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Purple Rain Revisited

By Steve Rhodes

The Wikipedia entry for Purple Rain categorizes the landmark album's genre as "Pop, rock, R&B, funk, neo-psychedlia, new wave, Minneapolis."

You got that right.

Purple Rain is all of those things and more. It's a better record than Thriller, as far as 80s blockbusters go, though not always as daring - and mindblowing - as some of Prince's earlier work.

Sometimes - "let's get nuts!" - there are moments of schmaltz.

But it is an undeniable record with far more imagination, musicality, and indivdual brilliance than anything Michael Jackson and his team of songwriters ever managed.

Local rock critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot performed one of their Classic Album Dissections on Purple Rain last weekend on Sound Opinions on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

The big surprise to me was how involved Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were in the creative process.

The way Wendy and Lisa described it to Greg and Jim in an interview, they were tight with Prince at the time, forcing a potent triad that opened up new possibilities to an artist who was already miles beyond his years.

Let's take a closer look.

Release date: June 25, 1984

Charts: 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart

Track Listing:
Side One

1. "Let's Go Crazy" - 4:39
2. "Take Me with U" - 3:54
3. "The Beautiful Ones" - 5:13
4. "Computer Blue" - 3:59
5. "Darling Nikki" - 4:14

Side Two

1. "When Doves Cry" - 5:54
2. "I Would Die 4 U" - 2:49
3. "Baby I'm a Star" - 4:24
4. "Purple Rain" - 8:41

Test Pressing:

November 7, 1983:

1. "Let's Go Crazy"
2. "The Beautiful Ones"
3. "Darling Nikki"
4. "Wednesday"
5. "Purple Rain"
6. "I Would Die 4 U"
7. "Baby, I'm a Star"
8. "Father's Song"

Contemporary Reviews:

Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1984: "Like Michael Jackson, who ended up copping the crossover crown [at least for the moment], Prince is a strikingly beautiful young man who seems made for video exposure; like Jackson, his forte is fusing 'black' and 'white' styles into a sound that cuts across musical lines."

Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1984: "This is a summer of pop idols, every one of them bathed in mystery. Michael Jackson spends time shuttling between his mansion of mannequins and blockbuster mobs. Bruce Springsteen, as hugely popular as ever, talks rarely and stays away from camera crews. Now comes Prince, the flashy, sexy, musically innovative singer whose new album, Purple Rain, raced up the pop charts to give Jackson and Springsteen an unfathomable run for their money."

Robert Palmer, New York Times, July 22, 1984: "For the first time on one of his albums, Prince has chosen to work primarily with his band, and presumably to accept musical input other than his own.

"In solitude, even the work of a prodigally gifted, self-made genius must eventually become constricted. On Purple Rain, the band's contributions do make the music sound more alive and more sensual. There are dazzling musical moments - the synthesizers and guitars that rave and rage at each other, yet remain almost frighteningly controlled in 'Let's Go Crazy,' or the strutting, almost-scat vocalizing on 'The Beautiful Ones.' 'Darling Nikki' features some of the most unrestrained piano- thumping and leather-lunged screaming since Little Richard. The album's closer, the cathartic 'Purple Rain,' sets a gospel rap and jazz borrowings into the framework of a country-rock ballad, decorated with Nashville-style, Floyd Cramer-like piano arpeggios.

"For the first time, Prince has stepped beyond the image he so obsessively constructed for himself on earlier records, and the result is exhilarating. What the film critics will make of all this remains to be seen, but the album Purple Rain is a winner, creatively and commercially. It may lack the Jacksons' multiformat sophistication and Bruce Springsteen's single-minded vision of America's hopes and failures, but this listener suspects that long after this summer's hits are forgotten, and the Jacksons and Springsteen albums are packed away, Purple Rain will still be remembered, and played, as an enduring rock classic."

Where Are They Now?



Permalink

Posted on July 30, 2009


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