PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION-AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY.
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION-AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY.
The artist who this article is about, is one who has divided opinion since his career began. He is definitely an artist who people love or loath, there seems to be no happy medium. His music has been variously described as seedy and sordid, and sensuous and sexy. During his career, people have debated his lyrics, criticizing their content, provoking some strong opinions. During his career he has produced some wonderful albums, however, latterly, his work has lacked the quality of his early albums. This article is about Prince and Revolution’s album Around The World In A Day, released in April 1985.
Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson in June 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He came from a musical family, his father was a pianist and songwriter, his mother a jazz singer. During his childhood he developed a keen interest in music, and wrote his first song aged seven. His mother and father split up when he was ten, resulting in him moving between various family members and neighbors. When he was in high school he joined his cousin’s band Grand Central, playing guitar and piano, at functions in the Minneapolis area. Later they changed their name to Champagne, and started playing their own music. This was very much influenced by amongst others, Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, Miles Davis and Earth Wind and Fire.
Although Prince first recorded a demo tape in 1976, it would be a further two years before his debut album For You, appeared. It appeared just before his twentieth birthday. It received mixed reviews, and only reached number 163 in the Billboard Hot 200. Eventually, the album would nearly sell a million copies. One of the best known songs from the album was Soft and Wet.
The follow up to For You was entitled Prince. It was written and recorded quickly, taking only seven weeks to complete. Prince was released in October 1979. The album included I Feel For You, which became a huge hit for Chaka Khan. The album sold well, eventually reaching gold status.
It was Prince’s third album Dirty Mind that was his breakthrough album. Released in October 1980, it saw his sound change radically, one that the critics welcomed, giving the album great reviews. The album went into the Billboard Hot 200 at number sixty-three, eventually reaching gold status. Since then, the album has featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
A year later, in October 1981, his next album Controversy was released. This was his most successful chart album to date. It reached number twenty-one in the Billboard Hot 200. Controversy contained some controversial songs, and saw Prince take a more political stance on Annie Christian, and featured controversial song Jack U Off, which provoked much debate and outrage, among certain members of society.
However, Prince’s next album 1999 was the one which really saw make a commercial breakthrough. It was also the first album his band The Revolution appeared on. Released in October 1982, it brought Prince to the attention of the wider public. They liked what they heard, and the album reached number nine in the Billboard Hot 200. 1999 was the biggest selling album of 1983. Again it featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
Prince followed 1999 with Purple Rain in June 1984. This was the soundtrack album for the film Purple Rain. This album was the one that saw Prince’s profile outside the US increase. Also, his political side reared its head again, with Purple Rain a protest song about nuclear proliferation. On its release, Purple Rain was a huge hit, selling thirteen million copies in the US, spending twenty-four weeks at number one in the US and winning two Grammy Awards in 1985. Prince would also win a third Grammy Award for best songwriter, having written I Feel For You, which was a huge success for Chaka Khan. By now Prince was a huge success, and the pressure was on him to produce a follow up album that would match the success of Purple Rain.
Prince’s next album is the one this article is about, Around The World In A Day. It was released in April 1985. Its release was much more low profile, there was very publicity about the album. The idea was that people would make their own mind up about the music. Around The World In A Day did not feature the same commercial or radio friendly songs as Purple Rain. This album saw a change in musical style, with the album having a psychedelic feel. Comparisons, unsurprisingly, were made with The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Even with a new musical style, the album was a huge success, reaching number one in the US and going double platinum. I will shortly tell you why Around The World In A Day is a such a good album.
Since the release of Around The World In A Day, Prince has released over twenty more albums under various names. Some have been good, others disappointing to the say the least. What he has always sought to do, is be innovative, a pioneer, always trying to reinvent himself and his music. He has not been content to sit back, and churn out the same formulaic music like certain other artists, no he has challenged himself, and he should be congratulated and commended for that.
Around The World In A Day begins with the title track Around The World In A Day. Being used to the tracks on 1999 and Purple Rain, the opening track comes as something as a surprise. It starts with a flute solo, some otherworldly noise, then after a hesitant start by Prince, the song starts to take shape. The track takes a while to get going, and you find yourself thinking has Prince lost his magic touch? However, the longer the track goes on, it improves slightly. This is far from classic Prince, it is no slice of funk or soul, that you expect to hear, it’s rather a rambling, in places incoherent start to the album.
Thankfully, the next track, Paisley Park is return to form for Prince. Unlike the previous track, Paisley Park is a much more uptempo track, one with great lyrics. This is a catchy song, one that has several hooks. There is a slight psychedelic feel to the track, and features some great guitar playing and a much better vocal from Prince. Paisley Park has a real retro sound, and if you listen really carefully, you will hear all manner of instruments and sound effects, all of which produce on of the albums best tracks.
