Sunday, May 01, 2016

"Purple Rain," Prince and the Revolution (1984)

The greatness of "Purple Rain" was evident upon the very first listen.  Prince had made some excellent albums before its release in 1984; "Dirty Mind," "Controversy" and "1999" were all landmarks in their own right.  But nothing (well, maybe "Little Red Corvette") could prepare you for what you heard on "Purple Rain."

It's a little thing, and it comes on what few people (if any) would claim is the best song on the album, but there's a moment on "Take Me With U," the second song on Side One, which stuck with me the first time I heard it and still resonates today.  Towards the end of the song, Prince tells the object of his affection (presumably, Apollonia), "You're sheer perfection," and in the background you hear a softly spoken "thank you."  I'm not sure why that one moment has stuck with me for 32 years, but it was right then and there that I knew that the record which was playing was a masterpiece.

And make no bones about it - this isn't just a great record.  This is one of the greatest records in the history of Rock 'n Roll, Pop, Soul, R&B, any moniker you want to give it.  I was almost afraid to write about "Purple Rain," because something this great is almost intimidating.  When art as glorious as "Purple Rain" enters the world, it's difficult to even wrap your head around it - the history of rock 'n roll is filled with miraculous moments, but when one album is comprised of one miracle after another, it's a bit scary.  And you can only shake your head in wonder.

Prince would make great albums again, and continue to be one of the most vital artists of his generation.  But as great as he and his work was, he never produced a work that was better than "Purple Rain."  And that's OK, because a record as great as "Purple Rain" deserves to have its place on the mountaintop.

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