Thursday, 28 April 2016

Around The World In A Day (1985)

This was the strangest of Prince’s imperial phase of 80s records, a swirling psychedelic extravagance completely out of step with everything else going on that decade, and as the follow-up to the phenomenally successful Purple Rain album, its indulgences confounded most listeners who judged it a failure and so it sold far less, even though it contains the immortal ‘Raspberry Beret’ and the lesser known but equally perfect ‘Pop Life’.

But its inability to be categorized is precisely why this album is so great: What ‘kind’ of music is ‘Around The World in a Day’? What ‘kind’ of music is ‘The Ladder’? or ‘Temptation’? Or ‘Condition Of The Heart’?

That last song is the one I always used to sit people down with and ask, with all the surging orchestra of sounds, all speeding up and slowing down, coming in and going out - and all played by him (with the exception of the finger cymbals, if I remember correctly)…  which instrument did he play first? I finally figured out years later by process of deduction it had to have been the piano, but that doesn’t make it any less inexplicable or extraordinary.

I saw a nice video today where black writer Marc Bernardin made the insightful statement that growing up in the 80s Prince was to black kids what Bowie in the 70s was to white kids, and that’s so true: At a time when being a black man on MTV meant you were either Luther Vandross or Run DMC - both very narrow and confining models of masculinity - Prince was as much The Beatles and Liberace and Joni Mitchell as he was James Brown and Funkadelic. Prince alone demonstrated you didn’t have to be anyone but yourself, that you could dream up the life you wanted to live and the person you wanted to be and make it real.

No comments:

Post a Comment