Prince – Originals album review (track-by-track)

9 06 2019

Originals is the third release using material sourced from Prince’s Vault / archive, following on from 2017’s expanded Purple Rain deluxe reissue and 2018’s Piano & A Microphone 1983.

Originals is a 15 song collection of Prince’s own versions of songs he gave to other acts, 14 of which are previously unreleased. As the album progresses, it is very clear that all the acts who received these songs totally trusted Prince’s vision, rarely altering the arrangements of the music or vocal lines that were provided.

Unlike archive releases from other artists, where the songs are often vague sketches or unfinished low-fi recordings, Prince did not make demos in the traditional sense. All the songs here are 16 or 24 track studio recordings, and considering their age (the oldest track is from 1981), they sound remarkable.

The sequencing of the album, mixing up the well-known hits with deeper cuts and interspersing the uptempo songs with ballads, makes this feel like a legitimate Prince album from the early 80s.

Originals opens with Sex Shooter (recorded in 1983), a song that was released on the Apollonia 6 album in 1984, and also featured in the Purple Rain film. The cheekily suggestive lyrics are driven by a nasty synth bassline and is very much of its time. Jungle Love is a delight and so damn funky, and the first appearance of Prince’s electric rhythm guitar grooves on the album.

“Somebody bring me a mirror!”

Manic Monday is the first of 3 songs that became massive, career-defining hits for other artists. Manic Monday shows that the song was pretty much fully-formed when given to The Bangles for their 1985 Different Light album. The iconic bar-room piano riff is intact, as are the breezy backing vocals and harmonies. Feeling like a close relative of Raspberry Beret, the song is Prince delivering pure, unadulterated pop and its a joy to hear.

Noon Rendezvous is the first of two songs that featured on Sheila E.’s The Glamorous Life in 1984, and highlights how Prince’s early to mid-80s ballads were his best. Stark and raw, with minimal percussion, just voice and piano, this is my favourite ballad on the album.

“The sound of your voice makes me weak”

Make-Up is one of the oldest songs on the album, and is pure electronica, featuring a synth line that would be recycled on the title track of Around The World In A Day. With deep bass and stuttering percussion, the song that was given to Vanity 6 in 1982 is the most experimental, left-field track on this collection. 100 MPH (1984) eventually appeared on the Mazarati album two years later, and is probably one of the less well-known songs on this collection, but works so well in this incarnation, and is a hidden gem.

You’re My Love is one of the real surprises in this collection, and is unlike any other song in Prince’s vast catalogue. The arrangement feels a little like it could have featured on Prince’s first album, but the vocals are unique. A pop / Country croon makes it clear why it was picked up by Kenny Rogers four years later.

Holly Rock (from 1985) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Sheila E.’s version appeared on the Krush Groove soundtrack. This is classic mid-80s Prince, with his trademark pitched funk guitar. Holly Rock hints at the sound of the uptempo parts of Sign o’ the Times, and highlights how often, and how effectively, Prince could get inside the groove. Its one of those Prince songs that gets you on your feet. I dare you to try to keep still when listening to Holly Rock.

Baby, You’re a Trip was recorded by Prince in 1982, and was released by Jill Jones in 1987. Apparently Prince wrote the song for Jill Jones “about the time she snooped in his diary after he read hers.” The arrangement, the breakdowns, and the monotone backing vocals from Jill Jones lift this above the status of a standard ballad.

“Baby, you’re an ocean that’s too wide to cross”

The Glamorous Life has always been one of my favourite Sheila E songs, so it was emotional hearing Prince’s vocal on this song. The originals take does not disappoint.

As the album heads towards its final songs, we get a solo Prince recording of Gigolos Get Lonely Too, which later appeared on The Time’s What Time is It? album. A sweet, lyrically playful early 80s soul groove, what’s not to love?

The track I was looking forward to hearing most, the Prince take on Love… Thy Will Be Done, is the highlight of the album for me. I will always love Martika’s version, but the Prince original makes more use of the layered vocal harmonies, and as well as being one of Prince’s finest compositions, its also one of his best arrangements. Simply stunning.

Dear Michaelangelo heads back in time to the mid-80s and is a track that Prince provided for Sheila E.’s Romance 1600. With a naggingly addictive chorus, Dear Michaelangelo would not have sounded out of place on Parade.

“A life without love”

Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? is a Prince song with its origins stretching way back to 1976, but the Originals version is from 1981. The song was covered by Taja Sevelle in 1987.

Sounding a little like it could have featured on 1980’s Dirty Mind album, Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? is one of my most played tracks on Originals, and whilst it drops slightly below the production quality of the other tracks on this album, its a very good song, from one of Prince’s most exciting periods. Prince’s trademark falsetto is in full effect here, as is a subtle nod to The Beatles at around 2.25 in?

“I’m not trying to tease you
I only wanna turn you on”

The album ends with Prince’s take on Nothing Compares 2 U. Most people know Sinéad O’Connor’s massive hit single from 1990, but my favourite version has always been the 1985 version by The Family (a CD reissue would be appreciated please, Prince Estate!). This Prince version from 1984 was released on 7″ vinyl and download in 2018, but feels like a good way to close the album.

Posthumous releases are always difficult, as there is the risk of the artist’s legacy being tarnished by labels releasing music that the artist did not approve. Originals does not fall into this trap.

Whilst I am not sure Prince would have ever sanctioned this release during his lifetime, from a fan’s point of view the Prince Estate have done an excellent job in honouring his legacy, and releasing an excellent album that stands alone in its own right, not as a nostalgic curio, which was my initial (now unfounded) worry. If you are a fan of Prince’s work in the 80s, you will love Originals.

Sex Shooter (1983)
Jungle Love (1983)
Manic Monday (1984)
Noon Rendezvous (1984)
Make-Up (1981)
100 MPH (1984)
You’re My Love (1982)
Holly Rock (1985)
Baby, You’re a Trip (1982)
The Glamorous Life (1983)
Gigolos Get Lonely Too (1982)
Love… Thy Will Be Done (1991)
Dear Michaelangelo (1985)
Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? (1981)
Nothing Compares 2 U (1984)

Buy Prince Originals on CD

Buy Prince Originals on vinyl








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