If you’re a Prince fan, you’ve likely been in mourning since he transitioned to the upper realms 2 and a half years ago. Since then, amongst the infighting among former camp members, the ongoing mystery of the circumstances behind the alleged overdose death of one of the world’s most clean-living musicians, the big question has been how do you best respect his vast legacy?
With the number of releases in Prince’s famed vault of unreleased recordings said to be able to provide new music until the next millennium, the challenge is figuring out how and what and when to release it. Prince was an active musician for 37 years and, according to the archivist charged with cataloguing all his vault tapes, was working on music almost up until he passed away.
Given that Prince was on “The Piano and a Microphone” tour in the last year of his life, that the first vault release reflects that is fitting, although it would be great if the Estate would release the video from the very first one he did in January 2016 at Paisley Park. Those who have been to the Celebration at Paisley can attest that it is among the most personal of his concerts as he details, using the piano, his evolution as an artist from the very beginning.
But until then, Piano and a Microphone 1983 offers an intimate look into his artistic process. From the opening where Prince asks ‘Is that my echo?’ and then asks for the lights to be turned down, you are intimately immersed into a fluid musical mind. The 9 tracks are a window into the creation of such classic Prince songs as ’17 Days,’ ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Strange Relationship’ as well as some segues into covers of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ and the gospel standard ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ which provided the coda for Spike Lee’s latest film Black KKKlansman.
As any true Prince fans knows from years of collecting bootlegs, Prince often did multiple versions of his songs. There are at least 10 versions of ‘Something In The Water Don’t Compute’ from 1999, all of which are completely different takes on it. It’s as though Prince heard and explored every possible way one song, chorus, lyric and melody could be modified, upgraded, turned into an instrumental or subtly changed by altering tempo, changing the instrumentation or the way the hook was played or sang. That is showcased on Piano and a Microphone 1983 from an a capella version of the chorus of “Purple Rain” to an early working version of “17 Days” to a portion of “International Lover.”
What this provides is a close-up view of a great artist creating. You can hear everything from his foot stomping the piano’s pedals to him sniffling on “Mary Don’t You Weep” as having a cold didn’t stop his creating one bit. Collaborator Jill Jones has described laying under Prince’s piano looking out onto the Minnesota countryside in the early years while he played for hours. That you won’t ever have that experience is somewhat alleviated by the fact that through Piano and a Microphone 1983 you can at least get a sense of what that may have felt like.
Piano and a Microphone 1983 Track Listing:
“A Case Of You”
“Mary Don’t You Weep”
“Cold Coffee & Cocaine”
“Why The Butterflies”
Watch the “Mary Don’t You Weep” video here.
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