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Thread started 07/08/18 5:05am

ThePanther

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Diamonds & Pearls = Near-Classic or Near-Turkey?

Perhaps no Prince album is as polarizing and confused-in-reception as 1991's Diamonds & Pearls. It is possibly a fabulous album or maybe a stinker (and yeah, everywhere in between, too) depending on whom you ask.

I think this is down to a few key factors, which can be summarized as follows:

a) Its commerical performance

b) Its somewhat 'dated' sound

c) Its CD-era overlong running order

d) Its status as the first Prince album with rap

Let me explain what I mean by each of the above points, in some detail:

a) This record was a commercial monster. Triple-platinum in the UK, double-platinum in the US and Canada and France. I believe it sold around 6 million worldwide, which was easily his biggest album since Purple Rain (to put that in perspective, it sold around three times more than Sign O' The Times did). It also spun off four top-30 singles in the USA (including a #1 and a #3).

In short, there seems to be some suspicion that this record was a bit of a sell-out, or at least Prince finally showing Warners would he could really do, commercially, a year before his contract was up. It's hard to argue the album was awful when it was so popular in its time; conversely, its very popularity seems to call its integrity into suspicion.

b) This album is quite slick. The production is mostly designed for pop-radio. It's not very "black" (except maybe 'Get Off'), but it's certainly not very "rock" either. It didn't help that this precise moment in urban/R&B/pop music (that is, 1991) probably produced more bad-sounding pop music that has aged badly than any other era (before the recent era, that is). It's just so slick.

c) Graffiti Bridge was damn long, but that was a soundtrack with 'guest' artists. Batman and Lovesexy were short and concise. But here is the first Prince album explicity designed for the CD era. It's too long, at 65 minutes or something (by comparison, Purple Rain was 43:51). Some of it does sound like padding.

d) This is the first album where Prince gets Tony M to rap... on about six tracks, no less. (In my opinion, these raps are mostly terrible.) Thus, the record, despite its commercial success, is easy to see as the first record on which Prince started clearly following trends instead of setting them, or at least he's not doing his own thing.


So, I think, for all the above reasons (others?), this record is hard to get a handle on within Prince's discography. Personally, I think its several strong songs are superb -- if a little slick -- and the few kind of weaker ones are really disposable.

I play the album like this:

1. Thunder

2. Daddy Pop

3. Diamonds & Pearls

4. Cream

5. Strollin'

6. Willing And Able

7. Gett Off

8. Walk Don't Walk

9. Money Don't Matter 2Night

10. Insatiable


As such, it runs about 42 or 43 minutes, which seems a lot easier to take in. The tracks I dropped are 'Jughead', 'Push', and 'Live 4 Love'. I find those three all over-long and, frankly, kinda awful. But that's just me...

'Diamonds & Pearls' (the song) is fantastic, I think, and I rate 'Money Don't Matter 2Night' as one of his 10 best-ever songs. I just love that track to pieces! 'Get Off' is a classic as well.

However, even with the many songs I like, I never get a sense of excitement or wonder from this record. It all sounds like stuff he's done before. Melodically, though, the record is exceedingly rich. I mean, it's overflowing with great tunes, which no doubt is why it did so well commercially.

Anyway, it's a difficult album in Prince's catalogue. What think ye?

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Reply #1 posted 07/08/18 5:17am

leecaldon

There was rapping on Graffiti Bridge, no? Good ol' TC Ellis.

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Reply #2 posted 07/08/18 5:20am

leecaldon

Gett Off was the song that properly turned me on to Prince. Cream solidified that. As did Money Don't Matter and Cream.

Much of the album didn't do anything for me aged 12, and that hasn't changed, but those singles (and videos), as someone who was into mainstream pop at the time, were just fantastic.

