According to Matt Thorne’s book, the original title of the album was going to be “Paisley Park” until he heard David Coleman’s recording what would become the real title track…
man, what a difference that would have made…
well, following something like Purple Rain, a rose by any other name still wouldn’t have succeeded as the parties involved would have hoped for…
So I’m finally back- ready to leave Purple Rain behind and move onto the next album and phase of Prince’s career… which was basically trying to maintain that rate of success without repeating his past triumphs…
after spending two weeks with all the music from 1983-1984, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore… and I actually understand, for the first time ever, why Prince wanted to do something different, why he burned out in the final third of the tour for his monster success of an album and movie… as great as the material was, you can only hang with it so much before you yearn for something else.
Or as Prince put it, he was taking time off to “look for The Ladder”
[So far this post is sounding incredible… but sadly I must bring it down a bit for the “Complain about Matt Thorne’s book” section]
I cannot go a chapter without one thing just throwing me completely off and mad for no reason at all. He’s basically a stupid journalist to me at this point, one of many who’d tried to write about Prince over the years and misinterpreted so much about him to the point he wouldn’t talk to them.
Out of nowhere, he said “Pop Life” was a song that continues to rub people the wrong way, quoting another random journalist who said it tells people to stop complaining and put up with their “essentially shitty lives.” I can understand him trivializing “Temptation”… I’m sure someone on Peach & Black will think it’s kind of ridiculous, the 2nd half of the song. And I’ll admit that I’ve laughed it the first several times I listened to it when he’s being smited (smoten?) by God… but the final few seconds of dialogue, that was always a chilling moment for me. Can’t quite understand why.
Anyway… Pop Life, last I checked, was a beloved Prince song. I haven’t heard anyone say they hadn’t liked it. How many people could it have rubbed the wrong way to warrant such a comment? There was no real explanation for it. Interpretation is subjective, I get that, but it needs explanation for me to get why this was.
I never heard this song as being mean-spirited, so this idea of it just didn’t feel right to me.
[Ok, enough of that…]
He did write one comment that made me think “hmm… you might have a point”…[had to happen sometime, I guess]
he was writing about Tambourine and said it was “the worst song on any Prince album up to this point.”
to say that about any Prince song kinda seems harsh, but taking everything into account… if any song warranted this comment, this won’t certainly be the worst choice.
Tambourine isn’t great… might be the one song that keeps this album from scoring an 8.
I really don’t know what to expect from a rating. This has always been an odd one for me.
Most times when I listen to it, it’s the first time in a while and it feels like a refreshing change in direction. I think I might have even felt that way when I listened to it the first time… just because I’d spent a couple months with 4 Prince albums, one being a greatest hits album. I was at college without a car [that wasn’t really important to me] so I didn’t have the luxury to go out when I wanted to buy more music.
it’s interesting to hear how these songs were written even while Purple Rain was in the final stages before the theatrical release… yet the feel of it is so different. Maybe it wouldn’t be so much if the title track wasn’t there. I might try that sometime…
maybe it’s because I hadn’t heard Prince in a couple days [and I’d had one of those bad days at work where I’m busy but my mind is buzzing with all the negativity in the world at the current time]… but I came into the title track and felt completely refreshed.
I know this is technically Prince doing a cover of a song written by Lisa’s brother. But he did those random Prince things that made it his own. The drum pattern for starters. The loudest beat on the four. and of course that killer synth solo towards the end.
then “Paisley Park” took on a completely new meaning… it’s the state of mind or place I reach when I listen to Prince in general. I’ve had several moments (not just recently, but the first couple years- when I was still in college) where simply listening to him takes me somewhere else and whatever is bugging me or making me feel bad, it goes away and I feel better.
yeah, Prince is good therapy- who knew?
I was getting through these first few songs and getting this feeling- “this doesn’t feel like the album that came after Purple Rain”- there’s no connection to it at all- unless you look at the screams and the Linn-drum… the fact the third song is a ballad… a power ballad towards the end of the album… the final track has elements of Darling Nikki…
some similarities, but the overall packaging just feels so different and it hurts my head too much (and detracts from the overall experience) to think of it that way.
so instead, it feels more like Prince took a year-long hiatus from Purple Rain and came back with something completely new. at least on the surface… it’s closer to Parade, but even then, those albums are far apart too.
