cab Driver”,he was getting seriously electronic on “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “Automatic” while he rocked out in style on “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious”. This album really put him on the map as a creatively and commercially successful artist.
The 1990’s would be a musically mixed decade for Prince. He spent much of it being the literal symbol for musicians rights-again with mixed results. Musically speaking,his second album of the decade in Diamonds And Pearls did for this decade what 1999 did almost a decade earlier. Introducing his band the New Power Generation for the first time,Prince embraced hip-hop styled productions to a heavier extent on songs such as “Gett Off”. But also took the time out for the breezy,swinging jazz of “Strollin” along with more progressive pieces like “Thunder” and the country rock of “Cream”. Not to mention the epic soul ballad of the title song.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of this album. Prince had been making albums pretty consistently over the years. But what a surprise when 3121 burst out in 2006 and Prince was back with his first number 1 pop record in years,plus a massive single in “Black Sweat”-very much the “Kiss” in terms of stripped down Minneapolis funk for the early aughts. Coming out with the pounding rocker of “Fury” on the same album showcased Prince hadn’t skipped a beat musically.
While I could lean towards his 2014 release Art Official Age as being a strong Prince album for the 2010’s,this one actually takes the cake personally. Only released officially as a free covermount CD on a number of different European music magazines,my local record haunt Bull Moose Music actually stocked a few copies. What this album did well was present the synthesizer/drum machine heavy electro funk Minneapolis sound as a musical sub genre,rather than a passing trend. This never got an official release and is becoming a much sought after collectors items.
Prince’s released catalog of music spans 43 albums strong. This was not the easiest list for me to make. Albums such as Purple Rain,Emancipation,Dirty Mind,Musicology,Parade and especially the groundbreaking Sign O The Times were all amazing pieces of music. This actually brings me to the idea of doing a similar article on Prince’s favorite creative moments. Time will have to tell if Prince’s music will find it’s way back online after his passing. But what’s important is that funky rhythms could survive the way they did through his work and musical influence.