Stop reading this. Stop now. Because there is no way words (mine or anyone else’s) are going to do justice to this album. It’s staggering impact simply cannot be described, it has to be experienced. Groundbreaking artists like Prince come along so rarely, usually once a generation, and even fewer leave behind such a seminal piece of work that defines and defies, solidifies and expands, describes and distorts its time and those who lived in it. Purple Rain does all that and more.
Equal parts rock, funk, pop and dance music, infused with spirituality and sex, evoking ecstatic joy and tearful sadness Prince’s juggernaut was an album that you could find in every home, wether it belonged to a sorority sister, a skater kid, a headbanging metal dude, a fly rap guy, a frat bro, an art school chick or a valley girl (yeah times and identities were a bit simpler back then). This music crossed all cultural, political, social and racial boundaries and had an impact on everyone.
So it is only right that it be celebrated with a release such as this. While not complete or perfect (minor technical quibbles abound) it is hard for me to have any complaints about this 3 CD/1 DVD set with its four panel fold out silver foil digipak case and accompanying booklet of band quotes and photos. While it’s wonderful to have a new disc of unreleased material from the studio sessions and a collection of all the remixes, edits and b-sides the true star here remains the album itself. Remastered by Prince himself at the legendary Paisley Park studios before his untimely passing the classic tracks somehow sound cleaner and more clear than ever, which is a feat given how well produced and dynamic the record was to begin with.
The remixes, extended versions and b-sides show off just how superb all of Prince’s finished output was at this time. They’re a great compliment to the album itself. I will admit including the single edits feel redundant and honestly I have always thought that they’re too trimmed down.
The disc of unreleased songs is Prince at his wild and raunchy best with titles like Electric Intercourse, Velvet Kitty Cat and other much less family-friendly names you know it’s Prince before you hear the tracks. But you can also see why they were abandoned. There is a rawness to them that is just not equal to the subtleties of depth of the actual album material. Maybe that could have been achieved if he had continued working with them but even as they are it’s impossible to not be entertained by them.
The DVD is of a live show from 1985 that was only ever released on VHS. While the digital audio found here is a major improvement over the initial version it appears that the digital video was not taken from the source material but the release instead. Thus it shows it’s age and technical limitations quite drastically. But don’t let that deter you as the music alone is amazing. Still it’s a shame not to have better accompanying images as Prince was such a dynamic performer and is featured here in his prime.
Well, why did you read that? I told you to stop. Whatever I said was a waste of time and effort, time that could have been spent listening to this album because that’s the only way to understand it. Please, if you lived in the time of this music, put it on and remember. If you didn’t, put it on and imagine…