Parade
Prince & The Revolution
1986

If I were a sensible person, I would’ve listened to Prince’s complete works first, identified continuing themes, drawn some tentative conclusions, and then, armed with this global perspective, returned to his debut and started the project.

NFW. I didn’t do any thinking at all, I just started bloviating as soon as I cued up track 1 of his debut, For You. Here I am eight albums later and I have outrun my personal Prince database. I only knew two songs on Parade and things aren’t going to get any better with his next 200 albums.

Parade is another soundtrack; this movie is called Under the Cherry Moon. Prince wrote the music, directed, and took the starring role as a gigolo. Of course he played a gigolo. I’ve always wanted to list “gigolo” as my occupation on my tax forms, but my tax preparer does not favor this plan and my wife has raised key objections. Under the Cherry Moon is another film that will never invade either hemisphere of my brain, although if there’s an afterlife, I suspect they show Prince’s films on a continuous loop.

Parade marks the high point for The Revolution and their influence on Prince’s records. (I’ve avoided writing about Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, and the many other talented musicians, mostly women, Prince has worked with because that would be a whole other project.) But if their influence here was to direct Prince toward a cabaret style that varies between pretentiousness and the aural equivalent of an eye test where everything is out of focus, then it was definitely time for Prince and The Revolution to break up. Which they did, after this record.

Some of these songs are boring. I had never connected the words “boring” and “Prince” until I heard “Under the Cherry Moon.” I can’t make it to the end of that one and it’s not even three minutes long. So instead let me point out the songs that are not boring, because they almost save Parade. And I don’t want to make The Revolution into the fall guys here, because they had a hand in the better tracks, too.

“New Position”
Shows what Prince can do when he strips out the orchestra and all that other frou-frou stuff. The lyrics are straight out of the ZZ Top planet, but ZZ Top could only dream of being this funky.

“Girls & Boys”
The B-52s if they’d been trapped in the wild and raised by David Bowie.

“Mountains”
This song is awesome. I’ve read that critics in 1986 complained that Parade was too “European.” What did they mean? Where were these critics from, the Ottoman Empire?

I mention this because “Mountains” reminds me of the music of a gentleman named Peter Godwin, who actually is from that place called Europe. Godwin had a couple of dance-club hits in 1982, “Images of Heaven” (banned video of naked women pretending to hang from crucifixes – that is so cool) and “Baby’s in the Mountains.” His disco, which was built on sedimentary layers of synthesizers, is not bad, though the lyrics never rise above Hello Kitty. Allmusic.com calls his first solo effort, Images of Heaven, “an interesting synth-pop artifact.” That’s what people will call me after I’m dead. Fun fact: Godwin’s voice is close to David Byrne’s.

In “Mountains,” Prince has taken Godwin’s “European,” shallow disco sound and improved it 500%, though not the lyrics, which barely budge from middle school.

“Kiss”
I have about six Prince songs that are my #1 favorite. Like this one. “Kiss” may be the best booty call of the last century – sexy and romantic. Rolling Stone ranks it 464 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. This makes me sad, because “Smoke on the Water” ranks higher on their stupid list. Once again, Prince demonstrates how to write a hit record and save money by not hiring anyone to play bass.

“Anotherloverholenyohead”
This is the funniest song here, at least to me, because “Anotherloverholenyohead” sounds like Prince making fun of Yes and their absurd dance hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” OK, he probably didn’t set out to make fun of Yes and I’ll bet he hasn’t devoted more than 10 seconds of precious brain time to them in his life, which is more than I can say for myself. But this is still pretty funny.

Parade is not Prince at his best, though there are some astrophysical moments here. I give him credit as always for his willingness to try something new. I can’t imagine what he’s about to throw at me. I should’ve peeked.

1986 Scoreboard
Parade didn’t place in the Rolling Stone sweepstakes, but the critics voted “Kiss” the best single. Their readers voted for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” Here are the critics’ winning albums:

Winner:
Graceland – Paul Simon

Runners-up:
So – Peter Gabriel
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band Live/1975-85 – Bruce Springsteen etc.
True Stories – Talking Heads
Strong Persuader – The Robert Cray Band
Raising Hell – Run-DMC, whoever they are
Life’s Rich Pageant – R.E.M.

The readers voted for Bruce for the second year in a row. Their runners-up:
So – Peter Gabriel
Life’s Rich Pageant – R.E.M.
5150 – Van Halen
Invisible Touch – Genesis

Today’s Randoms: Female Debut Edition

Thumbs-up
Keyshia Cole, The Way It Is (2005)
Ms. Cole might be the model for Ke$ha and other urban-dance-contemporary-fake-R&B horrors. She didn’t mean it! She doesn’t have Beyoncé’s voice, but how many people do? This record is not for me, but it’s definitely for someone – I can hear how good she is.

Thumbs-down
Lykke Li, Youth Novels (2008)
Some striking music here, particularly “Complaint Department,” but I can only take so much of a woman in her 20s singing like a 13-year-old. The late Amy Winehouse would’ve blown through this set like Comet Hale-Bopp.

I report, you decide
Lorde, Pure Heroine (2013)
Ella Yelich-O’Connor was 16 when she recorded Pure Heroine. The list of good teenage pop stars is short: Aretha, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, the Everlys (just barely), Simon & Garfunkel (as Tom & Jerry), Esperanza Spaulding (I’m guessing here), and Mozart. The list of bad teenage pop stars is long and I refuse to type any of their names.

In which camp does Lorde reside? Her lyrics sound interesting but deliver little; that’s not necessarily a drawback in the pop music game. Musically, she’s as slick as Steely Dan, as calculated as any boy band. Everything about this record was designed to suction the money out of your PayPal account, but it’s done with such class and skill that I listened to nine of the 15 tracks before I decided it was getting monotonous. Lorde can sing, that’s for sure.

If I can stand it, you can. Play it.

 

 

Comments
  1. seasidedave says:

    Did Larry Evans play all of his chess matches in the water, so that his height wouldn’t be an advantage or disadvantage? What is your favorite venue for chess, Mr. Run?

  2. Accused of Lurking says:

    Your column sent me to IMDB where I discovered that Prince has been in three full-length movies: Purple Rain (1984) has a 6.3 rating, Under the Cherry Moon (1986) has a 4.6 rating, and Graffiti Bridge (1990), the sequel to Purple Rain, has a 4.0 rating. Apparently, his films just get worse and worse. Also, IMDB revealed that Prince is five feet two inches tall.

  3. lindajordan says:

    I’m not sure when Prince began making albums quickly just to finish up his contract, but this might have been a factor. Or it might have been several albums later. My brain’s hazy on the timeline of that. My brain’s hazy on a number of things these days.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Dear Hazy Brain: I’m just about four years away from Prince striking back at his record company by changing his name to a symbol. If he’s rushing through his albums to meet his contractual obligations, then this project is going to end sooner than I thought! Respectfully, Lamebrain

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