Tag Archive: Prince

#108: “Hunky Dory” by David Bowie


“There’s a starman waiting in the sky.  He like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” — Z. Stardust

I took it pretty hard when David Bowie died back in January.  I responded by listening to Ziggy Stardust pretty much nonstop for weeks.  And of all the albums I’ve “discovered” so far by doing this blog, that one might be my favorite.  I haven’t brought myself to listen to his posthumous release, Blackstar, yet.  I guess I’m saving it for something.  I’m not sure what though.  Maybe I’m just avoiding the finality of it.  But 2016 has sadly been the year of artists passing, with Prince and Leonard Cohen among the musicians, and actors such as Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder.  And just yesterday, Carrie Fisher died.  Haven’t even really processed that one yet.  All of these celebrity deaths, along with the election results, have cast a pallor over 2016, and I hear lots of people just wanting the year to end so they can move on to 2017.  But actually, 2016 was a pretty memorable year for me: I got married, I got promoted, and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the Land’s championship drought.  As such, despite all the other stuff, I’ll quote Tori Amos and say “well, still pretty good year”.

So I dug into Hunky Dory hoping to hear the same glam rock crunch and sing-a-long bar rock choruses of Ziggy Stardust, but I was actually a bit disappointed.  This precedes Ziggy by a year, and instead features a more art-house piano cabaret style on most of the songs.  There are a few exceptions, like “Changes” (which I reference often in this blog), “Life on Mars?”, and “Queen Bitch”, but for the most part coffee shop style poetry and odes to Andy Warhol and Robert Zimmerman.  I probably built this album up too much in my mind, and I thought it was good, but not great.  I got this in a lot with Ziggy Stardust on ebay for $10 (and I’m not proud to say I gifted the extra disc on Xmas, but hopefully Myoldestniecia is rocking out somewhere to “Suffragette City”).  I wanted this particular edition because it is the out-of-print Rykodisc version with bonus tracks, as opposed to the most recent Parlophone release with no bonus tracks and likely mp3 era remastering issues.  It lacks the lettering on the front cover (weird), but it also lacks a bar code on the back (coolio).

Other lists: “Changes” is #128 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ch-ch-changes (ahem): Even the Starman cannot escape the power of Kid A (sounds like a comic book tagline) and drops one spot from its original position at #107.

My favourite track: “Quicksand”

Honourable mention: “Life on Mars?”

Quote: “I’m not a prophet or a stone age man, just a mortal with the potential of a superman.”


There's a Riot Goin' On

So here we have another answer to Marvin Gaye’s essential question What’s Going On?…well, apparently there’s a riot goin’ on.  And that may be a reference to riot that happened at a concert when Sly went on stage late (shades of Axl Rose there), or it could be a general statement on the racial violence gripping American in the aftermath of the civil rights movement.  Either way, this is not the fun, happy Sly Stone we met on the Greatest Hits record.  This album is much darker, and while it still grooves, it certainly isn’t the fun summertime party music he had been making previously.  For the most part, it sounds like one long, extended jam session that has been cut up into separate tracks.  Except it’s not really a jam session, nor is it really a Family Stone album, because it’s mostly just Sly doing the Prince/Trent Reznor thing (prior, of course, to Prince or Trent Reznor doing the Prince/Trent Reznor thing) and playing most of the instruments himself with a few guest artists like Billy Preston (who played with Beatles), Ike Turner, and Bobby Womack helping out.  I picked this up for $7 at the Exchange in North Olmstead this past summer when I was up in the Land for a weekend at the Princess’ alma mater.  It takes a few spins to really dig into it.  And even the remastered CD is still a little murky from all of Sly’s overdubs.

Other lists: See entry #61 on Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits.

My favorite track: “Time”

Honorable mention: “Spaced Cowboy” (nice yodel work)

Quote: “My only weapon is my pen, and the frame of mind I’m in.”

Sign o' the Times

“My name is Prince, and I am funky” – The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

So I have to admit I was struggling for something to write about in this blog post.  I wasn’t really feeling this album, and other than the two albums with the New Power Generation in the 90s, I am not much of a Prince fan.  I was going to write something about how I think Prince may have invented text message language (“Nothing Compares 2 U”? Anyone?), but then I happened to be watching the original Batman movie the other night…no, not the 1960s Adam West farce, and not the sometimes-to-clever-its-own-good Christopher Nolan trilogy either, but the 1989 Batman movie directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as the Batman (still the best actor ever to don the cowl) and Jack Nicholson as the Joker (I know Heath Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, but I’ll still take Jack Nicholson’s performance any day of the week)…and I realized that Prince did the entire soundtrack (not the orchestral score, which was done by long time Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman) for that movie.  And it’s largely terrible (the soundtrack, not the movie or the score), but it brought back some memories.  I was at that tender junior high school comic book reading age when that movie came out, and Batman was (and still is) by far my favorite super-hero.  No super powers, a tragic anti-hero, yada yada.  All the stuff a middle school aged boy loves.  So, anyway, the movie came out in the summer, and I remember mi madre driving me out to the little two-screen theater in Conneaut (I wonder why it wasn’t playing in Ashtabula?) so I could see the very first showing on the day it was released.  I was even wearing my Batman Chuck Taylors.  No lie.  And it may still be the best Batman movie ever made (I do like Batman Begins too though), and as for the Prince soundtrack, well I can’t imagine the Joker and his gang defacing art in a museum to any other artist.  And the “Batdance” video was all over MTV at the time too.  Apparently, Prince only did the soundtrack because his record label, Warner Bros., forced him to (later he would famously change his name and write “slave” on his face in an effort to break his contract with them) and as Batman is such a major property, he was forced to sign away all the rights to those songs.  But I guess it’s a neat little side story to the Batman movie mythos, and it all happened only two years after Sign o’ the Times.

