In “Reconfigured,” we take liberties with revisionism by reediting, reimagining, and resequencing a particular album or albums in an effort to reconfigure the work into a stronger whole.
Without a doubt, Prince’s musical output in the 1980s remains one of the most consistently innovative runs in pop music history. The only artists that immediately come to mind as matching or surpassing consistency, quality, and volume of Prince’s 1980s output are the similarly legendary runs of David Bowie and Stevie Wonder from the early 1970s through the very beginning of the 1980s.
As rich as Prince’s 1980s out put may be, it isn’t flawless (but it is damn close). This edition of Reconfigured revisits Around the World in a Day, the follow up to Prince and the Revolution’s multi-platinum smash Purple Rain.
It’s the curse of achieving massive success: How the hell do you follow it? Prince had his work cut out for him. Purple Rain yielded no less than five hit singles, topped the album charts for 24 weeks, sold over 13 million copies, and received a slew of critical and industry accolades. Now what? Legend and logic dictate that Warner Bros. pushed for an album taking a similar approach to Purple Rain, in hopes of replicating its massive success. Ever the defiant artist, Prince chose to go in the opposite direction, and release an album markedly different than Purple Rain.
What became Around the World in a Day is often hailed as Prince’s psychedelic album. Particularly through the influence of bandmates Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin, Prince was delving into the 1960s psychedelic era, and the influence is explicit. The lyrics are idyllic and surreal, the album art is bedecked with a crowd of carnivalesque fantasy figures, and the music is visual, steeped in metaphor, and heavy on narrative. In short, it was a sharp turn from the innovative but imminently accessible pop tour de force of Purple Rain.
Around the World in a Day predictably paled in comparison to its predecessor’s performance, but kept Prince well within the public’s consciousness. The album had a brief reign atop the album charts, went double platinum, and produced two top ten singles. It also served as an effective segue into Prince’s next project Parade, which retained much of the psychedelic whimsy of Around the World in a Day, but placed it in a pop jazz motif.
The album has never been one of my favorites, though it contains a number of my favorite Prince tunes; I’ve always felt that the disc just didn’t really cohere as an album. Playing around with the old reconfiguration machine, I came to find that indeed, the album suffers from sequencing in my opinion. Ergo, with some tinkering and tailoring, I present to you the reconfigured album Around the World in a Day.
1. Around the World in a Day
2. Paisley Park
4. Pop Life
5. The Ladder
8. Raspberry Beret
9. She’s Always in My Hair
Again, the individual songs on Around the World in a Day are compelling. But the whole always felt less than than the sum of its parts. The weak link in the album for me has always been “Condition of the Heart.” It’s a great lyric, and a great little melody; it’s also a somewhat awkward vocal – particularly the bridge portion (“Thinking about you driving me crazy, ooohhhhhohhhhhhh”). So “Condition” gets nixed from the revised lineup.
“Condition” is actually the only song to fall out of the original album’s tracklisting, but there are two additions. In his ridiculously prolific run in the 1980s, Prince most often issued non-album b-sides with his singles, many of which were as strong as (and in some cases, arguably stronger than) their accompanying a-side. In the reconfigured Around the World in a Day, the album has reclaimed two of those b-sides, “Girl” (which originally backed “America”), and the powerhouse “She’s Always in My Hair” (originally the flipside of “Raspberry Beret”). “Girl” is a light, jaunty tune of lustful yearning, a mid-tempo number that here replaces “Condition of the Heart.” “She’s Always in My Hair” is simply an addition rather than a replacement, bringing the track tally for the revised album to 10. To compensate in this alternate reality, “Condition of the Heart” would now back the “Raspberry Beret” single, while the “Electric Intercourse” would take the b-side of “America.”
As for the rest of this reconfiguration, it’s a matter of resequencing. The first two tracks go unchanged. “Around the World in a Day” is the perfect prelude to Prince’s dabbling in psychedelic pop – it’s his beckon call for us to climb aboard. If the title track is a prelude, by “Paisley Park,” we’ve arrived in Prince’s funky technicolor world, and “Pop Life” is that world’s founding philosophy. In the original configuration, the gospel balladry of “The Ladder” led directly into “Temptation,” the album’s concise simultaneous engagement of the sacred vs. profane. While the contrast in that segue is interesting, I opted to let the reflective “Ladder” end Side 1 to let it sink in while you flip the disc (or tape!).
I also like the idea of “America” opening Side 2, in the hopes that the track’s false starts would raise concern that the cat’s fucking with the turntable again. We then go into the jerky sex funk of “Tamborine,” and the obvious hit “Raspberry Beret.” “She’s Always in My Hair” is rescued from b-side exile, providing a clear highlight to the album. Hell, it would have been a great a-side!
The new configuration still closes with “Temptation,” a nasty, sexy funk groove that takes a left turn into a chat with God. That dialogue was always a bit too stilted for me to totally buy into, but again – the blatant contrast between the sacred and the profane here does make for an interesting narrative manifestation of the underlying tension in much of Prince’s music.
The primary motivation behind this Reconfigured was sequencing. To my ears, this arrangement flows more smoothly, allowing the album to hang together a bit more cohesively, ensuring that the inventiveness of Prince’s brief psychedelic journey is not compromised by awkward, uneven juxtaposition.
Take a listen to our Reconfigured version of Around the World in a Day below, and let us know what you think in the comments!
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