Around the World in a Day (1985)


  
1. Around the World in a Day 2. Paisley Park 3. Condition of the Heart 4. Raspberry Beret 5. Tambourine 6. America 7. Pop Life 8. The Ladder 9. Temptation

 

As Prince progressed through his career, he became famous for being somewhat aloof and eclectic. You never knew what he was going to do next. Whether he was changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, only making his recordings available over the internet, or carving the word “slave” into his face, it was always a bit of a mystery what he might do next. You could argue that such behavior started with this record. This was the first record that really shocked pretty much everybody. He had built a solid career being the master of dance, funk, and rock, which all culminated in the Purple Rain masterpiece. This record came out a mere nine months after Purple Rain was released, with very little fanfare, and had a lot of people scratching their heads. This was the last thing most were expecting.

The passing of time has been very kind to this release, and one should really appreciate it for what it is as opposed to what it is not. “What it is”, though, is even a bit difficult to pinpoint. The most common description people use is “psychedelic”, but even that demarcation is too narrow. True, a lot of songs on this album definitely have a light-air happy feel to them that is reminiscent of the late 1960s. A bit of a shocker coming from a young African-American in his mid-twenties. But as in most cases, Prince shows he’s capable of so much more than one would imagine. The two singles Raspberry Beret and Pop Life are both very pleasant pieces, but one has to wonder that if anyone other than Prince had released these songs, if they would have charted as well. That’s not a slam against the material at all, it’s just a testimony to how diverse these set of songs are.

The best thing on this record is undoubtedly Paisley Park which would later become synonymous with many things related to Prince, including where he lived. This is the most pleasant, upbeat, happy tune featured, and I’m very surprised it was never released as a single (apparently it was in England). The leadoff track, Around the World in a Day as a lot of the same characteristics in terms of style – light, dreamy, mystical, yet easily accessible at the same time.

Many other times, though, he’s straying from this particular style. Tambourine brings a bit of the classic funk sound to his new found style, whereas Condition of the Heart almost sounds like it would be more at home in an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical then on a Prince album. The Ladder is a very beautiful spiritual piece that echoes a bit of the song Purple Rain. It’s not nearly as good (what is??), but it’s definitely uplifting to the listener.

The song America is a bit of a weird one. It actually uses the same melody as America the Beautiful yet done in a way only Prince can accomplish (heavy, funky, etc.). It’s a bit of a heavily laden protest song, but Prince always managed to do the whole “protest” thing rather well – i.e. little focus on lyrics and more emphasis on the music. The album’s only real stinker is Temptation, a song that simply doesn’t work for me. With a song title like Temptation from an artist like Prince, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what kind of temptation he’s singing about for over eight minutes. It’s actually an o.k. piece for the first five minutes, but then Prince has to start “acting” within the song, and we hear a conversation between Prince and God about love and sex filled with lots of caterwauling and screaming over a screeching saxophone that seems to never end. My advice is the stop the song at the five-minute mark.

I would also argue that several of the songs here seem a bit too short (really a backhanded compliment when you think about it). There are many instances when you’re just starting to get into the groove of a particular track and then you hear it start to fade out. Still, though, this was definitely one of his better “experiments”. He wouldn’t always be this successful. Hindsight definitely displays this album’s charms.

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