Condition of the Heart sees Prince reduce the tempo and change the style. This is a song that is atmospheric and spacious at the start, a piano plays, beautifully meandering gently along, interrupted occasionally. The sound although gentle builds, becomes dramatic, you sense something wonderful is about to happen. Then, suddenly, it does, Prince begins to sing the most gentle and beautiful vocal. It can’t fail to touch you. This is classic Prince. As the track goes on, it builds, the vocal becoming passionate, expressing and bringing to life, some fantastic lyrics. After a mediocre opening track, Prince produces a masterful performance, one of the album’s best tracks.
The quality keeps on coming with the next track Raspberry Beret. This is probably the most commercial track on the album, and one of Prince’s best known tracks. It is slice a quality pop-funk, catchy, full of hooks and radio friendly. Good lyrics, well sung and performed and featuring a brilliant arrangement, Raspberry Beret is not just one of Around The World In A Day’s best tracks, but one of Prince’s best loved songs. Twenty-five years on, the song still sounds as fresh as the day it was released.
Tamborine sees Prince sing behind a funky groove. The track features synths, bass, guitars and some of clever sounds affects. His vocal sees him using his range, one minute his voice soars, the next falls, one minute he sings falsetto, the next he roars. On Tamborine his vocal dexterity is amazing. Quite simply, Prince struts and preens though this track.
America sees Prince go all political again. When I hear artists going political, I shudder, remembering some of the car crash singles and albums that have resulted in artists developing a social conscience. One just has to think back to a group who built a career on their ability to master a mere three chords, and their political phase and that makes me worried, very worried. No, he has much more to offer. His lyrics investigate that although people in the US were free, whilst their counterparts in Eastern Europe were under Communist rule, many people in the US were only earning minimum wage, and living in terrible conditions. This was an interesting and brave comment back then, in less enlightened Cold War times. Prince sings the lyrics with passion, some might say defiance. Although not the best song he has written, I admire his bravery in approaching such a controversial subject.
When the album was released, many critics complained that it was not commercial sounding enough. That makes me wonder whether they listened to the next track, Pop Life. This is a joyous, uplifting, slice of radio friendly pop-funk music if you ever heard one. From the intro to the outro, it’s catchy, has an infectious quality and is loaded with hooks. There is nothing you can criticize about the track. From the teasing and mysterious sounding intro, to the fabulous vocal, to the throbbing bass and booming drums, to the breaking glass sound effect towards the end, it’s pop perfection.
The Ladder has a classical feel to the start. There is a slight pause, and then the song opens out to sound like a close relation of Purple Rain. Prince’s vocal is shrouded, in echo. That takes slightly away from the vocal. Mercifully, that only lasts for a while, but does reappear throughout the track. This is a shame, because Prince has reserved a brilliant vocal performance for The Ladder. He is a accompanied by backing vocals, which have an almost gospel quality. A saxophone solo plays above them. The result is a gorgeous, joyous track, one where Prince shrieks and yells, testifying like an old soul singer. It’s a track the longer it goes, the better it goes, and the more you hear it, the more you love it. Brilliant.
Temptation sees Prince totally change the sound. It becomes loud, full and frantic. Your speakers feel as if they are about to explode, with this psychedelic influenced track. Listen carefully, and give the track time, and behind all full and frantic sound, a good track is showing itself. The guitars scream, drums pound, a saxophone blows and Prince shrieks, yelps and in the process delivers his lyrics with feeling and passion. After The Ladder, this is a total vote face, one that is not unwelcome, it merely shows that there are many sides to the man that used to be known as Prince. A good track, although not one of my favorites from the album.
Listening to Prince’s music over the past few days was an interesting experience. During that time, I saw many different sides to the man, and his music. From his early days, he was always going to be a huge star. He is hugely talented, and has charisma in abundance. When you listen to the albums from 1999 released in 1982, to Lovesexy released in 1988, you hear an artist at his creative zenith. This to me, was the greatest period in his long career. Anyone wanting to buy some of his best albums show start with these albums, especially 1999, Purple Rain and Around The World In A Day. These are a perfect introduction to his music. After 1999 and Purple Rain, the pressure on Prince was huge, when it came to releasing Around The World In A Day. Many people feared that he would be unable to produce another masterpiece. Fear not, he did. Around The World In A Day is a great album, it may not be as commercial as its two predecessors, but it is an album that should grace any record collection. Granted, it may take a couple of listens to understand it fully, and enjoy is subtlety and nuances. It is worth taking the time, and being patient, because if you do, it is an album that you will go on to enjoy and treasure. It will make wonder why you did not discover it before. If you decide to purchase it, why not add 1999 and Purple Rain to your shopping list, because you will then be the proud owner of three of Prince’s best albums. Enjoy. Standout Tracks: Raspberry Beret, Pop Life, The Ladder and Temptation.
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION-AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY.