Prince album #1: For You (1978)/ 2017 Grammys Prince Tribute

[A few comments before I actually start on this… it’s been an interesting couple of days. I have another post being written at the same time, but it’ll be done on February 13th… anyone who’s followed this blog since 2014 knows the significance of that.
Other than letting the radio run its course as I usually let it, I hadn’t listened to any other music this week beside what keeps me in the mindset of what I want to write about.
With Prince in particular, I want to approach the next several months as follows: I want to try to keep everything I see and hear about him in the time period I’m exploring. Listening to all the music I have from Prince of those particular time periods. Some of which includes bootlegs I received from fans my first few months at prince.org. They said something like “you need to be educated.” And apparently I can’t get the full Prince experience with albums alone. I’m also simultaneously reading “Prince: The Man and the Music” by Matt Throne- my Christmas present this year and reading it up through the album/time period I’m at. Not going beyond until I’m ready to go to the next album. And right now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go right onto the next album next week.]

Okay, I’ve listened through the album at least 3 times in the past week. I’m going for my 4th time just before doing my track by track discussion.
“For You” is Prince’s debut album. But for some odd reason, I’ve never seen a physical copy of it in person. I’ve seen his 2nd album [self-titled] plenty, but never “For You.” I remember Prince being on Ellen in 2004 when he was promoting “Musicology” [I do not remember if I saw this appearance before or after I made my fandom official. I’m willing to assume after because I remember trying to Google the lyrics for “Nothing Compares 2 U” afterwards. And she showed him that she had a copy of the LP and he said “she’s from the old school, she knows what’s up”

From what I’ve read, it did moderately well in sales, but by no means spectacular. And supposedly Prince worked on it for so long that he didn’t just overproduce it [you know, just a tad] and blow almost all of his allotted budget meant for three albums on one… it sounds like it gave him a case of PTSD. Working on it (at times while being observed by an executive from WB) was so stressful that he never brought any of the songs on the road after his first promotional tour. I think “Soft & Wet” was the one exception, but even that wasn’t heard too often.
[Going through princevault.com, “For You” was referenced once, “In Love”- never- which is a tragedy, “Soft & Wet was the most frequently done, “Crazy You”- twice- once in 1981 and once in 2002- another tragedy, “Just as long as we’re together”- done frequently 1979-1980, “Baby”- once- and it was January 21st 2016 (just wow… he waited until one of his last concerts to perform it live), “My love is forever”- never- (awww!!), “So Blue”- once in 1979 (not a big deal in my book, and “I’m Yours”- Matt Thorne writes that he might have played it during his first tour but only one recording of that tour exists, and he’d brought it back to the Conga Room in 2009. Princevault.com says also at Paisley Park in 2014).

I think “Soft & Wet” and “Just as long as we’re together” made a greatest hits list or two. But the others were never really heard from again.

Okay, now I’m done getting sidetracked and doing the actual discussion 😛

I believe I first heard some tracks from “For You” on EmancipationRadio in 2008- because that was the 30th anniversary of the album. And mentioned on prince.org that I was actually getting interested in it. Before that point, I wanted nothing to do with Prince’s 70’s output because whatever little I heard of it, I wasn’t a fan enough of it to go forward.
“I wanna be your lover”- compared to lots of songs that would follow- to me, it was just blah. So I bypassed [self-titled]. That was the opening track on “The Very Best Of…” which was the 2nd album I got my hands on March 2007.
In the first couple sets of bootlegs I was gifted, I had some early tracks that never made albums. And several I deleted because I didn’t like them enough to hold onto them- they included two 94 East tracks (a band Prince recorded with, which included Pepe Willie- Pepe was dating Prince’s cousin and was one of the earliest people aware of his immense talents, as well as “Make it through the Storm” and “Wouldn’t you love to love me”- these two were discussed in the book. I found the latter kinda repetitive. The former, I have no recollection of.

But anyway… someone on prince.org gifted me with the mp3’s of “For You.”
And honestly, I think I’d only listened to them maybe 7 times since I got them. Once as soon as I got them.
Then there was a gap in time.

Speaking of PTSD- I had a severe case regarding “In Love.” I love the song… but when I was giving the album the time of day, it was a weekend my parents were away for a wedding and my sister and I were at the house with the dog.
It was 10pm on a Friday night and our fire alarm went off for no reason. Not wanting to leave the dog alone in the house, we walked him to a neighbor’s house and he came back with us to help us figure out how to disable it.
There was a sleep button we had to push and that more or less worked.
However, it happened a couple more times during the weekend. Eventually, it got to the point later on that we just took the battery out of the one faulty smoke detector and never replaced it. [And before anyone gets on my case about it, we have at least 12 smoke detectors in the house. Two or three functioning ones on the 2nd floor. We can afford to be short one… we also learned within the next few weeks that we should get in the habit of changing the batteries every year].

The point of the story… because of this, whenever I heard the opening bars of “In Love”… it has a very unpleasant side-effect. I cringe- just recollecting how painful the smoke detector was to listen to and the panic of that night not knowing how to shut it off and the worry about not knowing when/if it’ll start up again.

Listening to this album again and putting myself in different places while doing so, I think I’ve started to cure myself of that. But I have to be ready to hear the song.

Done with the rants and onto the actual album [I am so sorry for anyone coming here for the first time… I try to write my posts through flow of consciousness and go off-topic a lot more than I should]…

Here’s what I will say for any given Prince album… never said this before, but I should make it a thing.
There’s a saying that [I googled this so I get it right]- “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
How I’ll adapt this for Prince- when you have a brand new Prince album, you can’t really get to know it well unless you spend a week with it.

I’d done this a couple of times with Prince albums. I’d spend a week with them exclusively to really get to know them. With varying results.
To avoid the situation of getting sick of “For You,” I only listened when I was really in the mood for it. If I didn’t want to squeeze it in one day or feel like putting the effort in, I just gave myself a day off. With the other blog post I’m writing at the same time, compartmentalizing was a lot easier.

We’re allowed to listen to our iPods at work, so I did it once at work. I also listened on two commutes on the way home. [I have my earbuds in the whole time and only have to turn it on and press play, which I can manage without taking my eyes off the road… I also only listen to my iPod at points where the road is clear in front of me and I know my commute so well that I know precisely when I can do it].
Considering its his debut, it should be considered a ‘spring album’ because that’s the time of year of new beginnings. But with the snow on the sides of the road and the days kinda cloudy… dare I say it… “something about the clouds and [it] mixed”… to put a spin a “Raspberry Beret” lyric.

I’d discussed the album only a couple times before. Not a huge amount of praise. Mainly, I’ve fallen into the trap of echoing what other people, more experienced fans, have said. I don’t like to go with the crowd when it comes to Prince music, even within his in-crowd.
But to go over it briefly… it’s not a long album. I can be 20 minutes into my trip (which is between 45-60 minutes depending on my speed and traffic, lots of highways so speeds vary between 65-75 mph) and finish it as I roll into my driveway.
The Oberheim synthesizer is Prince’s go-to instrument that lays the foundation and main groove/melody to the songs. His electric guitar makes two appearances- one particularly dominating one. Two tracks are mainly acoustic guitar grooves that would be at home on his acoustic guitar album “The Truth” from 1997. There are two songs released as singles that fit right into the disco era that was the 70’s with a lot of keyboard wizardry and finesse. Vocally, Prince was VERY dependent on his falsetto early in his career. So with some exceptions, it was his go-to vocal style that he used for nearly every song until “Controversy.” The opening track of the album, he used his normal register, which helps signify a change in direction.

While on the falsetto… one point I thought of the 2nd day of listening… Prince often said how comfortable he was with his falsetto. Yet with all the time he had in the studio, I can’t help but wonder if he was so concerned with making this album perfect that he overdid it with the overdubs. Or maybe he wasn’t as confident about it as I thought he was.
Certain vocals are really spectacular. “Baby” is very heartfelt and beautiful at points. “So Blue” was my least favorite track (maybe even less so than the accapella opening tile track), but hearing it a few more times… the lyrics are repetitive and don’t really go anywhere. But his voice breaks later on and in turn, I can feel my heart break listening to it. That’s pretty powerful.

