I’m not going to bore you with dog piss stories about how Prince was so important to me and he made an impression on my life and how this is all actually a tragedy for me…
No, it goes without saying that Prince should be recognised as at least as important a musical figure as dreary tossers like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney. He was one of music’s all time great visionaries, yet he never neglected the importance of a great cod-piece. Prince’s run of albums from 1980’s Dirty Mind through to maybe 88’s Lovesexy is a burst of musical creativity and productiveness that has only been matched by the Beatles in the late 60s. Only the Beatles never wrote a lyric as good as “Look here, Marsha, I’m not saying this just 2 be nasty/I sincerely wanna f**k the taste out of your mouth”
So difficult not to refer to it as a ‘purple patch’…
So instead I’m going to attempt something near impossible: ranking all the Prince albums I own, which probably amounts to about 2.8% of his recorded. Prince has an irritating and presumably mischievously intentional habit of putting at least one stone cold classic on even his shittest albums, so just dive in people!!
Right, so I count 30..
30 HITNRUN Phase 1 (2015)
It’s a crying shame and extremely unfitting that Prince’s last official releases (I never made it to phase 2) were such passionless and generic slogs through the motions. Prince didn’t even care enough to self-produce
29 The Rainbow Children (2001)
An extremely listenable and musically accomplished set, though extrememly hard to love and a little too sure of its genius. Warning: This is Prince’s most explicit Jehovah’s Witness album, so there’s very little masturbating in hotel lobbies
28 20Ten (2010)
The horror: this may be a Prince album that’s just forgettable, which is one depravity he’s never been accused of. Sticky Like Glue sticks out as a brilliant slow jam unfitting of its uninspired surroundings. Given away free with cat litter trays or some shit, who cares?
27 N*E*W*S (2000)
Yes yes, it’s an experimental avant garde jazz album with three tracks longer than hell is deep, but he’s not hurting anybody is he? Leave him be…
26 Art Official Age (2014)
Prince released two albums in 2014. One was brilliant. This is the other one
25 The Chocolate Invasion(2004)
You’re going to call it what Prince?? What does it even mean…? No! Don’t tell me, I honestly don’t want to know. The usual: average filler sprinkled with occasional flashes of genius
24 Chaos and Disorder (1996)
What?! This has somehow landed ridiculously low, there are some of the best examples of his 90s work on here. It was released solely to fulfill his record contract, but a genius like Prince still can’t help sprinkling it with magic like the title track, ‘I Like It There’ and ‘Dinner With Delores’ (one of his best singles)
23 Come (1994)
The absolutely awful album Come (he’s definitely talking about semen, in case you were wondering) is the perfect example of the problems of buying Prince’s music: there are eight tracks here of the worst music Prince ever farted out, yet track 5 ‘Papa’ is so amazing that you forgive him immediately.
22 Planet Earth (2007)
Hey, it’s a brilliantly accomplished album, no wheels are reinvented and then dry humped, but I think he’s allowed to take it easy if he’s giving it away free with crab paste or whatever. And how much fun is ‘Guitar’!?
21 The Black Album (1987/1994)
A mythical album that can’t fail to disappoint after you’ve heard all the hype, but it has ‘Bob George’ on it, an absolute work of bonkers genius that may be Prince’s craziest song (which is saying a lot)
20 Musicology (2004)
Every Prince album is heralded as a return to form, but it seemed that for some reason people really wanted Musicology to be a classic, perhaps because its release coincided with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately it was merely an excellent album only by human standards, but man it sounds good in places
19 Emancipation (1996)
Prince finally managed to escape his ‘slave’ record contract and proceeded to go nuts. It goes without saying that the three hours of music here is insanely excessive- the attempts at house music are particularly cringe worthy- but there are a lot of genius songs here. Listening to it quickly became very tragic as so many tracks are concerned with how excited and nervous Prince was about the upcoming birth of his first child, a baby boy who would die just a week after being born. Contains a song with Kate freaking Bush, a dream occurance which I’m always shocked to remember actually happened!