I suppose I should say something about this album.  After all, the post is supposed to be about Sign o’ the Times.  Umm, well, I don’t really dig it.  Musically, Prince is a freak of nature.  He does the Trent Reznor thing (before Trent Reznor actually made it a thing) by playing pretty much every instrument on the record.  And he plays and sings in pretty much every popular music style imaginable, from rock to funk to R&B to soul to even a little gospel. He even invents a female alter ego, Camille, so he can sing a few songs from an, ahem, different perspective.  But the problem is he coats everything in this 80s pop veneer that makes it all sound very dated to my ears.  Let’s face it, the 80s was just not a good decade for music.  Great for action figures, cartoons, movies, and pretty much all aspects of pop culture…except for music.  I paid $8.58 for this 80s relic on Ebay.  It’s apparently completely out of print.

Other lists: Sign o’ the Times is #74 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1980s.  The song “Sign o’ the Times” is #304 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  See the entry for Purple Rain (#76) for Prince’s other Rolling Stone accolades.

My favorite track: umm, well, if I have to pick one, it’s “U Got the Look” I guess

Honorable mention: [eyes closed, random finger lands on…] “Starfish and Coffee”

Quote: “There comes a road in every man’s journey that he’s afraid 2 walk on his own.  I’m here 2 tell u that I’m at that road, and I’d rather walk with u than walk it alone.”

Purple Rain

Once upon a time there was a magical decade called the 80s.  Children growing up in this decade had the best toys (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.) and got to watch the best cartoons (Smurfs, Snorks, Gummi Bears, the list goes on…).  Movies like “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future” were in the theaters, and TV shows like “Alf” and “Punky Brewster” gave us something to watch in at home in the evenings.  And most of the great video game franchises like Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy all had their start in the 80s on the good old Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was an amazing time to be a kid.  About the only thing that really sucked in the 80s (other than Reaganomics) was the music.  Maybe it was the debut of MTV.  Or maybe it was the development of the synthesizer.  I don’t know.  But it was a decade of total synth pop crap and hair metal.  Fortunately for all of us children of the 80s, we were able to don our flannel shirts as we came of age in the 90s (1991: the year punk broke) and the alternative rock scene was able to wash away the horror that was music in the 80s.

So this album has the 80s stamped all over it.  From the moment you see Prince on the cover with his 80s style mullet and his purple motorcycle, you know its going to be an 80s extravaganza of over the top flamboyance.  I picked this album up for $2.50 awhile ago at the Exchange in Willoughby, but I just recently go around to listening to it.  And I wanted to like it…I am almost ashamed to admit that I really did like Prince’s first two albums with the New Power Generation in the 90s (Diamonds and Pearls and the unpronounceable love-symbol album)…but yeah, I just couldn’t get into this.  Prince is an excellent musician, and actually he has quite a bit of really good guitar work on this album.  But unfortunately, he has a tendency, and it is in full effect here, to drown his music in layers of synthesizers and drum effects.  Maybe I’m being harsh…it’s not all bad.  There are some good vocal melodies, and as a singer Prince has 3 distinct registers, almost like Axl Rose (although unlike Axl’s piercing full voice upper register, Prince’s high voice is more of a controlled falsetto).  But overall this album just has too much of what I hated about most 80s music for me to actually enjoy it.

And then there is the movie.  This is the second soundtrack on the list, and like I did with Super Fly, I listened to the album and then watched the movie, and then listened to the album again.  Except this time, watching the movie didn’t help make sense of the songs at all.  Actually, it probably made me like the album a bit less, as this is possibly the worst movie ever made.  Seriously, I can’t think of a worse movie off the top of my head.  It’s the cliche musician movie formula plot: struggling musician meets girl, musician has issues with his parents, musician loses girl to rival, musician’s issues put career in jeopardy, musician gives stellar performance that wins back girl and catapults him to fame and fortune.  Yawn.  And to top it off, the acting performances are terrible (like every single actor in the movie is bad), and the non-album songs are pretty bad as well (who thought it was a good idea to write a song called “Sex Shooter” for the female lead?).  I bought the blu ray of this movie off ebay for $7.72, and I want my money back.  Yikes.

Purple Rain Blu Ray

Other lists: “When Doves Cry” is #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and the album Purple Rain is #2 on the list of the 100 Best Albums of the 80s (how is it that this is #2 and Joshua Tree is #3 on the 80s album list, but on the all time list Joshua Tree is #27 and this is #76?  Consistency please, Rolling Stone, consistency).   The Purple One ranks #33 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, #30 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers, and #27 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped four spots from #72 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Kid AGraceland, and Star Time.

My favorite track: “Let’s Go Crazy”

Honorable mention: “The Beautiful Ones”

A word from the Princess: “I hate Prince.”

Quote: “Hey, I ain’t got no money, but honey I’m rich on personality!”