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Reply #3 posted 07/08/18 5:21am

paulludvig

I prefer the album as it was before the band had input on the songs.
The wooh is on the one!
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Reply #4 posted 07/08/18 6:18am

Silvertongue7

This was the first album that came out after I became a fan and at the time I loved it so much that almost thirty years later I’m still here! Having said that, I never really listen to it these days. Gett Off is the only long that I still play on a regular basis. There are plenty of good songs, though. I agree with Paulludvig, most songs sound better in the Beginnings boot.
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Reply #5 posted 07/08/18 7:48am

TrevorAyer

Yes those are the same tunes I like too ... even with that trAcklist it suffers from the rap a bit ... daddy pop is a great sly stone type tune but the ending with tony is a bit rough .. solid songs all around and the demos show prince put more effort in than usual .. sometimes prince has some great musical ideas and mucks them up with modern trends ... like rap or all the production on emacipation or even trying too keep up with loudness wars like on breakdown where the mastering really blows out what is a great song but sounds awful sonically .. i was always hoping for an organic mature album before he passed .. something with a sonic template more like power fantastic or the cross and less like the first half of hnr ... nice acoustic guitars drums piano ... simple songs with no boasting or cheap audio tricks ... the truth and ona didn’t quite cut it for me ... dnp had a lot of solid bones in that house but the paint detracts
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Reply #6 posted 07/08/18 8:11am

TrivialPursuit

With Tony M. = near turkey

Without Tony M. (a la my edits) = classic

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #7 posted 07/08/18 9:44am

NorthC

No, the problem wasn't Tony M. The problem was that for the first time, Prince sounded predictable. Pop, rock, funk, ballads, songs about sex... Apart from the rap, there was nothing on this album that Prince hadn't done before.
I may disagree with everything you say, but I will defend your right to say it.
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Reply #8 posted 07/08/18 9:51am

RodeoSchro

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MY PERSONAL OPINION:

Like every album Prince ever made, there are classic songs on it. Even the "worst" album Prince ever made had at least one song that I consider a classic. So in my mind, there is no such thing as a turkey or near-turkey. To me, it's merely a matter of how many classic songs are on the album. Here's what I think of the songs on "Diamonds and Pearls":

1. Diamonds and Pearls - One of the best songs ever written. Five, count-em-FIVE, different time signatures. W the actual F! If an artist mixes in two different time signatures, the music press goes ballistic with compliments. This song has FIVE, and TWO different keys. The resolution from Bb back to G is so freaking brilliant. The hook in the song is brilliant. The lyrics give me goose bumps. The underlying guitar work - especially the tone - WOW. For me, this song is absolute musical genius.

2. Willing and Able - I love it. Beautiful and I mean BEAUTIFUL guitar licks. Playful lyrics. I don't even mind Tony M's rap - it may be one of the only songs I've ever heard where a rap not only doesn't make me vomit, but actually catches my attention. BUT THE VIDEO VERSION. HOLY MOLEY. A completely different song! And just as awesome! This one, for me, is also a true classic

3. Cream - Heck yes, it's a classic. And a hit. What else is there to say?

4. Money Don't Matter Tonight - Even if Prince got the Iraq/child in a cloud of gas reference wrong (turns out that never happened; at least not in the first Gulf War), it's still a poignant, beautiful jazz number. The hook riff is really, really cool. And unfortunately, this song is relevant in American global politics almost non-stop. I play it at open mics a lot. I expect boos from any right-wingers in the crowd but I NEVER get any. This song too is a classic in my eyes. So we're up to four classic songs!

5. Daddy Pop - I'm on the fence about the classic status of this one. On the one hand, I absolutely LOVE the positivity in the lyrics. And who among us doesn't break out the "I got grooves and grooves up on the shelf. Deep purple concorde jams..." line? I know I do and I bet you do, too! This is another song in which Tony M's rap doesn't induce retching, but the rap doesn't fit as well here as the one on "Willing and Able" does (Tony, if you're reading this, I'm not dissing you. I just don't like rap. I know you can play the guitar!)