I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Condition of the Heart- I can hear the comments now 😛 Captain saying its the most skippable on the album. a) because it’s a ballad and b) it takes 2 minutes until the actual song starts.
Toejam might call this the dream song of the album… it’s very atmospheric. It could divide the panel.
I mean, it’s not “The Beautiful Ones” and maybe a little too long and too theatrical at times, but I’ve always kinda liked it. Just not enough where I’d skip to listen to it.
I find it interesting now- looking at the Clara Bow reference and Matt Thorne writing how it could have been a reference to his upcoming movie project, which was might have been his tribute to old movies. Hence the black and white.
Tambourine… whether it’s the worst up to this point, I’m still figuring out. I never hated it, but it’s the most skippable for me.
America… I always kinda liked the third verse about Jimmy Nothing who didn’t want to pledge Allegience. (“Now Jimmy live on a mushroom cloud!”)… that’s even more fun to say because of the Seinfeld episode where Jimmy always referred to himself in the third person. It also made me think about how Colin Kapernick refused to stand for the National Anthem and that’s why nobody wants to hire him anymore. Yeah, some songs just transcend time… although I don’t know whether Prince would have supported him or not. Doesn’t matter anymore now.
Pop Life– I couldn’t listen to the lyrics much because I was concentrating extra hard on driving… but the music always stands out. Love that walking bassline (it’s even better in the extended version) and it’s really minimalistic, but so great.
The Ladder… yeah… the lyrics have come to mind a lot these last few weeks… but hearing the song again, soon enough, my mind drifts off and I just wait for it to end.
Temptation… I read that it was written around the time of Purple Rain (the project, not the actual song) and Prince went back and edited it.
I’m willing to bet he added the epiphany/confrontation section later on- the way he added the backwards gospel to Darling Nikki.
I just love mime-screaming along to this song. The last part of it makes me laugh so much because I have no clue what he’s saying 😛 how authentic the final couple minutes is… it’s hard to know, really. Prince could have been completely serious and people will still think he’s nuts.
it seems like I tire of these Prince albums kinda quickly… at least the first few tracks…
but the good news was that I was free to listen to “Raspberry Beret” (the other day, I was being overly cautious with my driving so I barely listened)… and it felt like 10 minutes of bliss. Really enjoyed how simple and poppy it is. One of the catchiest choruses Prince ever wrote 😉
I think I read somewhere that this was originally written in 1982… I wonder if it had synths and Linn-drum back then and how that would’ve sounded. (I’ll probably ask the same of “New Position” next album).
“Tambourine” isn’t quite a guilty pleasure… but times like this, I oddly enjoy it. The vocal delivery half makes up for the cheesy almost cringe-worthy innuendo-laden lyrics.
“Pop Life” doesn’t feel nearly long enough… but I also have a couple other versions hanging around too.
The third verse of “The Ladder” is probably the most sincere part of the song overall… and I kinda keep missing it- my mind keeps wondering off. But again, it drags.
One day, I think I should listen to “Darling Nikki” and “Temptation” back to back… see if I can find the connection between the two albums. If there’s anywhere I can find it, it’s with these two since they were written, I think, only a couple months apart.
“Paisley Park” overall is great… but I kinda wish it was different… some of the lyrics, I don’t care for. The music has some bits and pieces that just come off weird to me. If it had a different array of instruments (or if it wasn’t trying to keep up the sound from the previous track)… it could have been really amazing. I don’t know what I’d change exactly, but one day, I’ll see if I can express that in writing.
And before ending this day off, I also listened to a couple B-sides.
“She’s always in my hair”… It was maybe around 2pm at work. I hadn’t heard much music that day (the radio was turned down low so I barely heard it). I felt like it woke me up. Prince kinda has that effect. I could listen this jam for 15 minutes and not get tired of it.
Love the main hook on this one and the “splash” effect on the drums… so cool.
Then “Hello”… OMG!! This was one of my early favorite Prince songs. I hadn’t heard it in such a long time. And it’s even cooler now that I know the context and reason it was written. The main hook is… again, cool. I just enjoy it so much.
