I've been suggested some funky resolution countdown for 21:
One album per week, first to last.
I won't reveal the tracklist that came out of it,
some of it is a stretch, but it's all the officials.
There will be some bumpy rides along the road,
and of course some heights. It's only Mountains and the Sea.
Your own impressions are most welcome.
Everything has a beginning, and already
I feel like some pompous Princess Irulan.
But we know better: the real beginnings took place at Moon Studios,
on amazing minimalistic demoes, on session work, in Grand Central,
in Bernadette's basement, not on this sketch of an album,
covered with too many layers of paint, reworked and reworked
until the original supple strokes got lost
into a muddy paste of too many colors.
No wonder Prince loved Amadeus.
The "Too many notes" line must have rang a bell from the past.
This is one of the most overcooked first albums ever.
But it's all his. At least with this method,
you only have yourself to blame.
Smart crazy kid.
Sure, it's a pristine album, impeccable, laser-focused.
The arrangements are just splendid. Riffs and gimmicks fight for a place in the sun.
At its best, you could say it's two masterpieces sandwiching a hit
in some tasty disco sauce. Tasty and fulfilling while eaten on the spot,
yet it doesn't leave the grandest culinary souvenir.
That's the main problem: Naughty Prince is nowhere to be seen in the lyrics.
Except for "Soft and Wet", penned by a guy who was experiencing
a more mature sexuality and unafraid of sticking it out for all to hear,
the rest of the lyrics reveal a Skipper scared to confront the power of female sexuality.
It smells like jasmine and roses. Not Funk.
In the anti-"Billie Jean" that is "Baby",
there is none of "The River"’s deep sense of fate,
no poetry comes to elevate or desecrate the miracle of life here.
A sappy orchestra follows schmalzy castagnettes rubatos
(this obsession with Spanish and Italian restaurants background muzak
would last up to the very last album), while Skipper, apparently sponsored by
Planned Parenthood, paint us a picture where Smurf Blue sparrows
carry dirty diapers in the washing machine in their beaks while deers do the dishes,
allowing the two lovebirds (presumably Adonis and Batsheeba, judging by the atrocious
sonic atmosphere that would have Liberace roll his eyes) to be free to count the petals
(while she secretely wonders if and when he's finally gonna get his big pistil out).
Skipper's love is forever, he's crazy you, he's all yours,
in short, no danger, it's guaranteed girl, here, let me fill
another one of these tracks to prove it to you.
Where's the mystery?
The seductive chiaroscuro?
Skipper, suddenly aware of something wrong with the Lady, panicks.
He pumps his meager chest and ruins all his until then methodically
crafted romantic approach, puts out his tumescent rod in a haste, and
out of nowhere starts jacking his neck off frantically.
And he doesn't stop after the first ejaculation,
he proceeds with splattering his spunk all over the walls.
"I'm so machoooooo!", he finally gasps.
Girl walks out.
Only boys like Prog Rock.
Especially when it's this virtuoso.
Stuff for nerds.
Yet this album is also the best error he could have come up with,
the greatest false start, a perfect questionnaire of "what went wrong?".
One of Skipper's rare gifts was precisely this: Humility (I hear some laughs in the back).
The Kid knows where he wants to go ("Don't make me black",
meaning "I'm gonna redefine Cross Over all by myself", some balls),
but he knows it's not going to be easy.
Here's the huge, maybe only difference
that resulted in Prince as we know him, and all other pop artists.
Only humility (and maybe some mad sex) can explain the radical turn-over
of the next album. Some would like to imagine that Prince
had already a plan about his first three albums, and
it's a dream too good to disavow.
Maybe the recipe was all planned:
saccharine, then saccharine in a glass of Champagne,
and then a big fat joint on some dirty mattress while you get a Big Head.
Except we know better.
Prince was stuck with Tommy Vicari,
an honest man, the wrong studio,
and too much pressure on himself.
What's left for the ages, in a strange way, is a ghost of Prince,
just like on the cover. All the ingredients are already there.
In "For You" we get a taste of his incredible choir technique,
that immediately introduces Prince the Baryton and his amazing range to the world,
with deep basses from the very start (the bullshit about
"it hurts my voice" is just an excuse to play vulnerabililty and go after the chicks ;
it's his falsetto that makes them all Soft and Wet, that much he knows).
It's also evident, in the first part of the song (?), that Prince knew "Shadows and Lights"
way before 1985.
In the second part, Prince samples himself ("A-ah-yeah-yah-oo-ooh"), puts the sample backwards ("Oo-ooh-yah-yeah-a-ah") and starts the album with it.
Tape in reverse.
This classic studio idea will be brought to its apex in the outro of "Darling Nikki" years later.
So the rock'n'roll intent is clear from the beginning, it's a wink to The Beatles,
to Led Zep.
But then, genius strikes: Gospel crashes the hippies party,
and it's a sexual one, almost tribal.
This is maybe the most sexual moment of all the album:
"Soft And Wet", all things considered, is for the teenagers to laugh and dance to,
but this is sonic ambivalence, white voices, black voices, male voices,
female voices. Lyrics are totally superfluous.
"For You" the album plays like a Prince's program of things to come: He will try to mix White and Black (in the title track, they're still juxtaposed), he will make sexual innuendos, but he will also stay romantically exclusive and be spiritual. The ideas, concepts are there, the chef is present, all the Princes are playing their parts, but something Crucial is missing.
Prince once said in an interview that the reason why "For You" is not so great is
because he was trying to write from the perspective of a man who had already lived.
One of Prince's miraculous talents (that would elude him periodically later on) was a hunger
submitted to a perpetual self-improvement.
He realizes he had listened to the album too much, letting his inner perfectionist double this track,
put a shaker here, a bell there. 9th, 11th, 13th, rich harmonies everywhere.
Thank God for the sparseness of "So Blue" and "Crazy You".
Prince could have become some George Benson
(and there's nothing wrong with that: he would have become a fabulous George Benson).
A prodigy staying in his predestined place.
But he went back and remembered what rock'n'roll is about.
A quick fuck in places you shouldn't.
To let black pulses rub white splashes.
He learned about not listening too much.
Quick, onto the next one.
This is taking too long.
Finally, he imposed himself a huge challenge:
To sound black AND white,
red AND green, not in succession but in the same four bars.
To come up with some magic formula to trick the brain AND the hips.
His first heroic act as a record artist, hence,
is not "Dirty Mind".
It will be "Prince".
SKipper's "More is Less" would truly start there,
and would contain the lexicon of Blues, the Do-Me-Wrong Woman,
and the lexicon of funk, the Do-Me-Good Woman. A more Expert Lover.
Liberated from the stress of the first time and reassured about his badness
("Soft and Wet" was undeniably a hit), Skipper would start one of the
best recording sprees in modern music.
Half by plan.
Half (Special Thanks 2 God) by accident.
[Edited 1/11/21 19:29pm]