6. Strollin' - How many of y'all remember when someone (Prince? An associate?) posted somewhere back on the internet - I think it was on AOL - that the songs "Strollin'" and "She Gave Her Angels" would prove that Prince still had it? That happened and although "She Gave Her Angels" wasn't released until "Crystal Ball" a few years later, "Strollin'" did show that Prince still had his jazz chops. This is a nice song. I think I'm going to go with four classics for this album

7. "Walk Don't Walk" - A very underrated song IMO. The drum beat is really, really good. I'm not sure if it was programmed or played live but whichever, it's a beat you don't hear anywhere else. I also enjoy the message, and the different vocalists Prince used for this song. He didn't do that very often, so this places "Walk Don't Walk" in some rarified air

8. Everything Else - The remaining five songs are all OK. "Live For Love" is lyrically interesting. None of these last songs get much rotation on my iPod, but I usually don't skip them, either. Not even "Jughead", LOL.

OK, that's probably way more than anyone cares to read. But it's early on a Sunday morning and everyone else in the house is asleep!

Second Funkiest White Man in America

P&R's paladin
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Reply #9 posted 07/08/18 11:42am

TrivialPursuit

NorthC said:

No, the problem wasn't Tony M. The problem was that for the first time, Prince sounded predictable. Pop, rock, funk, ballads, songs about sex... Apart from the rap, there was nothing on this album that Prince hadn't done before.


If that's the argument, then it could be said about every album Prince produced in the first decade, or even two, of his career. For You - Crystal Ball. Ballads? Check. Funk? Pop? rock? Check. SEX? Double check! What had he done different on Graffiti Bridge that was new compared to Lovesexy or SOTT? If, by the argument on the table, every Prince album has something new, what was new on GB? Because many of the songs were actually old. Was the new pulling out old tracks? Nope, done that before, too. But I get maybe where you're coming from.

All that aside, D&P suffered (as did prince to some extent) from a couple of things. First, it wasn't that he had rappers, it's that he had shitty rappers. TC Ellis? Tony Mosley? Cat Glover??? Who the fuck are these muthuafukkas?! Cat was a dancer with a big mouth; she was no singer. Even later when he had Q-Tip, Eve, Doug E. Fresh, or Chuck D. on songs, rappers that have a respectable history as solo artists or in their groups, the opportunity was misused. Prince never really got rap, he just knew it was a black thing, and it was trendy.

Which brings me to the second thing those albums suffered with: fads. By the time GB came out, Prince's sound had turned hollow, canned, reverby, and predictable. It sounded like any other R&B schlock on the radio. It's been said before and I will say it again: It's when Prince started following trends instead of creating them. He didn't even follow his own trend - he listened to bad radio, bad music, and had bad people around him trying to put their spin on the then-new-sound-d'jour onto his records. And they succeeded. It also dated those records. You can listen to 1999's "Lady Cab Driver" or an outtake of "Something In The Water" and be wow'd by it. You listen to "Can't Stop" and think "Oh, yeah, that was like 1990 wasn't it?".

For me, Prince continued - albeit less often but still consistently - to follow certain sounds and trends. In context of the early 90s, if you listen to MJ's outtake of "Dangerous" that thing sounds really dated. It sounds like an early 90s track. It's not great. But then you listen to what ended up on the record, and how he refocused the song, how he found sounds and ideas that went into that song alone, and it's night and day. Now whether that was Teddy Riley or whoever that was there to help reshape that song, an outside influence or his own insight kept the title track (to arguably one of MJ's best records) dark, thematic, and engaging. Throw up "Daddy Pop" or "Push" against something like "Dangerous" or "Who Is It?" and Prince falls short.

But, without Tony M. on the record, there seems to be a refocused (this is how it was meant to sound" feel to it. No distractions, shorter more focused songs... it's why I say TM-free, it's a classic on its own but not in the Prince or Controversy sort of way.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #10 posted 07/08/18 1:14pm

funkaholic1972

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I'd say it is a near-Turkey with some classic moments. Suffers from very busy production in parts, way too much going on in lots of songs. It thought many songs were cringeworthy when this album was released and I am still of that opinion. But some classic material too on this album. A true mixed bag IMHO...