18 Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
I may be the only person alive who likes this album, mainly because I’m seduced by quite how amazing his voice sounds on the title track. Absolutely slated on release but it contains many of Prince’s best work of the last 2 decades. Ultinmately though, the idea of Prince working with No Doubt and covering a Sheryl Crow song doesn’t feel right
17 Plectrumelectrum (2014)
This was his last brilliant album. It sounded as if the task of playing with a garage band had ignited passion in his music like nothing in years. This album is electric and Prince sounded more full of life than he had for a long time. Most importantly, the whole set up and production make it unlike any other album in Prince’s catalogue, and it had been a long time since he released anything truly unique
16 Lotusflow3r (2009)
An absolute hidden gem, while of course the 2+ hour run time is absolutely unforgivable, this set contains some of Prince’s best work of the 21st century, killer hooks and vicious riffs. Plus it feels great to hear Prince sing lyrics like ‘she went down like the Wall of Berlin’ again
15 Batman (1989)
In 1989, 11 albums into his career, Prince actually released something a little disappointing. Warner asked Prince to contribute a song to the Batman soundtrack, and Prince being Prince he did a whole album because he probably had the afternoon free. ‘BatDance’ might be the most bonkers song to ever reach US no.1 but there’s little here to truly worship and considering the albums that preceeded it it’s a screeching halt and his worst record of the 80s by some distance. Arms of Orion is my Prince guilty pleasure though
14 Graffiti Bridge (1990)
People love the film ‘Purple Rain’ and throw Oscars at it, they laugh about how terrible ‘Under the Cherry Moon’ was and lavish it with Golden Raspberries, they don’t even realise the ‘Graffiti Bridge’ film exists. Concieved as a half-sequel to ‘Purple Rain’ it doesn’t contain even half of that album’s quality, passion or inspiration. A true sign that his hot-streak was over, after people hoped the Batman soundtrack was just him with his eyes off the ball
13 3121 (2006)
An honesty inspired album in places, his last truly excellent collection and some of his best songs in 15 years. ‘Black Sweat’ especially wouldn’t sound out of place on a best of
12 Controversy (1981)
Released between ‘Dirty Mind’ and ‘1999’ it’s sometimes forgotten that he managed to hit such peaks even between those two accepted classics. In the insanely productive 1980s this is as close to an under appreciated Prince album as you’re likely to get
11 The Gold Experience (1995)
His last taste of any real success, and to be fair also the last time he truly reached for it. ‘Pussy Control’, ‘Endorphinmachine’, ‘Billy Jack Bitch’… the track list is essentially just a checklist of some of Prince’s forgotten classics. The final track ‘Gold’is a solid gold shiny pop masterpiece and contains maybe his most joyous and orgasmic guitar solo.
Maybe his most underrated and underappreciated album, remembered more now for the first appearence of his unpronouncable name change. The rap attempts are awful- hip hop was the one musical genre Prince never mastered but he still kept trying to only further embarassment- but skip those feeble attempts and the record is remarkably consistent. It’d be the last time he released any song you could truly consider one of his signatures: ‘Sexy MF’ ‘7’ and ‘My Name is Prince‘ are stone cold classics
9 The Truth (1998)
Continuing his bizarre recent passion for making sure his best work is always the most ridiculously difficult to find, this album was only available as a free CD with the 3 disc collection of ‘Crystal Ball’. Almost entirely acoustic, augmented with the occasional crazy production affect and minimal percussion, it’s utterly unique in his oeuvre and showcases a side of Prince’s talent previously unheard
8 Lovesexy (1988)
Both the final album of his truly classic period and the final time he really experimented and played around with his sound to any real success: any further great albums after this would be him being merely satisfied to make state of the art pop music.
7 1999 (1982)
Considering it kicks off with the utter perfection of the title track and ‘Little Red Corvette’ you might be fooled into thinking this some kind of pure pop masterclass, when in fact the double vinyl is an insanely ambitious and disarmingly experimental work and in no hurry to show it- 6 of its 11 tracks break 6 minutes
6 Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
I previously stated how Prince would later content himself merely with making absolutely pristine pop music, well this album is the absolute apex of that ambition. A thoroughly satisfying and lusciously produced set that you’d mistake for the greatest hits of a lesser talent. There are some absolutely bobbins tracks, admittedly, but the impossibly high heights more than make up for it
5 Dirty Mind (1980)
It all started here, it wasn’t his first album but it was when he first began to truly push boundaries and challenge accepted rules both with his revolutionary sound and his ultra risque lyrics- songs about fucking your sister are still hardly commonplace today- and also when he first truly understood the importance of a good image. His 3rd album pulls off the seemingly impossible trick of at once influencing seemingly every single pop and r’n’b record that followed it yet still sounding like absolutely nothing else
4 Purple Rain (1984)
The big one. With the number 1 film, album and single, few people have ever been as big as Prince was in the summer of 1984. Equally rare is for the biggest and best selling artist in the world to also be the best, and because ‘Purple Rain’ sold such a scandalous amount of copies it can easily forgotten quite how amazing it sounds
3 Around the World in a Day (1985)
As so few artists do, Prince responded to becoming the biggest artist in the world by seizing the opportunity to push his sound into even weirder and experimental places. His follow up to ‘Purple Rain’ was a crazed psychadelic pop masterpiece that judging by sales lost him around 10 million fans
2 Sign o the Times (1987)
Creatively the high point, as Prince absolutely prospers at an almost bewhildering amount of genres across maybe the greatest double album ever released, but also the definite sign that it was coming to an end. Rap music was beginning to take hold, the one genre Prince didn’t get, and the whole pop music scene was changing in front of Prince rather than because of him for the first time in his career. The year after ‘Sign…’ NWA released their debut album and suddenly Prince complaining about kids in gangs ‘high on crack and toting a machine gun’ placed him firmly on the opposite side to what would soon be considered cool. He would never be even close to the zeitgeist ever again
1 Parade (1986)
Absolute perfection. The songs meld together so spectacularly well that the cumulative affect rivals the second side of Abbey Road only with far better melodies that don’t sound like they’ve been sacrificed for the sense of cohesion. Each wondrous song flows perfectly and organically into the next wondrous song, with the album’s pristine stream only really halted by track 10, because a song as deliciously bizarre as ‘Kiss’ would struggle to fit in anywhere. When it ends with the breathtakingly beautiful piano ballad ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’ you accept it’s an album that has absolutely everything