What’s up, Butcher Crew?! It’s The Saw, as you know! This month (April) marks the anniversary of the death of a musical genius, Prince. 2022 marks six years since we lost this pioneer of sound, and I am celebrating his work with a Classic Album Review of, what I think is his greatest musical achievement, the album Purple Rain. If you haven’t listened to this record or watched this movie, then you’d better get to it, because you’re missing out!
On June 25th, 1984, via Warner Brothers Records, Prince released his sixth studio album, Purple Rain. It is the soundtrack to the 1984 feature film, Purple Rain, featuring Prince and The Revolution. The album marked the first time that the solo artist (Prince) credits his band (The Revolution) with all song rights along side of himself. Purple Rain was a stark contrast to Prince’s previous albums – highly synthesized and intensely psychedelic – but in turn set the pace and tone for the more experimental albums to follow. The album’s leading single, “When Doves Cry,” was released with video. The video was controversial for the time and most networks refused to play it because of it’s strong sexual content. Speaking of that, the track, “Darling Nikki,” raised a response from Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center (the P.M.R.C.) for it’s sexual content and nature, contributing to Parental Advisory imprints being placed on album covers.
Purple Rain reached #1 on the Billboard 200, and was present on the chart for 122 weeks. In May 1996, the album was certified 13x Platinum by RIAA. It has sold over 25,000,000 copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling albums of all time. Prince and The Revolution won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance and Best Score Soundtrack, and Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for the film. Rolling Stone ranks Purple Rain at number eight of it’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The Album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And it was entered into The Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, attesting to the album’s cultural importance.
Musically, Purple Rain is noted for it’s consolidation of Rock and R&B. It was a far more complicated production, with layers of guitars, keyboards, and vocals. Most recognize that Prince had an electrifying voice of varying range, but not as well known was his incredible abilities on ANY musical instrument – most notably, the electric guitar. The record features some scorching guitar work by Prince! In fact, he performed all vocals and played all instruments on the track “When Doves Cry.” While prince wrote all lyrics on the album, the band had complete artistic freedom to contribute musically. According to many accounts from Revolution members, because of the importance of the work, Prince accepted input on improvements for songs.
Some interesting facts about certain tracks on the album:
- The title track was originally written as a Country song, meant to be collaborated on by Stevie Nicks. Prince asked her to write the lyrics, but she was overwhelmed by the complexity of the song.
- “Take Me with U” was originally written for the album, Apollonia 6 (1984) by Apollonia 6.
- “Darling Nikki” contributed to the PMRC stickers and imprints.
- “When Doves Cry” originally had a bass line, which was removed because Prince felt the song was too conventional with bass.
While there are several different re-issues of the album (Prince even had two different arrangements prepared before it was released), the official track listing for the original release of Purple Rain is:
- Let’s Go Crazy
- Take Me with U
- The Beautiful Ones
- Computer Blue
- Darling Nikki
- When Doves Cry
- I would Die 4 U
- Baby I’m a Star
- Purple Rain
The Revolution played on tracks 1,2, 4, 7, 9 and consisted of:
- Wendy Melvoin – guitar and vocals
- Lisa Coleman – keyboards and vocals
- Matt Fink – keyboard and vocals
- Brown Mark – bass guitar and vocals
- Bobby Z – drums and precussion
- Novi Novag – violin and viola
- David Coleman – cello
- Suzie Katayama – cello
- Apollonia – co-lead vocals on “Take Me with U”
- Jill Jones – additional backing vocals on “Baby I’m a Star”
Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016. He was considered the greatest musician of his time. He was a singer, song writer, performer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He is credited as the pioneer of The Minneapolis Sound.
Rating: 10/10!! The album was instrumental in the development of the Pop/Rock genre.
Favorite Song: the title track, “Purple Rain”