Prince's Originals album: Nothing compares 2 new?
It is unlikely, though not implausible, that Prince Rogers Nelson would have sanctioned the release of Originals, a compilation of 14 previously unreleased compositions – some technically demos – written for other performers.
Still, this album brings the listener down a rare rabbit-hole, into the inner workings of the coquettish czar of cool they called, variously, The Imp of Perverse and The Minneapolis Mozart. No one wrote nor sang like Prince in his 1980s/early 1990s golden period. The Illinois Beethoven himself Miles Davis even likened Prince’s vocal delivery to Sonny Rollins’s saxophone-playing. In his 1990 autobiography Miles wrote: “His shit was the most exciting music I was hearing in 1982. Here was someone who was doing something different.”
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It is not difficult to see why Miles would be so interested in Prince’s early work, like his 1978 debut For You, or Prince (1979), Dirty Mind (1980), and Controversy (1981).
One of the more intriguing things about Originals is You’re My Love, Prince singing a sweet Michael Jackson-esque falsetto, dramatically different (duh!) from Kenny Rogers’s version on his 1986 album They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To. Roger’s voice is grit compared to Prince’s gender-zapping girly gorgeousness found here.
In 1985, giving a genetic glimpse into his own creativity, Prince told Rolling Stone about his musician father John L. Nelson: “When he was working or thinking, he had a private pulse going constantly inside him. I don’t know, your bloodstream beats differently.”
Prince’s private pulse is what makes his music so un-dated because it didn’t sound like anything else then and it doesn’t sound like anything else now.
For those of you wary of Originals because you could file it under demos, it is best to realise that this isn’t His Purpleness strumming on a lonely guitar while he waits for the rest of the musicians to add their bits at 4am. Prince could play all the instruments himself. So these are often beautifully arranged and just as often fully formed, and sassy; make that extra-sassy. He is positively, characteristically, unashamed. “I’m bad, good god!” he sings on Holly Rock, a song he bequeathed to Sheila E. On Sex Shooter – a saucy smash for another protege Apollonia 6 in 1984 – you can see why the Christian and Far Right tried to ban his music.
Then, on the gender-fluid oomph of Make Up, which he gave to Vanity Six in 1982, Prince is rhapsodising above some robotic Teutonic techno thus: “If I wear a dress, he will never call/ So I’ll wear much less, I guess I’ll wear my camisole.” Manic Monday, the song The Bangles made their own in the mid-1980s, sounds like a carefree re-working of 1999 with Fleetwood Mac melodies. Nothing Compares 2 U is psychedelic operatic-soul (complete with a hypnotic, repetitive Beatles-y Mellotron effect to say nothing of a Queen-like guitar solo and a ridic sax solo to match). It is still not a purple patch on what our Sinead O’Connor did unforgettably – and more simply – in 1990. Doves won’t cry.
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