Alphabetical CD Marathon: P (Part 9)

Prince

My earliest recollection of hearing the music of the diminutive purple (or is it peach and black?) pop deity is listening to “When Doves Cry” on my dad’s car radio – we used to listen to the UK Top 40 on the way home from my Nan’s, or if we were late I used to listen to it on my own in the spare bedroom while the rest of the family watched crap television in the front room. It’s the only radio I have ever really listened to. If it was Nan’s turn to come to us then I’d get the added bonus of being able to record it. Remember the excitement of trying to pause, before Bruno Brookes or whoever the DJ was back then, spoke, and then un-pause quickly when the next song started?

However I am sure that I was aware of the Minneapolis midget before then – I must have heard the likes of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” before the Purple Rain singles. That said my CD collection starts with Purple Rain and uses The Hits/The B-Sides as an archive of the stuff I used to have on tape.  It helped to have a friend who was massively into Prince who I could record stuff from, but the days of cassette tapes has long gone now. I ditched mine around the same time as I got into MiniDisc – whata mistaka to maka.

So Purple Rain… what a terrific album – not only does it contain the haunting “When Doves Cry”, but also the brilliant “Let’s Go Crazy”, the oddly sexual (like that doesn’t cover most of his stuff) “Darling Nikki” and “Computer Blue”, the energetic “Baby I’m A Star” and the epic “Purple Rain”.

The film of the same title helped immensely – it had a reasonably good plot, was funny and emotional in equal measure and contained  some great live performances from Prince and the Revolution and also Morris Day and The Time. I’m sounding a bit like a broken record but “Uptown Funk” sounds very ‘Minneapolis” to me and would’ve fitted nicely into the film. The other tracks on the album are all pretty good too and it’s an album that has to be consumed as a whole and not randomly shuffled.

Parade, the soundtrack to another Prince film entitled Under the Cherry Moon is a bit harder to digest being a lot more percussion based and electronic sounding. That said “New Position”, “Girls & Boys” and “Anotherloverholenyohead” are great. The obvious stand out track is “Kiss” which Tom Jones murdered in his club singer style. Prince is vocally excellent and the guitar parts are exquisitely funky.

I’m not sure that Parade is really where Wendy, Lisa and the rest of the Revolution wanted to be musically – it’s somewhat of an indulgent risk in terms of its departure from Purple Rain with the amount of percussive loops it uses. It’s certainly a stylish album but, unlike Purple rain, I don’t feel like any of the other album tracks are particularly noteworthy (with perhaps an exception granted to “I Wonder U” for W&L fans) and I am more inclined skip tracks to get to the meat of the album.

Don’t ask me why I don’t own Around the World in a Day. It’s unlike me to have a gap, but I guess when I bought Parade I rated it more than Around the World in a Day and didn’t think the gap needed plugging. The four tracks mentioned in the first paragraph of this section to my mind far outweigh anything on the missing album.

Sign o’ the Times is a great double dollop of funkiness which kind of peters out by ‘side 4’ but has some awesome tracks prior to the tail off. The title track is one of the best songs ever, by anyone, full stop. Taking the electronic beats to the extreme with a great bassline it counterpoints Prince’s smooth vocals which are more naturalistic than on Parade. “Play in the Sunshine” provides a bit of fun along with the enormously funky “Housequake” and the kooky “The Balled of Dorothy Parker”. Prince like Jarvis Cocker is a great storyteller.

“It” has Prince returning to one of his favourite subjects. “Starfish and Coffee” seems to go with the Dorothy Parker tune and then we’re back to sex again with “Slow Love”. “Hot Thing” is from the same brain space as “Housequake” and keeps the album bouncing from one eclectic vibe to another. “Forever in My Life” for me is the weakest track on the first disc, but it’s short and sweet and does have a good percussion loop.

The second disc starts off very promisingly with the Sheena Easton duet “U Got The Look” and features one of my favourite lyrics – ‘did I say an hour? My face is red, I stand corrected…’ The attitude oozes from both performances and while it’s one of the more accessible of Prince’s tunes it demonstrates his ability to pen a catchy song and pull in choice talent when required.

“If I Was Your Girlfriend” is my favourite track on the second disc if not the whole album. The singing is geeky and soulful, the sentiment is weird and romantic, the music atmospheric and lamenting. Okay, it descends into a Prince ‘perv out’ by the end of the track, but hey no-one’s perfect and it kind of completes this strange track. Do I recall a film for Sign O’ the Times? I can’t remember if this song featured.

The very jolly “Strange Relationship” kind of sums up a few co-dependant situations I have been in and said a lot to me when I first heard it about an ex-girlfriend and along with the overly long and ‘Purple-Rainy’ story-song “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” kind of marks the end of my listening interest in this album. I really don’t rate the last three tracks.

I love Lovesexy. I recall having to hide the album from my dad in case he saw the cover and thought I had ‘turned’ – he had his doubts about me anyway when I started wearing a pink shirt and a blue American style cardigan. It’s an album to be listened to as a whole with all tracks as good as each other.

“ I No” is a great opener. The noise Prince makes to announce his presence after the sound effects and female spoken intro is great and he tips his hat to the New Power Generation before he gets cracking on singing about ‘spooky electric’ and ‘lovesexy’ – religious themes believe it or not.

“Alphabet St” is one of my favourite Prince songs with great lyrics, clever percussive loops, quirky samples and brilliant guitar. The vocal delivery at 1:44 is just so catchy and the rap from Cat is brilliant and not at all incongruous like a lot of rap inserts can be. The ‘A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I love you’ towards the end used to give me goosebumps.

