It's been a year since we lost Prince. It still doesn't feel real to me, him being gone. And it's been a hard year, at least for me, since his passing. I've lost a lot. Heroes, family, friends, a job, and at times, hope. But while Prince is gone - which I can't believe, even as I'm sitting here listening to "Kiss", trying not to get too choked up - his music remains as an incredible legacy of his talent, his vision, and the things he stood for. It's come on when I didn't expect it, in the middle of long training runs, or stuck in traffic. It's been one of the first things I turn to when the rest of my life goes south, even more than it was before he died. 1999 has been the only thing played on my turntable for weeks, even as new records from bands I love have arrived on my doorstep. I haven't listened to anything but Prince in over a week.
I've been sitting here for 4, almost 5 hours, listening to The Current, which is playing all Prince all day, drinking whiskey, and reflecting on all the things that have happened since then. And as much as I love Prince, there are so many parts of his oeuvre that I've never really given much of a chance (see: most of the 1990s, swaths of the 2000s).
So here, we celebrate Prince, we listen to all the albums we can, we watch as I feebly try to make sense of something like 39 albums, give or take. Maybe some bootlegs. Almost definitely some side projects. I have no idea how long it will take, but that doesn't really matter, does it? If it takes two months or it takes ten, it will be a fantastic journey.
I'm going to go in whatever order I please, but I'll try to decide a little ahead of time and post in here the day before, so you can listen along if you want to participate.
Join me in my descent into purple madness, won't u?
I RNGed and got #29, so the first album I listen to will be Prince's 29th.
That's 2004's The Chocolate Invasion, which he put out to the NPG Music Club, first as a series of single downloads, then collected here, I think with an additional track or two. I've never heard more than a song or two from it, so this is a good place to start.
It should be available on Tidal at the very least, if not on other streaming platforms. I'm not a big streaming guy, so I don't know offhand.
Track List "When Eye Lay My Hands on U" – 3:41 "Judas Smile" – 6:33 "Supercute" – 4:13 "Underneath the Cream" – 3:59 "My Medallion" – 5:07 "Vavoom" – 4:35 "High" – 5:05 "Sexmesexmenot" – 5:40 "Gamillah" – 3:09 "U Make My Sun Shine" – 7:05
----- Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect coming into this. I'd heard "Supercute" before, but this was pretty good. Because it's sort of an assemblage of digitally released songs, there's not really a lot of thematic cohesion, but it doesn't really hurt; you never really get bored because it's constantly shifting. Some of the tracks, especially the opener, "When Eye Lay My Hands On U" are a little experimental, but mostly these ideas work. "Judas Smile" might be the one example where it really feels like nothing really comes together. "Gamillah", a slow, soft-jazz New Power Generation track, feels a little out of place at the tail end of what is an otherwise upbeat, danceable record, but in its own right it's kind of beautiful. It functions as a sort of lead-in to the slow-burn of the album closing ballad "U Make My Sun Shine", which has the feel of a very traditional Prince slow jam. It features Angie Stone on co-lead vocals and has a host of backing vocalists; it sort of feels like Prince doing a long-form take on an R. Kelly number. -----
Track List Million $ Show (3:10) Shut This Down (3:03) Ain't About To Stop (3:38) Like A Mack (4:04) This Could B Us (4:11) Fallinlove2nite (3:12) X's Face (2:38) Hardrocklover (3:42) Mr. Nelson (2:27) 1000 X's & O's (4:27) June (3:21)
Streamable: Tidal (available for purchase on Google Play, iTunes, Amazon)
----- This album is a little more of the hodgepodge I expected when I started The Chocolate Invasion. It's a sort of mix of R&B and drill music, which makes it jarring at times to listen to. Sometimes the two are brought together in an effective way - "Ain't About to Stop", and parts of "Shut This Down" - but mostly it's an uneven affair. Prince has never really had a knack with hip-hop - anyone who has listened to enough Prince has heard "Jughead" or "My Name is Prince" (about both of which more later) - even if he is able to identify what makes the hip-hop of the particular moment compelling. The tonal whiplash here extends beyond the mix of smooth R&B and Chicago hip-hop, though. "Hardrocklover" is about what you would expect from a track with that title: screeching guitars, traditional (if somewhat uninspired by Prince standards) rock structure. The remixed version of "This Could Be Us" gloms on layer after layer over what is otherwise a fantastic song. Mr. Nelson is just weird, and not in the usual fun way. The real gems in this album are at either end: a modernized version of song deep from the vault, "1000 X's & Os'" (previously known as "A Thousand Hugs and Kisses"; I'm not sure which of those titles is more Princely) and the simmering "June", which is sort of ethereal and surreal in a way Prince rarely was late in his career, end the album, and "Million $ Show", with its snippets of "Let's Go Crazy" and "1999" and big, warm brass section, and "Ain't About to Stop" are 2/3 of the opening salvo. -----