The lyrics are very specific and tell a story. I love the backing vocals and the rhythm of the vocal delivery.
It’s too damn short… which is why I’m so happy a remix came with the set it came in.
I just thought on the way back home (during that 3rd verse in “The Ladder”)… maybe I should guess what the Peach and Black guys will think of these songs… I mean, it’d be crazy how many I get right. And if I do get a lot right… well, what does that say about me? I’m completely mental, that’s what.
This train of thought became when I thought aloud to myself “is Captain crazy enough to like Tambourine?” because this is the guy known for really oddball favorite Prince songs. I’m sure he’d like “Raspberry Beret”… at least to a degree, because it’s 80’s pop and he’s a sucker for a well-written pop song.
I never put that rap sheet together 😛 by this point, I’m 6 songs in.
But I was right about one thing and I was in my driveway at this point, laughing and cheering.
Captain called “Condition of the Heart” most skippable on the album and the 2 minute intro didn’t do it for him… I would have said “Captain, you disappoint me” if he wound up calling this his favorite on the album, but you never know to expect from him.
But it’s also great that despite not liking the song, he can offer up good things to say about it. Things he really likes… notably the lyrics, despite the fact he doesn’t listen to lyrics.
MC talked about how ballsy Prince was to do this type of album after the success of Purple Rain.
Toejam said, on any given day, “Condition of the Heart” could be his favorite Prince song. Or at least it’s in his top 5 (I’ll maintain that “Strange but True” is his favorite and nothing he says will convince me otherwise :P)
Overall, everyone seems to be in agreement on the songs. Classic Prince music is hard to really be overly harsh about. Even the stuff we don’t complete like has good points.
Bringing back the point about “Tambourine”… oh man, the guys had so much fun with this one. None of them were put off by the lyrics.
And listening it to these past few times… it’s not great, but it’s fun and enjoyable. not quite a guilty pleasure like Darling Nikki is, not for me anyway…
I actually typed the quote into Twitter and Captain came back and asked what book I’m reading cuz it sounded so ridiculous to him.
yeah, horribly cheesy lyrics and obvious innuendo… but let’s face it- Prince is the only person who could write a track like this and make it sound great. Or at least not overtly offensive (although that clearly isn’t the case for this guy. And I thought I was bad)…
I’m disappointed that they didn’t talk about my favorite verse during their “America” review.
all this time later, I really don’t remember too much else about the podcast I wanted to bring up.
But I’ll add a few bits about the stuff on my iPod.
I completely forgot that the “Hello (fresh dance mix)” had a different set of lyrics. Next time I listen, it can’t be when I’m driving 😛
I remembered seeing these lyrics on the border at .org… now I’m having trouble remembering because it mentions shoes and I’m thinking about other Prince songs with shoe lyrics.
“Get your education first then buy a pair of shoes”- Loose!
“if they tell me to walk a straight line, I put on crooked shoes”- The Max (love that lyric!)
he says that words are just like shoes, they’re just something to stand on. I wish you could walk in my shoes, but they’re so high you’d probably fall off and die. (this is paraphrasing of course…)
Anyway, I have an alternate version of the title track… I don’t remember if I’d ever listened to it. But it’s a little more Middle-Eastern and much more filled out musically.
The other day, I heard a longer cut of Paisley Park, but there are some differences too. I think it’s not as sparse. And I love how the guitar is more prevalent.
the long version of America… I’m sorry, my attention span with Prince can only go, at most, 12 minutes for a song (the extended cut of “Mountains” and the album version of “Come” fall into this0. That song is 21 minutes… this is also a song I’m not entirely crazy about. It’s good, but I don’t personally connect with it.
Pop Life… oh man… I freaking love this song so much. I wish there was just one perfect version of it that had all of my favorite quirks from all three version I have.
I don’t like the crowd noise that much.
I’d love to keep the ending of the fresh dance mix. I don’t like how the album version fades out at the end. It just feels too short.
the instrumental break before the third verse- I like the sound effects in the fresh dance mix and want to move them over.
The fourth verse & corresponding 2nd chorus… it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the song’s message… but I kinda don’t want to take it out entirely if it means the track can run for 9 minutes.