I’m also a big fan of “Glam Slam” (although it seems a bit low key after “Alphabet St”), “Anna Stesia” and “Positivity”, but it seems naughty to single them out on such a good album.

Batman is a surprisingly good album. There was a lot of hype over Tim Burton’s film and it was hard to ignore it and just listen to the album for its music rather than the internal film imagery it invoked. Obviously the use of copious amounts of dialogue samples from the film doesn’t help in this respect and I guess it’s silly to attempt to ‘blank out’ your mind given that a lot of the song lyrics relate directly to the film plot. That said I am a big sucker for film dialogue samples (I’m a PWEI fan for God’s sake!) so I love it!

I remember loving “Batdance” at the time, but now it seems to be showing its age – I think it’s great how it links back to the other songs and use of samples is cool, but it’s too much of an unstructured mash-up for my liking. It’s nice to hear Sheena Easton back for “The Arms of Orion” which could have been on any Prince album as it seems to have little to do with the film.

Apart from the 3 disc The Hits/B-Sides collection that’s where my CD collection ends for Prince. I followed him up to and including The Black Album, but lost interest after that. I bought “Gett Off” on CD single and the rest was recordings.

The Prodigy

Some might say that I should leave this to another post, but as mentioned previously, unlike Austin Powers, I am keen to finish P’ing as soon as possible so I can get on with Queueing. I only have four of The Prodigy’s CDs so it’s not going to kill me (or you) to carry on.

Music for the Jilted Generation is a pretty much consistently good album from the chaps that brought you “Charlie”. I bought it having danced to “Voodoo People”, “Speedway” and “No Good” in the dry ice and strobe of my local indie club. I say danced, I probably looked like I was having some kind of seizure, but then I wasn’t alone. I didn’t need to take Ecstasy to appreciate the tribal euphoria that a decent bit of rave or big beat dance music engendered, but I guess I did drink a lot of Welsh Lager to keep the NRG up.

Probably one of the weakest tracks on the album is the one I should like the best – “Their Law” features PWEI, but it sounds kind of flat in comparison to the beats per minute of most of the other tracks. Again don’t ask me what happened to Experience – I have it digitally in a couple of formats but never actually owned it. I had dance collections with their early singles on so never felt the need I guess.

The Fat of the Land seems to me to be a little more accessible to the masses than the previous album and that’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s no denying that “Firestarter”, “Smack my Bitch Up” (a.k.a. “Chips and Ketchup” in my car) and “Breathe” are great tracks but the edge seems more manufactured, less authentic, than the stuff on Music for the Jilted Generation. Being a big Chemical Brothers fan I’ve got a lot of time for the more instrumental big beat tracks “Diesel Power” and “Funky Shit”.

The album’s a bit like What’s the Story Morning Glory in that I’m sure it shifted units, but it left me as a fan a little nonplussed despite some big singles and their Art of Noise samples.

Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned seems like a return to form. “Spitfire” is a huge opening track with enormous beats, massive bass hits and great distorted vocals, “Girls” is really funky and I like the fact that they are using original female vocals and seem to have sampled themselves in places (e.g. in “You’ll be Under my Wheels”).

The female vocals are most evident in “Hot Ride” which uses the familiar ‘up, up and away in my beautiful balloon’ lyric in a rather sleazy/sinister fashion and some nice grungy guitars. As well as familiar sounds there also seems to be an Arabian influence with lots of odd sounding strings and pipes (not that this wasn’t already creeping in during the previous album e.g. the Sisters of Mercy sounding female vocals in “Smack my Bitch Up”).

For me this album seems like a progression of The Prodigy sound rather than a cash cow and it stands up to repeated listening. I think it was this album that I had in my car for the longest time and it just keeps giving. Admittedly after the joyous Michael Jackson “Thriller” style grooves of “The Way It Is” I usually skipped the final, quite lame, track “Shoot Down” to get back to “Spitfire”.

Invaders Must Die has an awesome title track as track 1. The announcement ‘we are The Prodigy’ before the big beats and the ascending high pitched synth kick in on “Invaders Must Die” holds so much promise for a fan and the track, which is mostly instrumental, builds and builds in all the right places and contains some killer loops.

The single “Omen” follows which is probably my favourite track. It has a relentless drive to it and is great to dance to – be it at home in my bedroom or at a party – and sing along to. The danger is with The Prodigy that if you are in the car you tend to start breaking every speed limit put in front of you. Fuck ‘em and their law!

“Warrior’s Dance” has a somewhat retro vibe and could easily have appeared on Experience although it might have sounded less ‘crunchy’. It ticks all the boxes in terms of tempo, slow interludes and then thumping bass. Excellent old skool tricks. Also the album has a good final track “Stand Up” which is proper ‘big beat’ stuff – the kind of thing Fat Boy Slim would’ve been proud to bang out at the Boutique back in the day. It makes a great appearance in the film Kick Ass and is as catchy as fuck.

I guess you’re wondering what I think of the new album. I’ve listened to it a bit since it came out a week or so ago, but it’s too early for me to form a proper recordable opinion. My knee jerk reaction was one of disappointment, but I’ve been there before and learnt my lesson (I’m thinking about how much I hated and now love American Idiot).

Anyway I hope that didn’t feel too rushed but I have Queen to listen too… ha ha!

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