The spirit of Jimi Hendrix must surely smile down on Prince Rogers Nelson. Like Hendrix, Prince seems to have tapped into some extraterrestrial musical dimension where black and white styles are merely different aspects of the same funky thing. Prince's rock & roll is as authentic and compelling as his soul and his extremism is endearing in a era of play-it-safe record production and formulaic hit mongering. "Purple Rain" may not yield another smash like last year's "Little Red Corvette," but it's so loaded with life and invention and pure rock & roll thunder that such commercial considerations become moot. When Prince sings "Baby I'm a Star," it's a simple statement of fact.
The Hendrix connection is made overt here with the screaming guitar coda that ends "Let's Go Crazy," with the manic burst that opens "When Doves Cry" and in the title song, a space ballad that recalls "Angel" with its soaring guitar leads and a very Hendrixian lyrical tinge ("It's time we all reach out for something new -- that means you, too"). There are also constant reminders of Sly Stone in the ferocious bass lines and the hot, dance-conscious mix. But like Jimi and Sly, Prince writes his own rules. Some of his effects are singularly striking - note that eerie, atonal synthesizer touches that creep in at the end of "The Beautiful Ones" and the otherworldly backward-vocal montage in the frankly salacious "Darling Nikki" -- and his vocals continue to be among the most adventurous and accomplished on the current scene. Prince also does wonderful things with string-section sounds, and his band -- if it's not actually him playing all the parts -- burns throughout.
Anyone partial to great creators should own this record. Like Jimi and Sly, Prince is an original; but apart from that, he's like no one else.
-- KURT LODER
The problem with major league soul is nog a lack of 'good' music. What has been lost is the ability, possibly the desire, to make records that relate to the aspirations and needs of community. In the past Mayfiels, Wonder and JB fulfilled a purpose by communicating on a social as wel as an emotional level. Nowadays Michael Jackson and Prince set themselves in a select firmament and nurture the cult of celebrity for its own sake, lighting our lives with a blessed gift to entertain.
That's not to say their entertainment is not often brilliant and enthralling,
to these ears 'When Doves Cry' is One Of The Greatest Records Ever Made.
So why, you might ask, should Prince, who's never set himself up as a sage
or a conscience, be expected to be anything but the perfect composite of
black superdude stars? No particular reason, except I find it unsatisfying
that the Minneapolis wunderkind with looks,youth, talent and the world at
this feet can find nothing more to sing about than himself and the many marvellous
chicks that undoubtedly come his way.
"Let's Go Crazy" opens with the self-deflating manifesto established on past outings, the end of the world is nigh so liberate your underwear and your ass will follow. It's a hot and juicy all-out rocker with an automated Ant beat and it sets me in mind of a pre-conversion electro-age Little Richard, though it's obvious from the way he wields his guitar and cocks his titfer that Prince would rather be compared to Hendrix.
The main ode to plonker, greasing on here is "Darling Nikki' but its HM guitar grind and lyric to match isn't really a patch on the dual-edged popsical treats of "Dirty Mind". Where this slutty sylph-like imp comes into his own is when he's easing romance out of bruised desire, when he takes his voice from empty sorrow to exquisite pain. When he pleas, cajoles and, yup, even climaxes on record he does it with a mix of the elemental and the technical (big if you will the volcanic screech, the vocoded sexual nemesis of "Purple Rain").
The final crowning glory, the monstrous title track, is spoiled by over-indulgence: it drags on just a little too long. It's some sort of proof that if you choose to merely use your fame to further your self-mythology (as one imagines the biopic to which this album provides the soundtrack will do) you risk not only being flippant and derisive of the possibilities your role could contain, but also watching the whole thing swallow you up.
-- Gavin Martin
Prince pours on the works in his first-rate 'Purple Rain'
Put away the umbrellas and get soaked in this first-rate modern music excursion. Prince Rogers Nelson throws everything into the fray on "Purple Rain," his follow-up to "1999" and the soundtrack of his biographical film, blistering through his rock 'n' roll and soul roots with enough heat to melt the purple-colored vinyl that's inside the jacket. New guitarist Wendy gets a workout right away, cranking out the opening riffs on "Let's Go Crazy" and burning through "I Would Die For You" and "Baby, I'm a Star." Fans of the sparse side of Prince -- a la "Little Red Corvette" -- will be hooked in by "Take Me With You," "The Beautiful Ones" and the chart-topping single, "When Doves Cry." The lovable dirty mind is still intact, evidenced by ultra-hedonistic "Darling Nikki," though this is certainly as close as Prince has come, and probably will come, to being puritanical on record. Who knows how good an actor he'll prove to be when the "Purple Rain" film opens July 27, but the musical end is so together that it almost doesn't matter.
* Gary Graff
Saturday, July 28, 1984
PRINCE OF AN ALBUM IS HIP, DANCEABLE
By DAVE MARSH
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
Prince may be the closest this decade will come to a figure as musically complete and ambitious as Jimi Hendrix; certainly, if Purple Rain resembles anything, it is the expansive, psychedelic, turbulently cosmic world of Electric Ladyland. Prince works with a larger, if not broader, palette, using synthesizers and what sounds like a genuine orchestra to fill out the tight, touch, funky and rocking playing of his band. And the best songs here - "When Doves Cry," "Purple Rain," "I Would Die 4U," "Let's Go Crazy" - strike with true potency. On the other hand, nothing Prince has ever done is fully coherent, and that's a glaring problem here, where he seems to be making some kind of statement. That it remains indecipherable needn't bother anyone looking for some hip, danceable, hummable music, but it will trouble those who would like to see this performer have the decades-long career his talent deserves.
PRINCE PACKS A PUNCH
Prince and the Revolution
While his previous albums established Prince's musical creativity, driving sense of syncopation and passion for sexual lyrics, Purple Rain serves as an affirmation of his versatility and substance as a performer and composer. This finely produced album, which doubles as a soundtrack for the film Purple Rain, pulses with rhythm and sizzles with steamy sensuousness.
From the hot licks and throbbing rhythms of the erotic When Doves Cry and the compelling rockers Let's Go Crazy and I Would Die, to the heartrending beauty of the dreamy, soulful The Beautiful Ones and the title cut Purple Rain, this album delves beneath Prince's flashy sex-symbol image and shows us the heart and soul underneath.
Purple Rain is much more than just a dance album or a soundtrack, though it does possess the best of both styles. There's no fluffy filler here; every song stands strongly on its own as another majestic offering from the Prince. PICK
-- LINDA R. THORNTON