I’m back, but I’m still not feeling all that great as far as my back is concerned. Now, my Purple Funk continues to hang around me. No matter how many times I listen to Purple Rain or Sign O’ the Times, I still feel a sense of musical loss. Heck, I have so much Prince music that I could be listening continuously for weeks on end and never repeat an album. Yet, I still cannot stop listening to his music.
In college in the early ’80s, Prince’s music was played at nearly every party I went to. If it wasn’t Prince, then it was his proteges like The Time, Vanity 6 or Sheila E. Heck, even my beautiful wife is dancing to his music again. For a short moment, we, as a couple, are not simply mourning the loss of Prince, but, dare I say, the loss of our youth. Maybe, that’s what all of these deaths of rock stars truly mean to us, the loss of our youth.
During the Nineties, Prince moved away from his simple pop/rock/funk tunes. By that time his James Brown/George Clinton/Jimi Hendrix-influenced brand of funk/rock music was leaving his Eighties fans behind. Those of us who stuck with him were entertained by this period of his career. After conquering the world, now Prince was going to conquer his artistic vision. As I go back and listen to his Nineties output, many for the first time in twenty years, I am finally hearing the artistic flowering of Prince, or whatever that symbol was called.
The whole Artist Formerly Known As Prince era, which most people did not understand, was Prince’s fight for his career. He was the first to use the internet for the release of his music. Between 1996 and 2009, Prince released several albums worth of music only as downloads. He was the first to realize that owning his work was every bit as important as creating it. Legend has it that Prince created a song a day, and as many as 500 songs remain in a “vault” somewhere in his Paisley Park studio. Personally, I cannot wait to see this material released over the next decade or two.
Like I said earlier, the Nineties were the fruition of Prince’s creative soul. Today, I would like to present my 15 favorite Prince songs from the Nineties, most of which the majority of you probably have never even heard. All I can say is to dig them up!
15. “Pink Cashmere” (1993) The Hits/The B-Sides. This slice of Prince-ified ’70s soul was added to his first greatest hits collection.
14. “Wasted Soul” (1998) New Power Soul. This may be the only good song on what is arguably Prince’s weakest album. This song is his take on Nineties R&B, only better since its Prince.
13. “Dionne” (1998) The Truth. In 1998, Prince released a three-CD set of his unreleased material which was called Crystal Ball. In the packaging, Prince included a fourth CD of “unplugged” numbers, all of which were new songs. This was the best of that fantastic lot, showing the world that he too could do acoustic blues like Eric Clapton.
12. “So Far, So Pleased” [Featuring Gwen Steffani] (1999) Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In 1999, Prince signed a contract with Arista Records, where Clive Davis just hit revived Santana’s career by pairing the guitar great with contemporary artists. Davis’ idea was to do the same with Prince. The problem is Prince doesn’t play by others’ rules. Still, this song was rocker that has probably only gotten better in a live performance.
11. “I Like It There” (1996) Chaos and Disorder. This power pop rocker is found on one of Prince’s better Nineties albums. The song is in that long line of power pop songs that began with “When You Were Mine.”
10. “I Can’t Make U Love Me” (1996) Emancipation. No kidding! This is that Bonnie Raitt song from earlier in the Nineties given a good Princely going-over. If you love Raitt’s version, wait ’til you hear Prince’s take.
9. “Sexy M.F.” (1992) O)+->. Anyone else remember the controversy behind this song since he was singing “Mother F*@%$er”. I remember Arsenio Hall playing it on his show for several weeks. Sure, Prince cursed, but the song’s just so damn funky.
8. “Diamonds and Pearls” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. Many cried that Prince sold out on this album. No way! He just proved that he could write a bunch of hit songs whenever he wanted to. And this gospel-based ballad proved that Prince still had the goods.
7. “Gett Off” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. When Prince performed this song on the MTV Music Video Awards in 1991, he proved that he could absolutely rock while performing in a Michael Jackson-worthy production all the while courting controversy by wearing ass-less pants as he gyrated with his dancers, Diamond and Pearl. And, yet, he still found time to lay down a nasty guitar solo.
6. “Dinner with Delores” (1996) Chaos and Disorder. This nice little Paul McCartney-esque number is a brilliant showcase of the versatility of Prince’s writing skills.
5. “Cream” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. This naughty innuendo song was Prince’s last number one hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. Yet, this song was another one of his funk/pop/rock amalgamation that he was known for.
4. “7” (1992) O)+->. This acoustic-based rock/funk song displayed Prince’s spiritual side by bringing up Old Testament imagery in one of his greatest and most forgotten hits ever.
3. “Thieves in the Temple” (1990) Graffiti Bridge. This was his only hit from that God-awful movie Graffiti Bridge. Yet, there’s no denying this song’s slinky funk base. At least he left the bassline in the song this time. Yet, it does remind one of “Kiss” and “When Doves Cry”, only on a more complex level.
2. “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (1994) single. This is hands-down Prince’s greatest and most beautiful (pardon the pun!) love song in his catalog. I seriously think of my wife whenever I hear it.
1. “Endorphinmachine” (1995) The Gold Experience. This is Prince’s nod to the grunge/alternative rock era of the time. He proves his guitar talents on this rocking song that almost proves he has a metal side to his playing.
Truthfully, Prince in the Nineties is a wild ride. Over the last twenty years, I tend to play these albums and songs more than his more popular Eighties output. There is something to be send for the long-term vision of Prince’s artistry.