Prince gifted songs lesser artists would kill for, and here are 15 of those covers (only one previously released) performed by the great man himself.
When Prince’s vaults finally opened last September, Piano And A Microphone 1983 was an adept introduction. It suggested the team in charge of selecting which material to put out really do share Prince’s ethos: it was sublime, it was hip, it was subtle.
It wasn’t the “Here’s 15 massive Prince tunes you’ve been gossiping about for 30 years!” extravaganza it could have been. That’s been saved for the second release. Originals is… good God, where do you start with a record like Originals?
The elevator pitch is simple: Prince’s original recordings of 15 songs he wrote for other artists.
You’ll know Prince’s version of Nothing Compares 2U, released as a taster of Originals last November. The final song on Originals, it’s as beautiful as you’d expect, as well as spiritually distinct from Sinead O’Connor: less devastated heartbreak, more pining for a lover who’s hopefully only temporarily apart. Manic Monday, however, is exactly as you’d hope – the same as The Bangles, only with one genius singing and playing everything.
The other huge tune, Love…Thy Will Be Done, is an anomaly. Prince wrote everything else between 1981-85, Love…Thy Will Be Done in 1990. Advances in contemporary recording technology mean that it’s even more sonically spectacular today. As with all of Prince’s best tunes, he sounds as though he’s about to unravel at any moment. Martika did a great job. It’s not her fault Prince’s stunning version now makes hers instantly redundant.
The songs less familiar to the mainstream are equally incredible, highlighting just how varied Prince’s mind was. It’d usually take a team of a dozen writers to create the minimal electro throb of Make-Up, trad country ballad You’re My Love, coquettish pop Wouldn’t You Love To Love Me?, the arrogant strut of Sex Shooter… Prince wrote them, played them and sang them perfectly, handed them out to whichever Paisley Park protégé he felt was best suited and made Kiss for himself the next day instead.
The lamentable dance craze film Krush Groove was at least three years too late on its release in 1985. Yet Prince created six-and-a-half minute jam Holly Rock for Sheila E for the movie. It’s got a joy only Prince was capable of, and suddenly you’ll want to watch Krush Groove.
As diverse as Originals’ songs are, none of them would have quite fitted on the albums Prince himself was making at the time. Jungle Love is a total banger, but it just wouldn’t have been right on Purple Rain. The Time were very lucky to get it instead.
In every way, Originals is brilliantly assembled. Not even hardened Prince bootleggers had found his versions of Jungle Love or Sex Shooter before, but here they are. The extras are superb: the book makes the deluxe LP/CD edition worth its £50 tag. Prince’s engineer Peggy McCreary’s sleevenotes on what it was like trying to bring his visions to life are as enlightening as anything ever written about Prince.
Above all, Originals’ running order is exceptional, pulling the 15 songs together so it sounds like a coherent mid-80s Prince album. And if you don’t want a ‘new’ Prince mid-80s album in your collection right now, why have you bothered reading this far?
1 Sex Shooter
2 Jungle Love
3 Manic Monday
4 Noon Rendezvous
6 100 MPH
7 You’re My Love
8 Holly Rock
9 Baby, You’re A Trip
10 The Glamorous Life
11 Gigolos Get Lonely Too
12 Love… Thy Will Be Done
13 Dear Michaelangelo
14 Wouldn’t You Love To Love Me?
15 Nothing Compares 2 U