Album Review: Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain (deluxe reissue)

Published June 25

Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain (deluxe reissue)

9.5/10

Disc 1 – Purple Rain

Remastering in 2017 has unfortunately become synonymous with the art of brickwalling the sound.   That is removing the dynamic differences from the original recording and tapping out all the levers for every sound in the recording.  Purists hate this.   Consider Prince a purist.

So with that, Prince really had no interest in remastering Purple Rain, or any other original recording.   His arm appeared twisted to go through the process in order to attain rights to his master recordings, a fight that he fought publicly in the 90’s.  Ultimately Prince got his way; he owned the masters, and at the time of his passing – a mere 32 years after the original release of Purple Rain, the album had never been released in a remastered format.

For Prince aficionados, it’s common knowledge that the last thing Prince would ever want to spend his time on is sitting in a Paisley Park studio remastering an old album in order to appease the brass at a record label.

But here we are now 33 years later with a new, louder recording of the centerpiece of Prince’s career.  Without Purple Rain and its meteoric success, there probably is no Paisley Park and the self-indulgent, unstoppable output that Prince retained for his entire career.

The nine songs themselves became the mountain top that Prince created the public quickly dubbed it as the Minneapolis sound.  One man, one genre.  It was a new form of funk.   A prog-rock, industrial type of funk that was powered by a Linn drum machine and more electric guitar than anyone ever included in a funk sound.  Prince’s guitar riffs, his stadium-ready choruses and the signature drum machine defined a decade more than Thriller and Like a Virgin ever could.

The entire planet is aware of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ but it’s the final, excruciatingly vulnerable two minutes of ‘The Beautiful Ones’ that provides the emotional centerpiece of both the album and the movie.   It takes a listener’s breath away and only becomes more remarkable when you learn in the liner notes it was a one-man show; performed solely by Prince.  One man, one masterpiece.

Disc 2 – Purple Rain outtakes

Albert Magnoli, director of the Purple Rain movie said Prince had nearly 100 songs available for the soundtrack.  Disc 2’s ‘previously unreleased material’ plays along as if someone stuck their hand into a purple bag from 1984 and randomly grabbed a dozen of those 100.  Some of these tracks are lost gems (the 17 Days-like ‘Dance Electric’, the funk jam ‘Wonderful Ass’, the blistering, extended version of ‘Computer Blue’ and the early, long version of ‘We Can Fuck’ (later released as ‘We Can Funk’)).

Once again, it’s the Linn drum machine that connects the dots between the tracks.  When the Linn kicks in during a new track (‘Love and Sex’), you’re transported back to that, magical 1984 era.   A few behind the scenes staples from the movie, ‘Father’s Song’ and ‘Possessed’ fill in the gaps that the original soundtrack left behind.   Where as a few tracks fall below the line; ‘Velvet Kitty Cat’, and ‘Katrina’s Paper Dolls’ are the type of subpar tunes that Prince probably never wanted the general public to hear.   They water down the legacy on disc here.

The most anticipated track, ‘Electric Intercourse’, has been a Prince bootleg collector’s dream since the late ’80’s when a seminal live version of this track was unearthed inside a rough recording of a Purple Rain preview show in 1983.   Discarded in place of ‘The Beautiful Ones’ it’s become a part of Prince mythology for decades.   However, the studio version falls short in most regards.   It’s falsetto-led delivery here from Prince lacks the alpha male rock-star version from the live 1983 show.  The studio version makes him sound vulnerable, less in charge.   It’s impossible to not compare the two versions and in this instance the live version made a strong case for inclusion in the movie.   The studio track here on disc 2 does not.

Disc 3 – B-sides and single edits

Mostly an eye roll, and the technical flaw of the opening seconds on the extended version of ‘Erotic City’ may require a recall shortly.   The single edits will satisfy the 0.01% of the completists out there, but there really isn’t a single nugget on this disc for collectors.   An extended version of ’17 Days’ would have filled that gap, but that’s not the case.  What we do have is a disc that displays the single greatest collection of B-sides ever compiled by an artist for a single album.   As if Purple Rain wasn’t a great enough LP, the B-sides have nothing but made the entire experience from that album something interstellar.

It’s inevitable that another reissue will come out in 5-10 years with a similar random, grab-bag of outtakes, and perhaps a series of live recordings from Prince’s most prolific era.   This was the moment Prince became the biggest star on the planet, and after 1984 dissolved into 1985 and Around the World in a Day, Prince would never again achieve such mass unity until his sudden passing.

–TWTHS

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