Raspberry Beret, of course I’ll take the long version… something feels missing without that introduction with the guitar scratch.
[going back to the podcast, Captain said he picked up a harpsichord on this track for the first time prior to doing the review… along with 80’s rubbish pop and the top fret on a guitar, Captain is a sucker for harpsichord… one of the first podcasts I listened to it in 2016, he brought that up and I can’t remember which album it was, but I’ll mention it as soon as I get here]
so in addition to the B-sides, I kinda want to put my own playlist for this album together.
it’d go something like this…
1. Around the world in a day (alternate version)
2. Paisley Park (extended)
3. Condition of the Heart
4. She’s Always in My Hair
5. Raspberry Beret (extended)
9. Pop Life (extended)
10. 4 the Tears in Your Eyes
12. The Ladder
14. Pop Life (fresh dance remix)
so I’ll finish the podcast, make some final comments and I’ll rate the album…
I’ve got a little bit left… the guys are giving their scores now and they’re a lot of higher than I figured.
Captain freaking gave it 9.5 because it had Temptation on it 😛 it was so crazy to hear him call that his favorite on the album. So unexpected- I was sure one of its elements would weird him out a bit (my sights were set on the God conversation in the song’s final moments). But it is a good choice for a favorite track. If “Pop Life” wasn’t on this album, it’d be mine.
MC called it his favorite on the album and sang its praises for what felt like 5 minutes. He touched on all the points I would have. There was debate on the bass line and who did it… it’s not marked on the album credits… princevault says its Brown Mark. I was gonna say whoever did it, I don’t care who, they were brilliant at it.
[wow, reading the princevault entry, it says this was recorded feb 19 1984 and the sessions lasted until 6:15 the following morning… that’s got to be a showing of how much he believed in this song… and the much debated crowd noise came “from a sound library set by the company Sound Ideas”- and Delirious, Live 4 Love and Lady Cab Driver also used them]
everyone praised it, but of course Captain has to be the weirdo who says he doesn’t like it. Just doesn’t get it.
I’d have to have my notes all set, but I’d like to explain it 😛
at least he has that quality about him where he can admit he doesn’t like something but finds good things to highlight. At least if the quality is good or it’s from the 80’s.
Toejam was my saving grace on The Ladder… he didn’t hate the song, but he was the only one who really expressed any dislike for it. Or just saying he didn’t like it as much.
I was practically quoting MC on “Baby I’m a star”… “no… I can’t believe you’re all agreeing.”
Not to say the song is horrible, but it just runs too long, gets too repetitive… and to me, it sounds like Purple Rain part 2 and just isn’t as good.
Nor does it mean I’m not big on Prince gospel. It just needs to catch my attention and hold onto it. I guess Toejam didn’t like it as much because he supposedly (according to him) isn’t big on religion being discussed in music. Which is weird cuz he gave Lovesexy a perfect 10.
Temptation prompted an interesting discussion (how could it not?) about album sequencing and whether this was originally the 2nd to last and The Ladder was the salvation he sought and succeeded in achieving.
Toejam said some days it could be brilliant and others it can get annoying.
Someone said this isn’t a song you can play in the background at a party. I played this album in the car my 3rd or 4th time listening to it… I took it out after The Ladder 😛 there is no way anyone else in the car could have lasted through that song. My mom already thinks Prince is a weirdo and my dad still can’t believe I got so into him when he was the whole reason for it. The Prince stuff that was in the house (the Purple Rain soundtrack and the VHS tape with MTV videos including 1999 on it) came from him and the only reason we sat through Purple Rain when it was on TV mid-progress was because it was his idea… I just took the fandom much further than he did, where he respects the guy, but he’s not super nuts about him beyond a couple songs.
and Captain kept mentioning this person, Novi Novog- who played violin on several of the tracks. Just really liked the name 😛
Player also talked about the artwork and had a nice lengthy discussion about it.
One of the rare times MC gave a score for the album- saying he couldn’t sleep at night if he gave it less than a 9. He gave it 9.5 (and in the background, Captain says “the same as me” gleefully in the background, lol).
