Before anyone asks, yes this does fit my criteria. I have never heard this album, nor any Prince album, and this sort of psychedelic pop rock has never traditionally been my bag. But then again, neither had blue funk, Celtic folk-rock, or stoner rock but those albums went down a treat, so that doesn’t mean for me much these days.
Prince’s Purple Rain is apparently one of the greatest psychedelic rock albums ever made and has two of the most iconic singles ever released amongst it’s tracks. The last and title track, Purple Rain, and When Doves Cry. Those songs are really good and deserve their status as classics, but the rest of the album was something as a let down for me.
“But Adam”, I hear no one cry, “Purple Rain is amazing, it helped revolutionise music!” It may have done, but what that means is that it sounds like so much ’80s pop and rock. That’s the problem with being a trailblazer who sets the standard, is that everyone copies you and it all ends up sounding a bit samey.
The album opens with another songs from the album I do like and I have put into my regular play list, Let’s Go Crazy. With the long ease in of the church organ and Prince giving a sermon about the afterlife and having a fun life, but then the simple, thumping, driving drum beat comes in and it’s such a fun song. It’s cheesy, bouncy, and a little bit ridiculous. It’s pure ’80s feelgood pop and you can’t help but like it. It does suffer, however, like most good Prince songs; it overstays it’s welcome.
At 4:40, it feels too long for a song that isn’t constantly changing like Bohemian Rhapsody, and you are looking at your watch by the end. This criticism also applies to Purple Rain (I know, critiquing that song is practically a crime), because the slow pace makes it feel slow and the length of the album version makes it feel more glacial. At nearly 9 minutes long it does push the boundary of fair play and decency.
While I’m talking about it, Purple Rain is a great song, regardless of length. You feel like you’ve earned it when you finally get to the end. The musicianship and production is top notch, it sounds so big and orchestral, a wall of sounds that doesn’t so much hit you but gently let you fall into it. The huge solos can get a bit indulgent but that’s par for the course with Prince – he knew he was the shit and he wanted to show the world how good he was.
The tracks on the album that pushed me over the edge from ‘this is okay’ to ‘this is a disappointment’ were Beautiful Ones and Computer Blue. The former is a slow love ballad that doesn’t work, it’s too cheesy to be emotional, and the latter is so overproduced that it doesn’t sound like people were involved in the recording. It’s absolute peak ’80s computernoise, like incidental music from a Doctor Who story from 1986.
Purple Rain is a classic album from an exceptional performer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a brilliant album. It has it’s flaws – the music itself is too generically ’80s to be interesting and the standout tracks stick around too long – but you can hear the artistry behind everything trying to come through.
It’s fine. It’s a bit of a shame I haven’t liked it and if I don’t ever hear it again I won’t be too sad.
Tomorrow, we’re going even (electro-)funkier…