Shit, I just realized that the title should have said (written/produced for others.) Too late to fix it now. My bad, y’all.
Welcome to the second part of our trip down Prince Rogers Nelson’s own personal memory lane. I’ve gotta say, I still marvel at the fact that, between 1981 and 1987 (or so,) the man created six of the greatest albums ever made under his own name, plus-three Time albums, a Vanity 6 album, an Apollonia 6 album, a Family album, a Jill Jones album, 2 1/2 Sheila E. albums (her self-titled 1987 effort found her exercising more creative control,) God knows how many unreleased/unfinished projects–it’s mind boggling. No other artist (NONE) can boast that kind of work ethic, and the fact of the matter is that even if another artist could-every work I mentioned above is at the very least listenable, if not outright good. I don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of Prince again.
Anyway, back to the countdown. 10 more to go.
10. “The Screams of Passion” (released by The Family, 1985)
The Family, Prince’s 1985 side project, rose from the ashes of the disbanded Time (including former members “St. Paul” Peterson, Jellybean Johnson and Jerome Benton). Added to the group were then fiancée Susannah Melvoin (The Revolution member Wendy’s twin sister) saxophonist Eric Leeds, and five pairs of assorted silk pajamas. “The Screams of Passion”, like most of the other songs on the album, was recorded entirely by Prince, with overdubs added in later for Paul’s and Susannah’s vocals and the string arrangements of Clare Fischer (who, I believe until his death in January 2012, never once met Prince in person). The song was a moderate hit, charting at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100. For those of us sucked into the 80’s Prince vortex, it was another Prince tune we ate right up, with its slowed down, sexy funk.-Pete Icke
9. “The Dance Electric” (released by Andre Cymone, 1985)
Originally recorded in 1984 with Wendy and Lisa of The Revolution, Prince gave “The Dance Electric” to childhood friend Andre Cymone to use on his 1985 album AC. As with most of the tracks Prince gives to other artists, Cymone retained all of Prince’s instrumentation, as well as Wendy and Lisa’s backing vocals, and just recorded his vocals over the original song. “The Dance Electric” is a monstrous funk jam that serves as the perfect summation of Prince’s spiritual vision. The world is going to end soon, God would not be happy with what we’ve become so we better love each other. It’s a viewpoint he has revisited countless times, but never quite as funky as this. To no one’s surprise, “The Dance Electric” ended up being Andre Cymone’s biggest chart hit, reaching number 10 on Billboard’s Black Singles Chart, as it was called then. –Mike A.
8. “Get It Up” (released by The Time, 1981, covered by TLC, 1993)
At first listen, you’d be hard pressed to identify “Get It Up” as a song by anyone other than Prince. Stylistically, it would make itself right at home on either Controversy, or Dirty Mind; yet, here was the world’s introduction to Morris Day and the Time. (Alexander) Nevermind the fact the fact that Prince is singing the hook and backup on the verses, and the signature warble of Dr. Fink’s synthesizers, this is The Time! It’s interesting to note that while Prince has reclaimed “Cool” in recent years, he has not performed “Get It Up” live, save for his input on those early tours where The Time was the opening act for The Revolution.-Michael Parr
7. “Cool” (released by The Time, 1981)
“Cool” is a heavy dose of Oberheim OB-X synths, with a touch of funky rhythm guitar and a pinch of percussive bells thrown in for good measure. This 10-minute, six-second epic groove from The Time’s eponymous debut is one of the most danceable tracks Prince produced in the early days of his development of the Minneapolis Sound. More importantly, “Cool” laid the foundation for the “Morris Day” persona that would be a central element of The Time’s recordings and live performances over the next three decades. The wealthy playboy braggadocio, the stone-cold-lover ethos, the call-and-response with the band – pretty much everything other than Moe-iss asking Jerome to bring him a mirror is established right there in “Cool.” It’s no wonder that Prince has stated publicly in recent years that “Cool” is one of the few selections from his catalogue that he regrets having given away. “Ain’t nobody bad…”-Michael Cunningham
6. “Jungle Love” (released by The Time, 1984)
Sharing a writing credit with The Time’s Morris Day and Jesse Johnson, Jamie Starr (aka Prince) cut the tune in early 1983 during the 1999 tour. He played all of the instruments, except for the lead guitar supplied by Johnson. Of course, the song is featured in the opening minutes of Purple Rain, after Morris and the boys usher The Revolution off of the First Avenue stage post-“Let’s Go Crazy.” It was that “Jungle Love” performance that immediately endeared viewers to Morris & the Time – the synchronized side to side dance steps, and of course the on stage bits between Morris and Jerome Benton. Today, you’ll find “Morris Day & The Time” performing the tune, as well as Prince himself, who has taken to inserting some of these old Time nuggets into end of show medleys – undoubtedly to remind everyone where the songs came from.-Pete Icke
5. “The Glamorous Life” (released by Sheila E., 1984)
Although it was suggested that Sheila Escovedo was the most independent-minded of the many female Prince proteges, the fact of the matter is that her first (and biggest) hit, “The Glamorous Life,” was largely a creation of Mr. Nelson. The lyrics are among the most mature that Prince wrote during his initial run of commercial dominance, and the most witty (“in the section marked ‘If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It Lingerie” and “boys with small talk and small minds really don’t impress me in bed” are among Prince’s best one-liners.) It was perfect for the “Dynasty” era-a story of a woman who desires material items and financial security, but ultimately isn’t complete without love. Sheila’s breezy vocals don’t get in the way of the groove, which has a little bit of Latin spice, some deft drum programming, and is also notable for being one of Prince’s first experiments with a horn section. –Big Money
4. “Nasty Girl” (released by Vanity 6, 1982)
Prince may have written, produced and performed this song, but “Nasty Girl” would not have been “Nasty Girl” without the inimitable sass of Canadian Denise Matthews, A.K.A. Vanity. She wasn’t much of a singer, but she knew how to deliver a line. So while you might be taken aback by the forthrightness of “Nasty Girl” (even thirty years later,) you’ll also crack a chuckle or two and admire the moxie present in this lady’s voice as she lists her size requirements and demands a groove that she can croon to. Not to say that the groove wasn’t fine on its own-just ask Pharrell Williams, who announced the maturation of teen queen Britney Spears in 2001 with “I’m a Slave 4 U,” a song that borrows heavily (to put it mildly) from Vanity 6’s one and only hit.-Big Money
3. Nothing Compares 2 U (released by The Family, 1985 & popularized in 1990 by Sinead O’ Connor)
Of course Sinead O’Connor had a massive hit with “Nothing Compares 2 U”, but her version was actually a cover of the Prince penned tune. The song first surfaced in 1985 on the self titled debut album by The Family, the first protege album to be released on Prince’s Paisley Park Records label. Even though Prince wrote seven of the eight songs on The Family, “Nothing Compares 2 U” is the only one he took credit for in the liner notes. Maybe he had a premonition of how huge this song would become five years later when O’Connor covered it. The Family’s original version is quite different to the version that became a worldwide smash, completely devoid of percussion and awash in synths and the gorgeous orchestration of Clare Fischer. There’s even a sax solo from the great Eric Leeds. Inspired by the song’s new found popularity, Prince has done his best to reclaim it by including “Nothing Compares 2 U” regularly in his live shows since the early 90’s. –Mike A.
2. 777-9311 (released by The Time, 1982)
The lead single from The Time’s second album is one of the great funk jams of all time. I pride myself on having a pretty good sense of rhythm, but this song’s groove is so tricky that even I end up stumbling over my feet when I try to dance to it. The best I can do is nod my head and try not to look like that much of an idiot. This marched up the charts just a few months after Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309” landed in the pop top ten, making 1982 perhaps the best year in rock history for phone numbers. It wound up peaking at #2 on the R&B list, placing higher than any Prince song to that point (with the notable exception of “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”) Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson (whose digits provided the song’s title) may have had to change his number after the song hit, but hey, “777” has given him a conversation starter for three decades now. I’m sure whatever frustration he may have felt back then has long since subsided.-Big Money
1. A Love Bizarre (released by Sheila E., 1985)
Following the success of The Glamorous Life, Prince brought Sheila E. back into the studio for a second go-round in Romance 1600. As was often the case, Prince’s involvement in the project was much more substantial than a glance at the liner notes would have listeners believe. In fact, the only track to not directly involve the Purple One is “Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in Summer.”
In contrast, the only track that the sleeve openly states Prince’s involvement is “A Love Bizarre,” one of his strongest and most whimsical compositions of the era, and certainly the standout track on the album. Characterized by Prince’s pop-jazz sound of the period (further displayed on The Family’s LP and Prince’s own Parade album), the sonic landscape painted by “A Love Bizarre” is perfectly suited to its lyrics: bubbly, upbeat, and undeniably flirtatious. A staple of the Parade tour, “A Love Bizarre” remains Sheila E.’s second signature song, still featured prominently in her live performances today.-Dr. Gonzo
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