Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Prince Songs and Album Covers

Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last
--Prince, "1999"

If you live outside Minneapolis, you may not have heard that Under the Cherry Moon star and director, Prince Rogers Nelson, died last week.  In addition to acting and directing, "Prince," as he was known, was one of the most successful musicians of all-time.

In a five-month period in which the music world has lost Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, two founding members of Jefferson Airplane, Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, Pfife Dawg, Merle Haggard, and now Prince, I'd have to say that Prince is the biggest loss of them all (and that's certainly not meant to be a knock on any of the other musicians). 

Prince was an insanely talented musical wizard, who could play just about every instrument, which he did on most of his albums (on top of writing, arranging, and producing all the songs).  When you hear the phrase "guitar god," you don't necessarily think of Prince, but good Lord, he could shred with the best of them (see his solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" during the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction concert).  I think it's hard to categorize his music because it spanned genres, from pop to soul to funk to R&B to gospel to hard rock to new wave to jazz to disco, and many others –- and often with multiple genres fused together in the same song.

I'm not going to pretend that I was some gigantic Prince fan, or that I have a ton of his albums (after all, he did have 39 studio albums).  I have a handful of Prince's albums, and I like them all.  I will probably buy more, now that I've been listening to a lot of Prince lately.  Frankly, I don't know how it's possible to hate Prince, unless your name is Tipper Gore.  The man was a one-of-a-kind talent, and I'm sad I never got to see him live, since the clips that I have seen seem to indicate he put on a hell of a show.

In honor of the Purple One, I'm going to list my ten favorite Prince songs, followed by what I think are the ten best Prince album covers.  His album covers were often as interesting and diverse as his music, ranging from the avant garde to the funky to the just plain weird.

Here are my ten favorite Prince songs, in alphabetical order:

1.  "7"
This was a top 10 song in 1993, but I honestly have no recollection of hearing it until I was in college.

2.  "1999"
This song still feels as fresh now as it did when it was released.  What's crazy to think about is that, when the song came out in 1982, it was 17 years until 1999.  As a kid, that seemed like such a long time away, and perhaps because childhood seems like it lasts forever, it felt like it took a lot longer than 17 years to get to 1999.  Now, it's 2016 –- 17 years after 1999 –- and it felt like the last 17 years have flown by in comparison.  Such is life.

3.  "Bambi"
Unlike most of the songs on Prince's 1979 self-titled sophomore album (which are relatively soft and mellow), "Bambi" is a glammy hard rocker, showcasing Prince's guitar skills and showing the world that this little man from Minneapolis could rock.

4.  "Darling Nikki"
If it weren't for this song (or at least a Senator's daughter listening to it in front of her mother), we may not have "Parental Advisory" stickers on albums.

5.  "Let's Go Crazy"
This is probably my favorite Prince song.  It always puts me in a good mood.  And if you haven't seen the slowed-down bluesy version he performed at four in the morning during the SNL 40th Anniversary after-party, click here for a treat.

6.  "Little Red Corvette"
When I was a kid, I obviously didn't understand what 75% of Prince's lyrics meant.  For instance, I assumed "Little Red Corvette" was about a little red Corvette.  It never occurred to me that there are no little Corvettes.  Now that I'm older, things are slightly less muddy.  For instance, I now understand following stanza:  "I guess I must be dumb / 'Cause you had a pocket full of horses /Trojan and some of them used."  Turns out, it's not about having small wooden horses in one's pocket.  Not only is it a great song, but Chevy's full-page ad after Prince's death, inspired by the song, was pretty spectacular.

7.  "Purple Rain"
The title track to Prince's most successful album (complete with accompanying feature film!) is a heart-wrenching, soulful classic, with a wicked guitar solo.  And my buddy Daniel does a killer karaoke version of this.

8.  "Raspberry Beret"
If there has ever been a sweeter-sounding song about a drugstore clerk who bangs a strange chick wearing a French hat made of small fruit in a barn, I haven't heard it.

9.  "Sexy MF"
This song is pure James Brown funk.

10.  "When Doves Cry"
Just a great song.  I always wondered how Prince's parents felt about the lyrics describing them as "too bold" (father) and "never satisfied" (mother).

And now, here are my ten favorite Prince album covers.  Some are pieces of art, some are ridiculous, and some are hilarious.  These are in reverse chronological order because the last three are the best three.

10.  Art Official Age (2014)
If anyone can pull of the three-eyes-and-shiny-gold-suit-from-the-future look, it was Prince.  I also think he kind of looks like Tony Iommi on this album.

9.  LOtUSFLOW3R (2009)
This could be a Jimi Hendrix album cover, wrapped in an early '80s Journey album cover, wrapped in mid '70s Rainbow album cover.

8.  Trax from The NPG Music Club, Volume One: The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Fantastic '70s vibe on this one.

7.  The Rainbow Children (2001)
This one has a very cool painting of four musicians that reminds me of New Orleans for some reason.  New Orleans makes me happy.

6.  Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
Is that Prince or Sacha Baron Cohen?

5.  Lovesexy (1988)
There's not much you can say about this one, other than, well, it's Prince, naked, on a giant flower.  At least he has the modesty to cover his nipples

4.  Around the World in a Day (1985)
This one is a cool, psychedelic album cover, inspired by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

3.  Purple Rain (1984)
One of the most iconic album covers of the '80s.

2.  Dirty Mind (1980)
At the dawn of Prince's decade, he needed to make a bold statement.  This is how Prince made a bold statement:  bandannas and thongs.

1.  Prince (1979)
This is just hilarious.  He looks like an exploited 16-year-old trying his damnedest to grow a mustache.
But then when you flip the album over to the back, you realize this is no boy.  No, no.  This is a man who owns and rides a fucking Pegasus.  Naked, of course.

No comments: