Another day in 2016, another musical icon lost. So much has been said of Prince Rogers Nelson over his generous musical career. From 1978 to 2015 he released 39 studio albums and to average more than one album a year over a nearly forty year career is unheard of for someone with Prince’s level of success. His prodigious musical talent was a force, writing, producing and playing all or majority of the instruments on all of his releases. When he took to the stage it was clear that you were in the presence of a truly immeasurable and unique talent. By being a straight man with lots of ambiguity regarding his sexuality, he, like Bowie who also tragically passed early this year, helped redefine what a male performer could embody in regards to gender and sexuality. But throughout such an illustrious career Prince always managed to keep some form of mystique. He lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota and pursued a career on nobodies terms but his own; he is maybe popular musics greatest enigma.
On April 21st, 2016 Prince was found dead at his Paisley Park Estate at just 57 years old. Although his life was cut terribly short, he left us with a wealth of music to explore. To celebrate his life and career we’re going to take a look at 5 of Prince’s classic albums.
DIRTY MIND (1980)
Prince’s first two records didn’t really prepare the world for what he delivered on ‘Dirty Mind’. Just over 30 minutes of music that traverses new wave, funk, pop, disco and R&B with sexually frank lyrics that cover topics from threesomes to oral sex and incest. The title of the album delivered on it’s promise, opening the doors for many explicit albums to come and setting the tone for what Prince was capable of.
By 1986 Prince already had a string of highly successful and critically lauded albums under his belt and although ‘Parade’ didn’t receive the initial acclaim as some of it’s predecessors it’s grown to become one of the most loved albums in the Prince catalogue. Covering everything psychadelia, funk, soul, jazz and pop in a way only Prince can, ‘Parade’ delivers an eclectic mix including one of his biggest hits in ‘Kiss’.
The first album to bear the name Prince and The Revolution, 1982’s ‘1999’ is a double album that pushes Prince’s sound further down the path of synthesized sounds that he had previously fused with more organic sounds on previous records. Front loaded with hits such as the title track and ‘Little Red Corvette’ and back loaded with a handful of songs that stretch over 7 minutes, ‘1999’ is 70 minutes of some of Prince’s most influential music.
SIGN O’ THE TIMES (1987)
Not only one of Prince’s masterpieces but also one of the all time great double albums. ‘Sign O’ The Times’was conceived from the abandonment of three other projects including one which featured pitch shifted vocals under his female alter ego ‘Camille’. Featuring a wide array of instrumentation from the Linn LM-1 drum machine to the Fairlight CMI sampler and stylistically tipping its hat to everything from electro-funk to psych to gospel to noise pop. But for all of it’s eclectic sprawl and fearless search for discovery, ‘Sign O’ The Times’ remains remarkably tangible and filled with some of Prince’s most insular songs. A landmark album.
PURPLE RAIN (1984)
Universally regarded as his seminal album, ‘Purple Rain’ solidified any doubt on Prince being pop music’s finest auteur. Packed full of huge songs whilst still abandoning the idea of conventional songwriting, ‘Purple Rain’, with its accompanying film was the album that allowed Prince to step into his place as an undeniable superstar. With some of his most well known and highest regarded songs such as ‘I Would Die 4 U’, ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Purple Rain’, it’s hard to think of an album that represents the 80’s as well as this. A must have for every record collection.