The Good:

  • Cream (Started appreciating this song more in recent years, wasn't especially fond of it when it was released)
  • Willing & Able
  • Gett Off (Stone cold club classic)
  • Walk Don't Walk (Great beat and generally pleasing song, could have done without the car horns though)
  • Money Don't Matter 2 Night (Very pleasant Steely Dan-esque song)


The Bad
:

  • Thunder (Way too busy and a bit of an embarrassment to be honest)
  • Daddy Pop (Another clunker IMO, what was he thinking starting of this album with these two tunes???)
  • Jughead ("Get Stupid, get stupid": need I say more? I like the basic groove but the rap(p)ing kills this joint quickly)
  • Live 4 Love (A concise 3 minute version without rap(p)ing would have been an option here)
  • Push (It meanders on, a 3 minute concise version could have been quite good.)


The Doubtful
:

  • Strollin' (I have a love-hate relationship with this song, it has a certain charm but it is also cheesy pseudo-jazz)
  • Insatiable (Beautiful song, but I have to be in the mood for this one. I do admire Prince's ballads but they often make me chuckle a bit at the same time.)
  • D&P (Well written song with an interesting structure, great vocal performances. Ballads are generally not really my cup of tea though.)
RIP Prince: thank U 4 a funky Time!
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Reply #11 posted 07/08/18 11:17pm

amokeru

Money Don't Matter 2Night has been my favorite for all these years!

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Reply #12 posted 07/09/18 1:00am

TheEnglishGent

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ThePanther said:

Perhaps no Prince album is as polarizing and confused-in-reception as 1991's Diamonds & Pearls.

The Rainbow Children would like a word with you.

RIP sad
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Reply #13 posted 07/09/18 2:47am

OperatingTheta
n

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TheEnglishGent said:



ThePanther said:


Perhaps no Prince album is as polarizing and confused-in-reception as 1991's Diamonds & Pearls.





The Rainbow Children would like a word with you.



I'd agree that TRC is Prince's most polarising album.

I don't think there was much, if any, confused reception to Diamonds and Pearls when it was released - it was a massive commercial hit here in Europe and brought Prince a whole generation of younger fans. It was widely considered to be Prince's return to popular dominance.

Criticisms are easy in retrospect and of course, Tony M's raps now sound dated. But I still think Prince managed to incorporate more contemporary sounds without losing his identity or credibility.
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Reply #14 posted 07/09/18 2:59am

NorthC

In a way, D&P was the beginning of the end, because it convinced both Prince and WB that he could still have hits. Which led to the signing of that infamous contract...
I may disagree with everything you say, but I will defend your right to say it.
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Reply #15 posted 07/09/18 3:51am

TheFman

4 totally great singles

Get Off as classic as they come, the intro scream stands next to JB's most sampled ones

The other material being some levels below, and some are very low on the ladder.

Still as a whole, it's much more a near-classic than anything else.

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Reply #16 posted 07/09/18 4:37am

jaawwnn

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For me:

1. Gett Off
2. Cream
3. Diamonds & Pearls
4. Walk Don't Walk
5. Willing and Able
6. Strollin'
7. Money Don't Matter 2Night
8. Insatiable
9. Horny Pony


(pick and choose the Beginnings versions as you see fit)

But ultimately we have what we have and it was a success.

[Edited 7/9/18 4:39am]

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Reply #17 posted 07/09/18 6:03am

OperatingTheta
n

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NorthC said:

In a way, D&P was the beginning of the end, because it convinced both Prince and WB that he could still have hits. Which led to the signing of that infamous contract...


But he still had major hits in Europe with Love Symbol. And TMBGITW was a worldwide hit, three years later in '94 and Prince's first UK number one single.