Here’s the key thing to consider, though… before the track by track, which I will finally get to…
supposing this was my first ever introduction to Prince, would I be impressed enough with it to follow through to the next album? Would this convince me to buy more albums from him?
There are flashes of brilliance, of course. I’ll go into some of those in a bit. But when compared with a lot of artists in the same category: black funk, disco and R&B… would it stand up enough against the competition for Prince not to get lost in the shuffle? The only thing, in general, that sets him apart is the fact he plays, performs, composes and produces everything himself. The prestige of him being a prodigy. Not much else sets him apart at this point.
Except maybe his bad-ass keyboarding skills. His guitar playing is ambitious, but it isn’t at the level to set him apart yet. He wouldn’t reach that point until the Purple Rain album.

For You- the track- it’s very short. Only 1:06. It’s acapella as I said before. At least a dozen Princes singing at once. Three lines of lyrics. Then lots of ad-libbing and one note held at the end as the song fades out.

It’s worth pasting them here just because there’re so few lyrics.

All of this and more
Is for U
With love, sincerity and deepest care
My life with U I share

[courtesy of http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/album/foryou/%5D

Vocally, it is kind of impressive. Not much to really say about it as a whole. It’s a bold move- your first album, the first time a lot of people will be hearing you, and you go from vocals alone. Especially when you consider yourself more of a musician by trade. [I’m sure Prince thinks more of himself as an instrumentalist than a vocalist… I read in the book also that Chris Moon had to teach Prince how to sing into the mic in the studio so his vocals will be able to be picked up. I think the story goes is that he had Prince lay down on the studio floor and put the microphone in his mouth. His vocals would soon enough catch up with his instrumentals. He’s a very underrated guitar player, but I don’t think his vocals are given much credit either. He’s not often in the same breath as Smokey Robinson, considered one of the best falsetto vocalists ever].

I can’t help but wonder listening to it, though. Was it a gimmick to introduce the album? Did he not know a better way to do it? Were the lyrics really genuine and he wanted to share his heart with his listeners through his music? And did he have any idea years from then that his career would become so impressive and as such an introverted person in his personal life, that he’d make himself slightly vulnerable by sharing his thoughts with those who listen to him?

There isn’t much to this track, so this is the only other way I can go with the discussion. Going into the what ifs and guesswork of it all.

Enjoying the book so far, but there are a couple of things I do take issue with. Small things, but to me, they kinda feel like big things.
One passage, I think, read something like this: “The feeling of writing the songs and the feeling of listening to them are two different things”… and that bothers me. It’s like saying Prince didn’t have the same feelings when he wrote the songs as I get when I listen to them. I listen to them to get a read on him, what he thinks or feels about certain situations. If the songs aren’t derived from what’s inside the musician, what are they?
After tripping on that line, I spent the next 10 pages getting lots of insight, but also distrusting the person writing the material. Feeling that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s the same feeling I got when people on prince.org said I didn’t know what I was talking about because I was a newbie- as if that makes my opinion on Prince’s music any less important? I attained/obtained (not sure what the right word is in this case) so much information about him in such a short time. But I wasn’t taken seriously because I liked some songs that others said were terrible. This happened even before Planet Earth came out… an album 99% of fans deemed terrible and I was in the minority of loving it.

But another thing that bugged me… I mean, Matt Thorne had good sources and all that for people who worked with Prince and that he quoted about him… but I read passages about Chris Moon and about how he wanted to take Prince in the direction of sexual innuendo to market him and endear him to teenage girls.
That’s the biggest part of Prince’s overall persona- what made him stand apart from all the other artists. “Soft & Wet” is one thing. But it almost sounded like he was taking credit for Prince’s reputation as an R-rated musician.
And it also made me worry about all the filthy songs he’d written over the years… how much of that persona was really him? And how much was marketing strategy?
“Darling Nikki” had to be genuine. With those vocals and the rawness about it and the fact he owned it as “…the coldest thing [he]… wrote”… that had to be real.
I’ve read how in interviews he doesn’t always give genuine answers. The media has turned him so badly over the years, taking things out of context and writing their own story about him regardless of what he actually said. I can understand that to a point. There was an interview from 1981 that had to have some truth to it. How people lose their cool behind sex- so why not write about it?

