I'm almost done with having listened through my entire Prince collection (in chronological order) in my state of mourning. It's taken nearly a week (Prince's discography is enormous, fyi all those casual Prince fans, of which I'm obviously not), and I have not once gotten tired of hearing his voice, rhythms, infatuations, alterations, and audible imagery of his stage funk presence. Thinking it would fun to compose a list of his best work turned out to be an incredible challenge seeing that I believe him to have only one bad album: Crystal Ball, which was a recomposition of bootleg tracks that I imagine he never wanted to be released (and for good reason). Crystal Ball is a 4 disc set, the fourth of which is a sub-album, The Truth, a very harmonious acoustic set that is highly recommended, and worth obtaining the set for. Near to getting new tattoo work done, soon after his passing, I instantly knew I wanted to get a Symbol tattoo as a form of remembrance and admiration, something that I plan to do after the already planned work. The better half of my instincts immediately sought the artistic talents of my best friend, Ryan Straub, to draw up a design for me. Being the devoted critic that she is, much similar to me, she questioned whether I really wanted to commit to having a musical artist symbol etched into my flesh, for all time to see. Having come across so many Black Flag tattoos in Orange County, I understood her reservation. I'm indecisive about most things, but without coming anywhere close to brushing shoulders with hesitation, I responded with "yes!". This is due to Prince having been such a powerful influential presence in my life from the age of four, in both his musical dominance and fashion expertise (purple quickly became my favorite color). My father was a casino lobby musician in Las Vegas. He mostly performed covers of popular songs at the time, and often left his albums, from which he practiced, scattered across our living room carpet. Coming across Prince's image and energy as a child was like finding a purple diamond in a desert; he glimmered even in darkness and none of my six senses* could tear away. Prince was my gateway into music, to the idea that you can control sound.
Currently thirty-four, I've been in an extremely awe-stricken relationship with the Artist for 30 years. I can say this about no other musician I'm a fan of. I know of no other musical talent that is so dynamically versatile, and is also so visually energetic that to be engaged with his sound is to be engulfed by a euphorically sensual parade. Constructing a best-of list then seemed impossible given the sheer diversity of sound and concept pertaining to each individual album. No album is better than the next because they're each doing such different things. Take Rainbow Children, his most jazz-driven album in his collection, to the degree it sounds very near to being completely foreign to his more popular albums. It should come as no surprise that Purple Rain is on the top of most lists by fellow Prince aficionados. This isn't to say that he didn't have brilliant stuff going on elsewhere, which he very much did, but most people aren't familiar with any of his other albums (The Hits 1 & 2 don't count you lazy bums) due to them not being complemented by a movie. This is unfortunate given that his style expands over so many different genres that he defies them all. To add to the impact of Purple Rain, each track is so enticing and impossible to deny due to having very welcoming vibes, that many of his following works would feel challenging in comparison. He continues to carry these vibes throughout his career, but the rest of his albums take very bold leaps that, more often than not, pay off, but can be very much off the familiar path of PR. Being able to engage in risks, with those few artists that take them, is what makes partaking in their work exciting, and has those of us that can appreciate breaking the ground we though we were standing on, coming back for more.
My mother passed away two years ago. I received the call at work, shrugged, and continued with my shift. News of Prince's death reached me at work as well, and it was a struggle to finish the day. I gave everyone within eye-shot the cold shoulder as I desired nothing more than to mourn in private. When you're the child of persons who are ultimately more your foes than anything else, artists of any age, towards which you find a target for your affections, become your caretakers. The moment I got home, I started on what I had planned to do from minute one of the grim news: listen to every Prince album I own (which is many). In the mean time, I hated every moment that the store radio played a Prince single, mostly due to it catering to the casual fan, the ones that didn't realize that up until this April, he was still recording and touring, that he's now back to "Prince", that he once went by an unpronounceable symbol; those dirtbags that can't even name a single New Power Generation album. I didn't want to attend any one of the many club/bars that were having a Prince tribute night seeing as most in attendance will be those very same assholes, and as such, will be treating his death as some sort of pop culture souvenir to wear around simulating the sensation that one is in touch with what real dedication is like. I took to being in my room with the kitty (Paige), and listen to Prince speak in ways that I will never understand, but will always feel in touch with. From this listening I thought to compose a top 10 list that is simply a way to mix it up with the works of the Artist who is lord of mixing it up.
1. Purple Rain
2. Sign o' the Times
3. Love Symbol Album
4. Dirty Mind
7. For You
8. Diamonds and Pearls
10. Rainbow Children
P.S. - very much recommended #11, Lovesexy
*Yes, I have an extra sense, and it's not mystical in nature. Refer to Prince track, It.