And so I embark on the largest, most ambitious, vital and- dare I say it?- woke undertaking of my young life. Yes: ‘young’. Relatively, I mean. In comparison to most trees.
Starting with Necessary Evil 2018, I am going to include one Prince album a year on the list, starting with His 1977 debut and ending when I reach His final album, ‘Hit N Run Phase 2’ that was released in 2015 (one of the very few Prince albums I’ve never actually heard, though I was sufficiently unimpressed with it’s predecessor to beg “oh God please don’t subject us to phase 2…”). I will eventually provide the definitive reaction to each and every officially released album credited to either Prince or New Power Generation (word to the wise, New Power Generation released some stinkers). Prince was a recording artist for thirty seven years, but I’m going to be concentrating on the years in which He actually released music. That means this will take me thirty years. It’s a big task, but I’m man enough to do it.
I’m going to try and not judge the music in the context of the year in which it was released, but actually whether it stands up to the music of the time in which it’s being reviewed. This might be bad news for all new music released about five years from now, as it will be judged against some of the absolute greatest albums ever released. ‘1999’ will be entered into the 2022 Necessary Evil and I honestly can’t envision any album being better than that. However, round about 2030 we’ll be entering Prince’s 90s efforts and… we probably won’t have to worry about Him winning.
His 1978 debut is a good example of how His collection will be judged. It’s a very good album. It’s extremely accomplished, wonderfully produced, has near flawless production values. It may have been something of a masterpiece were I to hear it in 1978. Forty years later*, however, large chunks of it sound like a very serviceable genre album.
(*Ooh! It’s the fortieth anniversary of his first record! Yeah, I know that, that’s why I’m doing it, obviously)
‘For You’ was probably incredibly exciting to witness the recording of, with an 18 year old (!!!) Prince giving the outside world the first glimpse of His extraordinary talents and demonstrating how adept He was at so many instruments. It’s for this reason that Just As Long As We’re Together, which was barely three minutes when it first existed as an early demo, is extended for another (entirely unnecessary) three minutes on the album. It was Prince proving His ability on several instruments and also producing, and apparently it’s no exaggeration to say that the song secured His first record deal. So, this forgettable funk workout may well be Prince’s most important early song.
‘Forgettable’ is the unfortunate word that springs to mind when listening to much of the album, but there are two notable exceptions. Soft and Wet is important for being by far the most experimental and esoteric track on the album, and being the only glimpse at the kind of bizarrely charming sexual explicitness that would soon define His work. Also, Bruce Willis’s wife said it was her favourite ever song in ‘Unbreakable’. I mean, it’s a very good song, but favourite ever?? Of all the M Night Shyamalan movie twists, I’d rank that one outside the top five.
Then the album climaxes with the absolutely incredible I’m Yours, the only track off His debut I’d consider essential and one that thrillingly previous the kind of rock/pop/funk combination that would change the world of music very soon. The promise is palpable.
With the proceeds of ‘For You’, Prince bought His first studio and built a studio in the basement. Perhaps this is what ‘For You’ should be seen as, building a solid bedrock for Prince’s career to enable Him to reach unimaginable heights in the future
OK, I’m going on the record here saying that I’m currently of the opinion that His 1992 album ‘‘ might be His most underrated and undervalued album. I guess we won’t know for sure for another decade or so. Blue Light is a perfectly nice, insignificant little song, while So Blue is just so fucking dull!
Yeah, that was always going to be likely…
With his self-titled second album, Prince gets His first hit (and for the first time writes one of the world’s greatest songs)