Prince Originals Review

Originals is a new Prince album… of songs covered and made famous by other folks. It’s a curious concept, to be sure.

As long time readers of this blog will know, I’m a huge Prince fan. Yes, I own all the albums, even the weird Jehovah’s Witness era ones that don’t have a lot of remarkable music on them.

His passing hit me pretty hard, and ever since, we’ve seen an odd trickle of music emerge from the Prince Estate. These have included a couple of greatest hits albums with one single “new” track in Moonbeam levels:

It’s a great track, but throwing just one new song onto a greatest hits album is a very old-school record label way to get you to buy music you already owned!

Then there was Piano & A Microphone 1984, based off a tape found of his practice sessions for a range of music. It’s a fascinating listen, but it never intended to be an “album” to speak of.

See also: Musings on Prince’s Piano & a Microphone 1983

That hiss in the background is ACTUAL tape hiss.
Because it was recorded on actual tape, you see.

Now we’ve got a “new” Prince album in Originals, but once again it’s an odd concept that’s not quite an album.

Prince was an insanely prolific musician, and often at odds with Warner Bros over quite how fast he could release albums. His standard method to get around this was to record side projects with other acts, often doing a lot of the musical work for every song.

This included recording his own “versions” of songs to show how they were meant to sound. Or at least how they would sound if he was going to record them.

Originals is a mix of those side projects (The Time, Appalonia 6, Mazarati, Vanity 6 and so on) as well as a number of tracks made famous by other artists entirely. A lot of folks know that Prince wrote “Manic Monday” for example, but fewer knew that he wrote a hit song for (of all people), Kenny Rogers.

Here’s the tracklist rundown, as well as the original “hit” artist.

Sex Shooter Appalonia 6
Jungle LoveThe Time
Manic Monday The Bangles
Noon RendevousSheila E.
Make-UpVanity 6
You’re My LoveKenny Rogers
Holly RockSheila E.
Baby, You’re A TripJill Jones
The Glamorous LifeSheila E.
Gigolos Get Lonely TooThe Time
Love… Thy Will Be DoneMartika
Dear MichealangeloSheila E.
Would’t You Love To Love Me?Taja Seville
Nothing Compares 2 UThe Family/Sinead O’Connor

OK, let’s face it. Most folks think of Nothing Compares 2 U as a Sinead song, but The Family had it first, chronologically speaking.

It’s a neat concept to show off Prince’s range as a writer and music arranger, although it’s also a very split effort. For the acts where Prince essentially retained control, there’s not so much of a difference between “his” version on Originals and the versions you might already know.

Jungle Love sounds like…. well, it sounds very much like The Time’s version of the same song, and I can’t help of course think of the frankly pretty ordinary Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back every time I hear it.
Content warning: Strong language. Well, it IS a Kevin Smith film

It’s much the same story for The Glamorous Life, Gigolos Get Lonely Too or most other tracks.

Love Thy Will Be Done is likewise very similar to Martika’s version, but then she’s credited as a co-writer on that track, so that’s hardly surprising.

It strikes me that this would have made a KILLER duet.

Where it gets a little more interesting is in the music made famous by artists less under Prince’s thumb.

There’s been a Prince version of Nothing Compares 2 U available ever since The Hits compilation in the early 1990s, and while this is a different recording, it’s not a big surprise.

Then again, I had to go and track down the Kenny Rogers original of You’re My Love, because typically, there’s only one Kenny Rogers song I ever tend to listen to. It’s not You’re My Love. It’s this one:

Pro tip: If you’re ever stuck with an unshakeable earworm, sing a few lines of The Gambler. Unsticks anything, and doesn’t stay resident itself. It’s like magic!

Prince’s version is quite different, but it’s got nothing on Manic Monday, one of the quintessential 1980s pop songs. The Bangles version is bright and poppy, but Prince’s version is rather more slow and measured. It’s about the exhaustion of a Manic Monday where the Bangles is about the energy burn of that day.

Am I enjoying Prince’s Originals?

Yeah, I am. Days in, and it’s still on heavy rotation while I work and while I relax.

I’m still a Prince fan, and it’s an interesting exercise.

But I’m left wondering what’s actually happened to those thousands of songs that were meant to be lying in the mythical “vault”. It’s been a few years since we very sadly lost Prince, but so far, there’s no “new” album of music.

For someone as prolific as Prince, that seems odd. You’d think the commercial time to strike for previously unheard of music would be sooner rather than later?

Prince Originals was released as a Tidal exclusive first, before being released to major streaming services, so you should be able to easily find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music or YouTube Music, as well as in physical formats, including a frighteningly expensive deluxe edition which includes a CD, LP and photo booklet.

Anyone feeling really generous is more than welcome to buy me a copy of that.

I’m old school, and a solid Prince fan, but not quite that well off!

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