album notes

Prince: Purple Rain
May 23, 2007, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Prince


Purple Rain
Released 1984

Let’s Go Crazy: 9.1
Take Me With U: 7.5
The Beautiful Ones: 7.1
Computer Blue: 5.7
Darling Nikki: 7.5
When Doves Cry: 9.6
I Would Die 4 U: 7.0
Baby I’m a Star: 7.9
Purple Rain: 8.6
Notes Rating: 7.71
Commercial Success: 4.8
Cultural Impact: 4.7
Influence: 4.1
Album Rating: 12.243

1984 was ripe to be the year of Prince. He was poised to become a megastar, filming a movie of the same name and cutting a bunch of tracks that oozed freedom, sex and fun. And what do you know: Purple Rain confirms that megastar status, showing over and over the talent and versatility of not only Prince, not only The Revolution, but of music.

Those first words — “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life” — conjure up a plethora of images. It’s romantic, it’s prophetic, it’s philosophical. He puts it all up front, then breaks down all the walls quickly with punches of rock, funk, soul, R&B, metal and blues. It’s all there.

“Let’s Go Crazy” breaks the walls down immediately. It’s a steamroll of rock and funk, hitting all prophetic overtones in the lyrics. At a time when the Cold War escalated to a giant extreme, at a time when technology had just begun to show its reach, this was an anthem. When Prince screams “Take me away!,” you want to go with him. And you do, as the next song is the poptastic “Take Me With U.” Not as good as brethren “Manic Monday” and “Raspberry Beret,” but it shimmers in its Baroque beauty.

Purple Rain is one of those albums where you can’t skip around tracks, even though you could. It’s not a concept album — though one could argue it is — yet the songs are juxtaposed so perfectly, it all blends together. “The Beautiful Ones” comes in at just the right time, slowing down the pace and allowing Prince to show off his vocal skills. It could easily be the album’s climax. But it isn’t. “Computer Blue” comes in at the right time as well, but it falls a bit without a hook. And the Wendy and Lisa dialog doesn’t quite stack up 20 years later.

Of course, “Darling Nikki” still stacks up in contrast. It’s loose, orgasmic and absolutely bone-jerking. Prince’s songwriting is quite vivid too — you feel as if you’re there, feeling the emotional pain inflicted by Nikki’s schemes. This closes the first half of the album; the second half’s opener, “When Doves Cry” is the classic. A masterful piece of orchestration, Prince uses drums and vocals to the greatest extent, delivering a purely unique song very ahead of its time.

The title track is another classic, Prince’s true epic. Leading to that are two great tracks — “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star.” The former swirls around with some of Prince’s best imagery. Is it about Jesus? Possibly. The latter is a show-stopper, a big-time ode to stardom. It’s Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City,” if everything went well for the hero. And the title track is complete gravy. It’s a luscious final, winding coda, complete with standout vocals and a blistering guitar solo.

To say Purple Rain is a masterpiece is an understatement. It’s maybe the best of the 1980s. It fuses many of the 80s sounds and styles while incorporating other sounds and styles of music history. And Prince was totally aware. He knew how unstoppable he was. He knew the talent he had. He poured everything he had into it — literally — and came out with an undeniable epic.