He went into as much detail about why just like he did with his Pop Life review… which is really cool 😎 when he can’t stop talking like this, you know it’s good. You know the passion is there 😉
I can’t fit this in a tweet 😛 MC was talking about the album being colorful in his summation. Captains says people get the impression this album is colorful because of the artwork and asks if that would be true if the album cover was black.
My first impression of all Prince albums that I physically own… they come from the artwork. That’s why I want to get them. Not just to be respectful to Prince, but also the album isn’t just about the music with him. And I like to know what to expect before I go in. The visual enhances the experience.
I know that this album got an added impression based on that. I know I felt “Come” to be a dark album based on the cover and how it looks like he’s in front of a gothic church or something. [I might have the architectural style wrong… but you get my point].
…I’d been hanging with the other mixes for so long, I think I might need to hear the album all the way through, untouched, before making my final call.
And I typically wait until 3 listens to the full album before I give my review. I feel bad about waiting, but I also don’t want to rush it.
Which means I gotta hook up my iPod and put the music from iTunes onto the album.
yeah, I used to do this all the time the first couple of years of this new life with Prince music. I’d have my CD player or my iPod. I’d be in my college dorm room or my bedroom when I was home. I’d lay on top of the covers, eyes closed and listen to the album in full.
with the first few tracks, it was great… but around the time I found the harpsichord in “Raspberry Beret,” I was slowly losing traction as the album went on. That’s what I get for having a drink with a movie earlier. I had to keep from falling asleep.
Anyway… this is going to be a tricky one to rate.
Because I need to figure out if I’m going to go from what I’ve heard these past few times or am I going to keep in mind the fact I have several other albums to get through so I can’t score overly high…
AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY [the song]
The weirdness starts here. Such a strange start to a new Prince album, even stranger coming off the heels of Purple Rain. The whistling flute-like instrument in the background, the Linn-drum clap along with tribal sounding drums on the other beats. The finger cymbals.
The lyrics run a verse and chorus or two. Some thought-provoking lyrics to get your mind going, but the title still feels odd. Like it doesn’t fully cover what the album is about.
We go to the Middle East and Asia here, but other than going to Paris in “Condition of the Heart” and the string arrangements in “Pop Life” keep me in Europe, we get mostly America- both in the song, but the trolley cars in “Tambourine” which makes you automatically think of San Francisco.
Technical score- 4 (a point is deducted because this isn’t 100% a Prince track- written by David Coleman with his father co-credited… plus the lyrics is somewhat unsatisfying compared to how much we get the verses… fair enough, right?)
Components score- 3.5 (I like it a little more than average, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it by itself)
Total score- 7.5
…I think this one is starting to sneak up on me a bit. I can’t help but wonder what it’ll be like when I actually go there and see the utopia this song ultimately inspired into being. I don’t think I really connected with it until we lost Prince- as if everything suddenly made sense. Or at least I found a way to make sense of it for myself.
I’m a sucker for the finger cymbals (on this and a song I’ll get to much later… I always tap a finger or clap my hands together in time with them). But the lyrics really make this song what it’s become to me.
Technical score- 4.5 (I love Wendy, but her back-up vocals on the chorus always feel a little too high to me… she’s Prince’s perfect counterpoint, but I always sing his part because hers runs too high for me with the song’s key being where it is. Somewhat distracting…)
Components score- 4 (like I said, sneaking… slowly becoming a favorite on this album, which has some really great songs on it)
Total score- 8.5
CONDITION OF THE HEART
…listening to this on headphones (or in this case my iPod is something else) is something else. The instrumental at the start comes off as if he’s playing alone in a dark room with no light. Well, maybe a candlelight, a piano, a microphone and a soundboard. It has to be one of noted performances recorded alone without any engineers in the studio.
Technical score- 4.5 (the volume regulation required while playing this track on stereo can be a bit of a pan. It starts so low you can barely hear the instrumentals or Prince, but then it gets so high and you have to readjust… takes away from the overall experience).
Components score- 4 (I feel good about this… it’s not up there with his better ballads for me, but the emotion and the overall composition of this is enough to make me admire Prince… just in general)
Total score- 8.5
…I found the harpsichord, just like Captain said, and after that, I just got lost in the percussion and all the other instruments. But with songs you hear as much as this one, you kinda need those moments every now and then to keep things from getting repetitive.
