Prince’s 1978 debut album For You really helped establish the Minneapolis sound instrumentally. At least as far as I’m concerned. What made it different from Prince’s albums that would come along in the next half decade was that everything from the synth brass to the percussion was full and heavily orchestrated. Just after being asked by Warner Bros. to follow up this album,Prince began recording his sophomore album. As with his debut,he was still in a complete one man band approach in terms of the instrumentation. But seemed to be thinking more in terms of a distinctive instrumental approach.
Personally? I tend to be somewhat partial to the sound of For You in terms of projecting a very futurist,dreamy funk and soul soundscape. Prince’s self titled second album seemed heavy on slow,West Coast style ballads upon first listening to it. Over time,it became clear how much funk was actually present on this album. As Prince himself felt that this 1979 album was actually pretty contrived for hit singles. There is one song from this album that my friend Henrique Hopkins and I are often referencing in terms of typifying Prince’s entire approach to funk. And the name of this song was called “Sexy Dancer”.
A trumpet like blast of Polymoog synthesizer opens up the song. Following Prince’s sustained falsetto wail,the main rhythm of the song gets itself going. This consists of a driving 2 on 1 live drum beat holding down the fort. Above that is Prince playing his trademark high up on the neck rhythm guitar playing,with his slap bass solo mixed close and essentially acting as the lower end of the guitar tone. On the chorus of the song,Prince’s vocals play call and response to the synthesizer-with the break that opened the song separating each refrain/choral part of it.
The song itself features two separate bridges. The first one takes out all the instrumentation save for the drums-with one of the rhythm accents removed as well. Prince breaths and pants as a percussive element-again in call and response style to the synth brass. After another play of the chorus/refrain,there’s a snare heavy segment showcasing Prince’s bass/guitar interaction before the second bridge comes in. This one deals more with the bass backup up a very Ramsey Lewis style soul jazz/hard bop solo on what sounds like a Yamaha electric piano before the refrain closes the song right out.
Perhaps more than any song on his two late 70’s album,”Sexy Dancer” really points towards what would be his classic 80’s era sound. As with most of the uptempo music on this album,the instrumentation is very stripped down. Here it’s down to just spare rhythm-most importantly with his bass playing being primarily a low adjunct of his high pitched guitar approach. Using sexual panting as percussion also helped provide the song with the intense rhythmic bit it has. It was a major dance hit in the UK as well. In the end,the Prince sound that made him so famous probably started right here.