There’s a story from his teenage years… I think that Neal Karlan from Rolling Stone wrote for his “Prince Talks” interview in 1985… how Prince got kicked out of his father’s house because he kept bringing girls over and having sex with them and how he begged him (and his sister) over a payphone to let him come back.
It may be a tad exaggerated- Prince being a sexual deviant when he was a teenager. But he was experienced enough that it couldn’t not fuel his creativity and lyrics.

I’m sorry if that’s just another rant and tangent that got away from me.
It’s just that I’ve spent 10 years building up in my head how I view Prince and his music- and anything threatening to derail that perception scares the hell out of me.
I went through that a bit after Prince died and it came out that it was a drug overdose. I worked it out in my head long enough where I can understand his perspective and why it came to that. But I don’t view him as a drug addict the way all the tabloids and CNN (according to their latest documentary) have. Ironically, he died the way I had a feeling he would… he died for his art and the love of the performance and that self-medication was the only way to prolong that.
Then again, Robert Downey Jr. is a former drug addict (one of Hollywood’s most notorious) and I don’t choose to focus on that because he got better and he found success like he hadn’t before.
I think it’s because of him that I was able to take the positive perspective with Prince and what happened to him.

Seriously, back on topic…

“In Love”
[from this point on, I think I just might have the lyrics in front of me while I listen]
yeah… if I’m prepared to go into the song, it’s all good. Definitely one of my favorites on the album.
Listening to it again with just the lyrics in front of me and no other distractions.
The lyrics are really simple and there’s no much to them. It’s the classic tale of unrequited love. In the book, the lyrics were referenced and they mentioned something about chains and saying how their usage was more innocent than what would follow in tracks from “1999” and beyond. I didn’t remember those lyrics at all so I had to Google it on my iPhone.
I went into that whole rant about sexual innuendo to prepare for this one. Although it was not the first song he wrote about sexual innuendo (“Soft & Wet” preceded it in the recording process) but it was the first metaphor most fans heard.
“I really want to play in your river.”
I actually spent most of the listen marveling at the music. I love that synth hook at the beginning and when it recurs halfway through. It’s very synth heavy. I thought early last week about how Prince didn’t have a lot of bass in this album until later on. This was basically a duet of synths and bass with vocals kinda intruding. Musically, it’s a very complex track. Some flourishes here and there were probably unnecessary and Prince just added them later in the production to be a perfectionist. Personally, I felt one or two back-up vocals were unnecessary. The delivery was strong enough on its own in most cases that it wasn’t needed.
The lyrics also run a little fast that it’s hard to catch what they aren’t without them written in front of you.
Another highlight for me- I like the breakdown that takes up the last minute of the song. The chorus has its variances where it doesn’t get boring. One lyric- he goes through the chorus and ends “I just don’t know what to say”… because that’s a lyric he used one other time, but I can’t recall which track at the moment. I also love right after that lyric- he just says “oooo” with a couple vocal tracks firing at once. That melody is beautiful!

“Soft & Wet”… this is where it starts to get interesting…
whoa, I’m looking at the lyrics…
first line- “Hey, lover, I got a sugarcane. That I wanna lose in you, Baby can you stand the pain”…
that is FILTHY… and he makes it sound so innocent.
In the book, Chris Moon is quoted that he wrote this song originally after a drunken stupor where he took some girls to the studio at night and the next morning woke up hungover and with lyrics in his head that included “it’s a soft wet love you have for me”
I think I also read somewhere soon after that Prince rewrote some lyrics. Because there are two versions of lyrics. I have three bootlegs of this song- and I think two of them are identical to the album release.

