Saturday, March 29, 2014

LP of the Week - "Dirty Mind," Prince

Prince first hit the airwaves in 1979, with his radio-friendly hit "I Wanna Be Your Lover."  It sounded great then (as it does now), but one could be forgiven at the time for not seeing him as the future Hall of Famer and icon that he would become.

No, the hints toward that status came on the next album, "Dirty Mind."  I don't remember exactly when I bought it (my first Prince LP was "Controversy"), but it was clearly the album that opened the door to the possibility that this kid from Minneapolis just might be an otherworldly amalgamation of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

And aptly titled, it was.  In his essay that accompanied the results of the 1980 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll, Robert Christgau - who had taken most of the year off, while compiling and editing the first of his Consumer Guide compilations - wrote a little bit about each of the albums finishing in the Top 40.  "Dirty Mind" placed ninth, and Christgau (who had the album 3rd on his list, behind only "London Calling" and Talking Heads' "Remain in Light") wrote this about it:
Prince's Dirty Mind: Although the vocals are love-man falsetto, the metallic textures and simple drum patterns are as much Rolling Stones as Funkadelic. And where the typical love man plays the lead in "He's So Shy," Prince is aggressively, audaciously erotic. I'm talking about your basic f*ckbook fantasies--the kid sleeps with his sister and digs it, sleeps with his girlfriend's boyfriend and doesn't, and stops a wedding by gamahuching the bride on her way to church. I mean, Mick Jagger can just fold up his penis and go home. 
And that pretty much says it all, in addition to demonstrating why Christgau became the Dean of American Rock Critics.  The album is barely thirty minutes long (artists used to do that in the old days, little kiddies, but then you could also find albums for as low as $3.99), but there isn't a wasted moment in those minutes.  It kicks off with the pulsating title track, where Prince takes a simple synthesizer riff and wrings as much sexual tension out of it as he possibly can.  And then he follows that up with "When You Were Mine," which is, oh, only one of the greatest songs he's ever written.  On the second side, surrounding the sexual fantasies (or maybe not, this is Prince after all) of "Head" and "Sister" are the  great party anthems "Uptown" ("Black, white, Puerto Rican, everybody's just a freakin') and "Partyup," which closes out the show on an appropriately upbeat note.

I don't think this is his best album, but it is certainly top tier Prince - strongly setting the stage for the genius that was still to come.

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