Welcome 2 the Dawn – A Prince Retrospective
Introduced to the world as something of a one-man funk band with a debut that had him writing, producing, and performing as well as playing all of the instruments, the bashful seventeen year-old from St. Paul’s became one of few artists to live up to being labeled a prodigy. Curiously prolific, Prince released a new album every year and with each came a reinvention of both sound and style: from the subway flasher sleaze of Dirty Mind, the sexual pageantry of Purple Rain, and the Beatlesesque “Around the World in the Day”, his prolific peak provided as much quality and quantity of output as any artist in history, a fact made more incredible in light of the thousand or so unreleased songs reputedly stored in his infamous vault, which fans hope will live 2 see the dawn.
As a crash course for the uninitiated, I’ve put together a chronological tour through each of his studio albums, and a selection of my favorite of the unfinished and unreleased songs I’ve collected over the years.
Soft and Wet
prince – I Feel For You
When You Were Mine
All The Critics Love U in New York
Take Me With U
I Wonder U
Sign O’ the Times
I Wish U Heaven
Joy In Repetition
Money Don’t Matter 2Night
Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother, Wife
The Work Pt. 1
Leaving For New York (Demo)
Turn It Up
Tick Tick Bang (1980 Version)
We Can Funk (Early Version)
Cloreen Bacon Skin feat. Morris Day
Baby, You’re a Trip
All My Dreams
Witness 4 the Prosecution
Nevaeh Ni Ecalp A
Old Friends 4 Sale
There’s Others Here With Us
Poem to the Lady in White
Kiss (Acoustic Demo)
SONGS BY OTHER ARTISTS
Fearful that the infinitely prolific artist would produce more music that the market could handle, Warner Brothers forced Prince to limit himself to an album per year during his miraculous heyday. Inspired by a 1980 film called The Idolmaker, which told the story of a rock promoter Bob Marcucci, who himself became famous for making Frankie Avalon a star, Prince had the idea to assemble a series of musical acts from within the Uptown Minneapolis music scene, and remake them in his own image.
Acts like The Time, Vanity 6, and The Family were fitted with the puppeteer’s strings and given finished songs and a set of strict instructions on how to play them. He dictated their style and conceptualized their live shows, casting his long shadow from his place above the stage. The following is a selection of songs mostly written by Prince and performed by his musical marionettes.
Morris Day and Prince – Tricky
Apollonia 6 – Sex Shooter
Ready For the World – O Sheila
Sheila E – The Glamorous Life
Sheila E – A Love Bizzare (Parts One and Two)
The Family – Screams of Passion (Extended)
Mazarati – 100 MPH
Jill Jones – G-Spot (7 Inch Version
Andre Cymone – Dance Electric (Long Version)
Dez Dickerson – (I Want 2 B a) Modernaire
Vanity 6 – Drive Me Wild
Vanity 6 – Vibrator
Jill Jones – Baby, You’re a Trip
The Family – Nothing Compares 2 U
The Time – Gigolos Get Lonely Too
To be an enthusiastic Prince fan is to find yourself wondering what might have been. Having one of the most prolific musicians of all time working under the restrictions of a label reluctant to release too much material into what they only saw as a market meant that a great deal of music would be relegated to the proverbial cutting room floor. Some songs would emerge as B-sides, others would be given to other artists in his orbit, but most would be relegated to Prince’s infamous Vault, with a fraction off the material having since been leaked by various sources.
As an exercise in exploring these alternate realities, I went through his albums from Purple Rain to Sign of the Times and reassembled them using various b-sides, bootlegs, and alternate versions. My versions of Around the World and Parade can be found on my Mixcloud page. May U Live 2 See the Dawn.
PURPLE RAIN (THE ELECTRIC ADOLESCENCE EXPERIENCE)
The importance of timing in music relates to more than just tempo. For certain artists there seems to be a moment where the world conspires to create an opening for them to take their shot. The rare opportunity to make an album and integrated feature film came at a time when Prince somehow combined the freshness of a new discovery with the pedigree of an industry veterin. Purple Rain was the result of an artist looking over the event horizon of popular music and seeming to see everything at once. The album shifts effortlessly between styles and genres, between radio-friendly accessibility and brash experimentation, and yet you’d struggle to find an album with a more cohesive sound.
This reconception of Purple Rain restores the uncut singles and alternate versions of the album tracks against previously unreleased material like “G-Spot”, which was originally considered in-place of “Darling Nikki”, and “Electric Intercourse”, the epic ballad that acted as a placeholder for “Purple Rain”.
Let’s Go Crazy (Film Intro/ Special Dance Mix)
Take Me With U
G Spot (Guide Vocal)
Purple Rain Music Excerpt
The Beautiful Ones (Unreleased Alternate Version)
Computer Blue (Extended Hallway Speech)
Darling Nikki (Unreleased Alternate Version)
When Doves Cry (Remix)
I Would Die 4 U (12″ Version, Edited)
Baby I’m a Star
Purple Rain (Film Version)
SIGN OF THE TIMES (THE ELECTRIC ADOLESCENCE EXPERIENCE)
If the last couple of releases saw Prince loosing his command of fans and critics, Sign of the Times was as much as a return to form as it was a new beginning. Having started the sessions with The Revolution for an project called Dream Factory, conflicts surrounding it’s release and Prince’s rearrangement of their touring band resulted in the album being cancelled and the group being disbanded; an act of creative destruction that paved the way for something entirely new.
With the death of Dream Factory came the birth of Camille, an alter-ego Prince created to tap into darker feelings and musical choices than he would allow himself unmasked. If some fans considered his follow ups to Purple Rain too bright and void of funk, Camille’s first effort, “Housequake”, was appropriately announced as an aftershock. While he initially intended to release the album under this pseudonym, Prince eventually decided to combine this new output with the Dream Factory sessions to create a triple album called Crystal Ball. Aware no artist had ever made a successful triple album, Warner Brother’s insisted that the music be confined to two discs, which would eventually be titled Sign of the Times.
The result was a collection of great songs, but like the Beatles’ White Album, Sign of the Times does sometimes feels more like a compilation more than it does a singular album. Keeping that in mind, I avoided the temptation to treat this version like a greatest hits of unreleased material, favoring the minimal funk and soul conceived at a moment when Prince once again seemed secure of his place in the world when left alone in the studio.
Housequake (Unreleased Camille Remix)
Hot Thing (Electric Adolescence Edit)
Baby Go Go (Guide Vocal)
Strange Relationship (Unreleased Alternate Version)
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Sign O the Times
Forever In My Life
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
Starfish and Coffee
Joy In Repetition (Demo Version)
MUSIC VIDEOS AND LIVE SHOWS
Anybody who has found themselves wanting to watch Prince videos will notice that there aren’t too many online due to Prince’s legal team all but scrubbing them from digital existence. With that in mind, I have compiled this feature length mix of Prince music videos and live performances, including content from his vault that never made it to TV or video.