…I’ll take that back… The first one I received, it’s one of the first versions recorded. It’s much funkier. A little more emphasis on the wonky bass. (That’s what it sounds like me- “wonk wonk wonk”). Another version is in a bootleg set called “The Work.” I just listened to it and it had that “soft wet love” lyric- but several of the other lyrics are identical to the album version. As is the instrumental break halfway through and the key of the ending.
Then there’s one titled “Soft & Wet (disco)” that might as well be the final cut because it has that “sugarcane lyric” and that disco instrumental break.

So strange- but the production on The Work version is more slick than the album cut.

I knew there was a reason I saved all three of these versions.

I always end up breathing or having to breath on that “leave me without breath” lyric. 😛

It’s a tough call which is my favorite version. I almost want to steal aspects from all three and combine them into one.
I love the instrumental break down on the “wonky bass” verson. But I also love how the original ends.

Even without knowing that innuendo, I just thought the opening lyric was clumsy. But the very first line in the original cut wasn’t all that great either.

Sorry if I’m spending too much time on this…
even with the three versions, I didn’t think much of “Soft & Wet” the first time. It may have been Prince’s first single and had the first innuendo people heard from him on the radio. But to me, there’s nothing spectacular about it.
I had fun listening to it this week. I’m not gonna lie. But in the scheme of all his music, it doesn’t hold up.
I’m not sure how much the lyrics were Prince’s contribution, but I could certainly argue that the song isn’t strong in my view because Prince didn’t fully write it himself.

That’s a big part of why I wanted to focus specifically on this album. As if I’m hearing Prince for the first time ever- trying not to think “he’s done so much better than this”

But there were comparisons to his later work that I couldn’t help but make.
Thinking “I’ve heard this sound somewhere else before.”

I said to myself that I’d try to come up with a list of my top Prince songs out of all his music by the end of the year. So with each album blog I write, I’m going to put aside a couple songs to consideration. Considering where I’m going to rank them in a list of (hopefully) 100.

“Crazy You” is one of the first songs I’m going to take with me.
It’s a great acoustic song. A very chill, laying in a hammock in your backyard type track about being in love with a girl who does all these crazy things… things he never really elaborates on.
The song is tragically too short. Only 2:17. I want to hear the story more fleshed out, but at the same time, it is great just the way it is.

“Just as long as we’re together”
I’m pretty sure that the album version is the same as the bootleg I have. The instrumentals vary a little bit, but otherwise stay the same course all the way through.

I read some interesting stuff about it that made me appreciate it a bit more.
Plus, when I first got to know Prince’s music, I wasn’t a fan of the long instrumental solos because they just ran long. And I didn’t have the longest attention span for them.
Over time, though, I got to appreciate a good instrumental solo. Especially when it’s Prince doing it.
Matt Thorne wrote that this was the song that earned Prince his record deal because he actually demoed it live for CBS and WB. Showing them he could play all the instruments and produce himself.
Not many people are brave enough to do that… especially at the age of 17… I think he was 17 at the time.

The lyrics are simplistic, again, but its the music and production that really shine.
The music compliments the lyrics and maintain the melody for the first half. Then when it has free reign, all kinds of things happen. The drums keep the beat. Then we have the occasional keyboard riffs to make their presence known.

Funny enough- I thought this was overlong the first time I heard it. And I said maybe this album was overproduced at points.
This song feels like it was done just right. It’s fully fleshed out. It’s funky. It sounds fresh…. I think this song’s really grown on me A LOT over the past week.

But a connection to later material I wanted to make… the ad-libs, the last vocals you hear on the song… Prince put very similar ones on “Get It Up” by The Time. And one of the instrumental breakdowns reminds me of “777-9311.” That song runs a bit long, doing a few verses and choruses and goes to instrumentals for the rest. Something about this one reminds me of that.

I also thought about one lyric- “I’ll get the music, baby, you bring the wine”… was the drinking age 18 back then? I know it rhymed with the previous lyric, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the lyric was age appropriate. Not that it matters either way.

