If you only know me from this blog, then you might not realize that one of My Top 10 Favorite Albums of All-Time was a “little” album that arrived in stores across the country during the Summer of 1984. That summer, the world became a deeper shade of purple as Prince crawled out the underground and walked proudly right down the middle of Main Street all through the Midwest AND the rest of the world. The album, Purple Rain, was Prince & the Revolution’s third masterpiece in their brief career, following 1980’s Dirty Mind and 1999 from 1982.
Purple Rain hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was finally hearing the fruition of Prince’s massive talents. And as I played the album for the first time, I immediately realized I was listening to something special, something that I really had not felt since the first time I listened to The Clash’s timeless double album from 1980 called London Calling. And where London Calling was The Clash’s celebration of American music filtered through four English punks, Purple Rain was the sound of an amalgamation of rock, soul, funk, rock and new wave into a brand new sound labeled by critics at the time as the Minneapolis Sound, since that was where Prince had been raised. But, when you hear other artists either from Minneapolis or produced by someone from the Twin Cities, then you know what I’m talking about. The sound entered the American Psyche when Prince hit #11 in January of 1980 with “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, only to be followed by the big #1 of that very summer “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. In the aftermath, the floodgates opened, an, d we were buried by the Sound as hits by Apollonia 6, The Time, SOS Band, Ta Mara & the Seen, The Family, Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, the Jesse Johnson Review, Martika, Morris Day, Mazarati, the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson, as well as smaller artists whose rode the coattails of Prince.
Let’s face it. Purple Rain is a landmark album, much like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experience?, Nevermind by Nirvana or The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem for other generations of music fans. All of us in the early portion of Generation X hold Purple Rain in such esteem. And, I’m certain that everyone reading this blog is familiar with this album. Purple Rain spawned two number one US hits with the first two singles, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” which might be the greatest album opener since Bob Dylan opened his classic album Highway 61 Revisited with his trademark anthem of the Baby Boom Generation “Like a Rolling Stone”. Then, Prince followed those two chart toppers with his own trademark song “Purple Rain,” his attempt at writing a Bob Seger-like ballad. All three of these hits show off Prince’s masterful guitar work, all showing off different aspects of his six-string talent.
Yet, the full vision that Prince wanted to hit us with remained commercially unavailable until June 2017, when after years of rumors, the keepers of Prince’s estate allowed a remastered and expanded deluxe version of Purple Rain to be released. Now, thanks to the remastering job, the original album jumps from my speakers, nearly giving me the experience of sitting in the studio as Prince and the Revolution recorded the album. But, the real treasure trove is the second disc that is included as the finished songs that Prince had to cut from the album’s original configuration, as well as a third disc that includes all single edits AND B-Sides from the era. That’s right! THREE CDs worth of Prince music, AND a DVD entitled Live at the Carrier Dome, which was recorded during the ‘Purple Rain Tour’ in Syracuse, New York on March 30, 1985.
On Disc Two, we get to hear the long-rumored and oft-bootlegged extended funk work-out “The Dance Electric”. Other previously unreleased gems from the vault, including the absolutely brilliant “Electric Intercourse,” the sound of future Prince on “Possessed”, the absolutely dirty funk workout on “Wonderful Ass” and the fun Gary Numan-sounding synthpop workout “Velvet Kitty Cat”. I absolutely love to hear Prince’s unreleased songs because those songs often showcased hidden parts of his enormous talent.
Everything on Disc Three is old to me, as I have collected most of those songs on vinyl. But, Disc Two is worth the price of admission. If you are to purchase this remastered album on vinyl, I have read that the vinyl is an opaque vinyl, which is awesome to see. I have not read about it, but it this new album has Disc Two on vinyl, then I will HAVE to purchase it.
You know, every time I re-listen to this album, I fall in love with Purple Rain all over again. And, I feel the same way about the movie too. Purple Rain represents Prince discovering his commercial appeal and power, just before he is ready to thumb his nose at the success in order to more closely follow his muse and take the portion of his audience to special places of his artistry. In retrospect, it is so very admirable and inspiring that Prince was able to turn his back the massive success of Purple Rain in order to more fully develop his artistry that will peak in 1987 with Sign ‘o’ the Times, and again in 1996 with the unreleased sprawling triple-CD set known as The Dawn in bootleg form.
Once again, Prince is another artist who died way too young and far too soon.