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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Prince

The Very Best of Prince

Review by Gary Hill

Since the last issue of Music Street Journal went live a couple months ago we lost three extremely talented musicians from three different styles of musical artistry. I’m doing retro reviews featuring each of them in their honor. Of the three (Prince along with Tomita and Keith Emerson), Prince is surely the one who had the biggest commercial success. I’ve been a fan of Prince for a very long time. While he’s not my favorite artist, he’s definitely in the pack. I would also consider him the best song-writer of the twentieth century.

This compilation album is probably a good place for the casual listener to start. It gives a good cross section of his music. Any time you have a “best of” compilation; it’s going to generate controversy. I mean, it’s a subjective terms and different people will have different opinions. Would I have come up with a different set list? Sure, I would have. That doesn’t mean I can’t respect this one and understand it. I don’t think there are any Prince songs I don’t like, though. So, this is a very effective set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Wanna Be Your Lover

This single version is a bit generic in terms of the R&B sound heard. It’s a good, catchy, tune, but not up to the standards of a lot of Prince’s later stuff. All that said, for many artists this would be a highlight. For Prince, I’d think of it as an “also ran.” That’s the kind of talent the man had.

1999
This song was probably the introduction to Prince for a lot of people. It’s a classic and one that probably just about everyone has heard. Despite the dated aspect to the lyrics (I remember when 1999 seemed a long time in the future and now it’s further in the past than that), this still holds up extremely well.
Little Red Corvette
Here is another classic Prince song. This has an almost stripped down arrangement, yet it is lush at the same time. It’s definitely another that still works almost as well as it did when it was brand new.
When Doves Cry
This has always been one of my favorite songs from Prince. The opening guitar riff is classic, but then again so is everything here. This combines an almost psychedelic rock edge with more of an R&B and electronic vibe. It’s just so cool.
Let's Go Crazy
These days the opening section of this cut, the mellow electronic gospel movement, has taken on a new meaning since Prince’s death. To me, that’s the best part of this song. I know people really love this one, and it is energetic and fun. I just don’t think it’s as strong as some of the rest of Prince’s music. Again, for many artists this would be a highlight, but Prince just created so much great music. The guitar powerhouse jam at the end is quite cool, though.
Purple Rain
Here’s another that I don’t think stands as tall as its reputation. Sure, it’s a trademark song, but maybe that’s part of the problem. It’s always been overplayed, and that’s especially true lately.  All that said, it still holds up well. There is some great guitar work on this. The layers of sound are classy, too. I’d have to say that the vocal performance really outshines both of those things, though.        
I Would Die 4 U
Here is another classic Prince tune. It has a great groove. It’s part electronic music, part R&B and all cool.
Raspberry Beret
This was the first single from the Around the World in a Day album, a disc that found Prince moving into psychedelically infused sounds. This song had less of that aspect than a lot of the set did. It’s closer to the same kind of sound heard on the previous albums from Prince. That said, there are psychedelic overlayers here. It’s a tune that really stands tall. It’s one that still holds up very well, too.
Kiss
With a lot of falsetto on display, this is more from the rather stripped down school of Prince thought. It’s a good song and a definite hit. It’s not one of my favorites, though. I do like the funk guitar that shows up here and there.
Sign 'O' The Times
Here we find Prince tackling some serious worldly issues. The cut starts off with a sound almost like Kraftwerk, but eventually gets into funkier territory. I really love this thing. It’s so powerful in terms of lyrical content and musical.
U Got The Look
This song is strange. It’s experimental. It’s electronic, but also funky. The thing is, as odd as it is, it’s also catchy. That combination is a tough one to manage. Prince made it look easy.
Alphabet St.
Take the previous cut and make it even stranger. Add in some jazz and a lot of hip hop (including some raps). You’ll be pretty close to this number. I like this one despite the oddities.
Thieves in the Temple
Now, this is an entirely different creature. It is a contender for my favorite track on this compilation. It has a real jazz meets Prince element to it. There is also some definite blues rock built into it. It is catchy and compelling. It’s powerful, too. It just such a cool song.
Gett Off

In a lot of ways The New Power Generation period might be my favorite period of Prince’s career. This song comes from that time.  This rocker is so classy. It’s definitely raunchy in terms of lyrical content. I love the James Brown bit mid=track. The cut has a lot of weird shifts and changes. It’s another of my favorites on this disc.        

Cream
Complete with some distinctly sexual non-lyrical moans, this is a very erotic song. It’s a bouncy number that’s a bit more accessible than the last couple numbers. It has some jazz along with rock, pop and R&B built into it.
Diamonds and Pearls
This is one of the most accessible tracks here. It’s also one of the most powerful. This is just such a great song start to finish. It’s another candidate for the best here.
Money Don't Matter 2 Night
I love the jazzy groove on this cut. It’s another accessible one. It’s also another of my favorites. It’s a great way to end things in a way that is likely to have you ready to hit “play” and start the ride all over again.

 

 

 
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