“Baby” had a lot of moments that made me stop and pause to reflect.
For starters, I got confirmation that the song isn’t autobiographical, but it is biographical. Based on things Prince’s friends were going through.
I remember the first time hearing it how the message of the song snuck up on me. And I went “whoa!”… it was kinda racy. Talking about an unplanned pregnancy and how to deal with that particular situation. The lyrics are really well-written and a shining example on this album.
The vocals have a lot of vulnerability to them. Early flashes of falsetto brilliance.
But one moment I noticed the first time this week and went “whoa”… there’s a musical breakdown halfway through that sounded VERY familiar… Prince used something similar in “Eye Hate U”. Just check out the opening of that song. It blew my mind.

“My love is forever” is a song I think I’ll have to listen to a lot more to pick up every little detail. I pick up so much every time I listen to it.
From the onset, it reminds me of “The Hustle.” Then little nuances and flourishes kept coming in to change that.
At the end of the first instrumental line, three notes are played and they’re a great trio of notes that are heard throughout the song. Once with Prince singing back-up vocals alongside. One thing I picked up later- the three notes return later on, but they’re either in a different key or in a different order. Either way, it’s a nice touch.
One day, I hope to learn the lyrics because this is a song that’s so much fun to sing along to.
The first time I heard it and that guitar solo came out of nowhere- it made me smile so much. It was Prince’s first ever album guitar solo. It comes in a couple times in the song, but doesn’t do a whole lot. Nothing particularly focused, anyway.
But I love at the end where he adds a keyboard riff in there to give it more rhythm and just lights it up. Hate for it to end.
Interestingly, Chris Moon wrote the original lyrics and Prince changed them. How much he changed them… I don’t know if we’ll ever know. I kinda don’t care. I like the lyrics on the album as they are. As simple as they may be. [And he repeated the “river” metaphor… but he also mentioned sunshine in two songs as well, so I’m not going to nitpick, it’s pointless].

“So Blue” is about the loss of a relationship. Another acoustic track with some horns that sound like they’re from a synth- I’m not sure if they sound like a French horn or something else. I’m not good with brass instruments. But he hadn’t done anything like this since.
I said earlier and I’ll say it again. Not one of my favorite songs on the album, but the vocal delivery is definitely something I can appreciate. That vulnerability of it- he was 17 at the time and showed so much maturity.

“I’m Yours” was his first guitar-heavy track

lol- I’d been in this head space for so long… and the Grammys Prince tribute is gonna mess with that 😛

It was like every cell in my body exploded by the end of that… WOW!

First of all, Morris Day & The Time (I believe the whole line-up was there, including Jerome, but I didn’t get a good look at anyone but the two of them).
I don’t know how many people in the crowd knew who they were or really cared about them. They did their good ol’ stand-bys, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”
But it was a great moment when a couple of dudes in the front row were all doing the “Jungle Love” choreography at the same time and laughing at each other for doing it. Like they couldn’t help themselves. They know what they’re talking about 😉

Then they did the first moments of “Let’s Go Crazy.” And Prince’s voice boomed within the building. I was ready to completely lose it and cry because I’m still expecting him to walk out and perform.

But Bruno Mars helped me feel not so bad about it. He and his crew were all dressed as Prince had dressed. Bruno Mars almost was dressed exactly as Prince was in Purple Rain. Maybe a different color of purple. But he was playing a white cloud guitar. Almost identical to the one he played in the movie.
Bruno had that energy up the entire time and DUDE, I did not know he could play guitar like that. He played the melody from the song. But then he ripped this epic solo at the end… it just blew my mind and entire body to pieces in the best possible way.

I tuned into the Grammys just for that- and waited until 10:48pm to see this. I could care less about who won album of the year.

Anyway, back to “I’m Yours.”
I think the song is about losing his virginity, but who knows how much of it is based on truth? With Prince, there’s no way of knowing.
But then the highlight of the song is the instrumentals and the guitar work and stuff. Each guitar solo is different, but they’re haphazard and kinda all over the place. They all tend to run long.
If anything, he put this song on the album to show off. It’s not his best guitar work when you take his whole career into account, but for a first attempt on an album, it’s pretty impressive.

[Right now, I actually hear the guitar from “Bambi” echoing in my head, so I think it’s about time to call this a post].

also, my mind is fried over that tribute… almost too awesome for words

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