Prince clearly did have it in him or at least the potential. I think the lack of hits had to do with other factors. Imagine if The Gold Experience had been released in '94. He'd have had another massive hit. 'Dolphin' was already garnering major airplay also following TMBGITW.

Prince would then have had a commercial hit under his new name as a first album. However, that was not to be and it stunted him commercially.

Despite that, Prince still had UK hits with 'I Hate U', 'Gold' and 'Betcha by Golly Wow' through '95 - '96.
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Reply #18 posted 07/09/18 6:15am

PURPLEIZED3121

It was a genius move. The album & yes the inclusion of Tony M + more hip-hop imagery brought him right back in the game. The whole project was genius, amazing new look, incredible tour, great videos, great choices for singles, lots of TV + print interviews. Utter perfection. Lots of hard core of course hate the album, BUT it has real gems/classics on there.

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Reply #19 posted 07/09/18 7:40am

Mintchip

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For me, Diamonds and Peals is a turkey. It's so slick, bombastic, and frequently ridiculous that I don't reach for it often, and when I do it's good for a cringe and a laugh. I like Gett Off, because it has a sense of humor about itself, and Money Don't Matter. But I weirdly love the Symbol Album, which is probably even more bombastic and ridiculous, though less slick.

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Reply #20 posted 07/09/18 8:28am

RodeoSchro

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The live performances of this stuff - especially various TV performances - were probably the best I've ever seen by anyone.

Second Funkiest White Man in America

P&R's paladin
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Reply #21 posted 07/09/18 9:00am

dodger

Near classic for me personally.
.
It was Gett Off (mainly the video) that caught my attention as a 15 in 91 and then a girl in school made me a cassette copy of D&P (the album) and I haven't looked back since.
.
Of course it has its flaws but there's some classics on it and I love that live band sound around this time incl Gold Nigga and Symbol.
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Reply #22 posted 07/09/18 2:15pm

IstenSzek

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think/say what you will about Live4Love, but that guitar is just super delicious guitar drool



and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #23 posted 07/09/18 2:24pm

TrivialPursuit

IstenSzek said:

think/say what you will about Live4Love, but that guitar is just super delicious guitar drool


And the live versions with the thicker bass and pounding drums is amazing.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #24 posted 07/09/18 2:27pm

IstenSzek

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TrivialPursuit said:

IstenSzek said:

think/say what you will about Live4Love, but that guitar is just super delicious guitar drool


And the live versions with the thicker bass and pounding drums is amazing.

true, true nod


and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #25 posted 07/09/18 2:34pm

dodger

TrivialPursuit said:



IstenSzek said:


think/say what you will about Live4Love, but that guitar is just super delicious guitar drool




And the live versions with the thicker bass and pounding drums is amazing.



Yes, that live version on the D&P Video Collection was addictive for me back in the day
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Reply #26 posted 07/09/18 2:37pm

IstenSzek

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dodger said:

TrivialPursuit said:


And the live versions with the thicker bass and pounding drums is amazing.

Yes, that live version on the D&P Video Collection was addictive for me back in the day


isn't that the one he released the audio for on the npgmc?

and true love lives on lollipops and crisps
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Reply #27 posted 07/09/18 2:44pm

ian

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If you remove Daddy Pop, Jughead, and Push - you have one of Prince's best studio albums. Those songs are just... nothing to me. Non-music.

It's great record, just a little flabby is all.

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Reply #28 posted 07/09/18 3:23pm

Empress

Call me crazy, but I love the entire album!!
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Reply #29 posted 07/09/18 3:49pm

SkipperLove

You are crazy. Just kidding. I like the album with the exception of 3 songs, I think its a strong RandB/ pop album. Does it reinvent the wheel? No. But sometimes a strong pop album hits the spot as they say. In some ways, innovative music almost feels accidental. A catchy song (or especially 7 or 8 of them) can feel like a triumph. Are some songs a bit over-produced? Sure. But I have heard worst.

Empress said:

Call me crazy, but I love the entire album!!

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