Technical score- 5 (finally got a perfect technical score!… it’s perfectly executed, I can’t take away from it)
Components score- 4 (I enjoy this breath of fresh air whenever it comes on, but it doesn’t mean I like when it’s overplayed on the radio… oddly enough, I don’t think I’d heard it so much as I had in the past year. and there are others I like a lot better)
Total score- 9
…yeah, I got nothing for a quip to introduce this song… although the shaking of the tambourine before the final verse before he says “trolley cars…”, these past few times, it made me think of “Fascination” where the chorus ends with a tambourine shake or a maraca or something.
Technical score- 4 (for some weak lyrics, but a little extra credit for Prince being ballsy enough to put something like this out on an album rather than keeping it in the vault… it’s a good breather before the serious tracks, but it isn’t quite up there with some of the other material
Components score- 3.5 (I always kinda have fun with this one, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to it either)
Total score- 7.5
[yeah, this album isn’t getting an 8]
…this track still holds water today… I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing regarding our country.
Technical score- 5 (This one was always well put together in my view)
Components score- 3.5 (maybe it’s the “Partyup” effect… but I don’t so much like Prince when he gets political. Doesn’t quite hold my interest, even if he’s talking about stuff in the real world, opposed to being self-involved. I love the way the lyrics are written and put together. But I just never got overly excited about this track. Can’t quite explain why…)
Total score- 8.5
Technical score- 5 (everything is brilliant)
Components score- 4.5 (except I don’t like the crowd noise at the end and how it fades out… I so badly wanted to give this a perfect 10 and I had it typed that way… I just couldn’t do it when there was something I disliked that would’ve gone unsaid otherwise)
Total score- 9.5
…ok, here we go… if this album is a 7-pointer, this track will decide whether it’ll run high or low on the decimal side of the period.
Technical score- 4 (great music, great vocals overall, great lyrics… just runs a little too long and repetitive. And Prince had executed similar exercises more successfully)
Components score- 2.5 (I really struggled with this one… I give 3’s to average tracks, I don’t like or hate them strongly. But this is a song I’d skip if I didn’t feel compelled to listen to the whole album… much like how it went with “Anna Christian” back on Controversy)
Total score- 6.5 (can’t remember the last time I gave a score this low… but I did spend 2 weeks on Purple Rain…)
…I can’t remember what I gave “Darling Nikki,” but this can’t rank higher than it.
Technical score- 5 (forget the unintelligible lyrics… this is brilliantly executed and just plain ballsy to put on an album… I’m willing to bet he added the gospel part in the 2nd half because he thought he went too far
Components score- 4 (yeah, I feel good about this… I like “Pop Life” more than this one, even though this is another one of those guilty pleasure tracks)
Total score- 9
Now time to do math… after sequencing them from highest to lowest:
Pop Life- 9.5
Raspberry Beret- 9
Paisley Park- 8.5
Condition of the Heart- 8.5
Around the World in a Day- 7.5
The Ladder- 6.5
…let’s see… 74.5- divide by points possible (90)… whoa… 8.2777
so rounded up, I gave Around the World in a Day 8.3… that’s higher than 1999?! That’s insane… I guess there’s something to be said about Prince’s shorter albums
…makes me worry about O(+> and The Gold Experience further down the road… but at least with one, my score is based on the 12 tracks, not all 18 with the segues.
So the songs I’m taking forward with me automatically to when I start to figure out my list of 100 favorite Prince songs…
…I still can’t believe it 😛 and I might as might paste, yet again, the story of Prince’s discography so far following my little system… which continues to surprise me…
For You- 6.2
Dirty Mind- 7.4
Purple Rain- 9.1
Parade is next and it’s one I consider among my favorites… but now, I’m not so sure how it’ll hope up against my system.
I hope it at least gets an 8. Any less would just feel wrong, considering all much I enjoy listening to it when I put it on.
I’ll end this post by adding comments about “Girl’… which I chose to listen to when I was by myself because I remembered it being kinda explicit and intimate… I thought right.
Those 7 minutes and change felt like an eternity that I kinda didn’t want to leave.
I’d been meaning for ages to put together a mix CD of Prince ballads and love songs and this will have to be among them.
That’s all I’m going to say for that…