Album Flashback #23 // Prince and The Revolution – Purple Rain
In the multi-decade long career of the once they call Prince, Purple Rain is perhaps his defining moment. It’s not lost on the man himself either, despite his countless number of albums (released and as of yet unreleased), multiple monikers, seemingly eccentric behaviour and still funk hot live shows he still plays tracks from that album almost more than any other of the classic releases.
From this writers point of view, Purple Rain is something of an age counter, being the same age as said album in terms of year of release. I’ll leave the math to you, but at the time of writing there is no other album that really defines all that is essential about Prince than this. There are, of course, many more gems in the Prince discography but the first reference point for most people is Purple Rain. And what a reference point it is, from the twin concept to the music itself.
Now, many may say that Purple Rain the album is much more the classic than the movie it accompanies and they may be right in some ways. Perhaps the film is saved by the music or perhaps it was just a fluke but whatever the answer, they are both iconic. But as it’s the soundtrack we’re focussing on for this feature, let’s go crazy!
Opening as any grand project should, with a purple tinted bang Let’s Go Crazy asks us if we’re going to let the elevator get us down and as long it’s music is as powerful as this song the answer would seem not. And why be miserable when there’s nine tracks of thrilling funk-rock to get through? The Revolution really make their mark, throwing down a mean beat that makes you sit up and listen immediately. While they do that, Prince does what he does best, preach the purple gospel and throw out guitar licks that will set the crowd on fire.
Out of all of his albums, we hear perhaps the biggest rock element here of any. There’s lots of other elements of course, but as the album weaves it’s thread we get the still thrilling I Would Die 4 U, the still perplexing Computer Blue, the slightly naughty Darling Nikki and of course that title track.
Truth be told, I’ve never been able to get through the extended live versions of the song but the album version just about gets away with its eight minute length before the urge to say ‘dramatic tension overdone’ kicks in. But in that lies the true appeal of Prince, when he says he’ll see you in the Purple Rain (it’s never quite explained what Purple Rain is but it really doesn’t matter!) he means it with all the conviction his guitar strings can give. (Which is a lot!)
Taken as a whole, Purple Rain is an album that is far from bad, and very close to excellent. It’s not career defining, (That’s an honour Sign Of The Times gets) but it certainly is one of the most focussed of his whole career. And with that focus, comes certain longevity. You can still listen to Purple Rain thirty years later and say that it sounds good and, as a plus, it’s barely aged. Even Prince, known to abandon whole projects on a whim, never to see the light of day again, still plays the album now which says much for its longevity and key role in his career.
See you in the Purple Rain? Most certainly!