Before he seemingly mislaid his knack of writing a good tune* I was quite a Prince fan, buying a shed load of singles and loving Parade and Sign “☮” the Times. Without invoking the sacred names of Lennon and McCartney I still can’t think of anyone who was capable of mashing together so many different types of music to such great effect whilst creating something utterly and indelibly his own and playing most of it brilliantly himself AND being so prolific, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign “☮” the Times all knocked out in 36 months, which just beggars belief; definition of the phrase ‘a purple period’? The word genius gets thrown around far too much in popular music** but when he was in his pomp Prince pretty much qualified for the title.
I bought Around The World In A Day as my first Prince album in vinyl back on 30 June 1994. I last listened to this LP in, ooh, let me see, I’m guessing about 10 July 1994. You see, it just isn’t very good. Yup, you guessed it when faced with such a smorgasbord of cosmic, funky delights I plumped for the weakest of the lot, by far. Typical! Why? I was led astray by fond memories of the single ‘Raspberry Beret’, which was sassy, catchy, clever and much more importantly for 14 year-old me, rude. Straight up, it is by far the best track on this LP and would have held it’s own easily on the better LPs that bracketed this one. It’s the age old story, guy has pants job, guy meets hot chick, guy takes her for a ride down to old man Johnson’s farm and (look away now, lady readers^) bones her and, well, that’s about it really! Romantic little sexist that he is, Prince even finds time to pay Ms Beret the ultimate compliment,
She wasn’t 2 bright, but I could tell when she kissed me
She knew how 2 get her kicks
Aah, those 19 words every girl longs to hear. Still at least he confirms that he ‘wouldn’t change a stroke’! Okay, okay slightly dubious sexual politics aside^^ it is just a brilliant track… unlike everything else on Side A. It comes over as all a bit self-consciously psychedelic, as though Prince decided to write a psychedelic-flavoured album and then fitted the songs he had at the time around that goal. To be fair ‘Condition of the Heart’ is a deliriously over the top soul ballad that could have been saved by being a lot less overblown but I wouldn’t give a flying one for anything else on that side.
Luckily Side B of Around the World in a Day is better, not brilliant but better. I really rate the heavy political funk of ‘America’ and it’s dissing of mindless patriotism/ anti-communism,
Little sister making minimum wage
Living in a 1-room jungle-monkey cage
Can’t get over, she’s almost dead
She may not be in the black
But she’s happy she ain’t in the red
I love that. Then we have ‘Pop Life’ an empty, sarcastic song about empty, sarcastic celebrity life. For the sake of accord and harmony let’s gloss over the Liberace-meets-George Clinton ‘The Ladder’ and skip straight to the heavy guitar, heavily-treated guitar freak out of ‘Temptation’. Again this is about you know, that. Yes you do know, umm, downstairs activity. Honestly, the man was obsessed!
Pop go mama when daddy gets a little 2 much
You know what I’m talkin’ ’bout?
Purplelectricity whenever our bodies touch
Ooh baby, I love it when our bodies touch
Yet again, I’m afraid Flight of the Conchords have just slain this sort of thing for me – when Prince sings this all I can see before me is Brett and Jermaine, they nailed the silliness of it all far too well. But anyway, one great track and two okay ones does not make this an album I can see myself returning too any time soon – knew I should have bought Parade instead! Still as a certain mini-Lothario would have it,
I’ll tell ya, if I had the chance 2 do it all again, oh
I wouldn’t change a stroke
*1993, since you ask.
**okay, mostly by me, nightly.
^maybe even return to your knitting and/or whatever lady activities you do when not tending to your husband’s every need and reading 1537!
^^and this from a Nashville Pussy fan!