Second Hand: Used Philosophy
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- Prince – 1999 Brazil Import
US LP pressing.Prince’s fifth album came right before the lascivious multi-instrumentalist became a huge star with his 1984 film and soundtrack, Purple Rain. But Prince had already proved himself to be the most audacious talent to emerge in the 1980s, and 1999, the bulk of which features Prince on all the instruments, reflects the dance-rock styles that he also brought to the acts he produced, particularly the Time. Prince knows how to run a one-man-band individual instruments don’t blend
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Greatest album ever,
“1999″ was incredibly relevant at the time and its messages loom large today as well. In 1982, the world was in a mess. AIDS was festering in Africa. The Soviet Union and the USA were entrenched in the frigid Cold War. The tension in the Middle East was augmented. The world’s economy experienced an enormous crash, rendering several countries in South America and Africa paupers in the world market (many of which have not recovered). Who wasn’t worried about the troubled times? “1999″ tunes in perfectly to those fears. The title track is a viciously funky premonition of not only the current state of affairs, but things to come. Prince really tapped into his view of the future with this album. The foreboding messages of the title track are echoed in future classics like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Crystal Ball,” but none are as timely nor as timeless as “1999,” which is funny as “1999″ is tied to a specific date.
“1999″ also reigns supreme due to its paradoxes. Whether it be Prince clamoring, “I’m in love with God, he’s the only way” in juxtaposition with “I sincerely want to f*** the taste out of your mouth” in “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” the dedication of a sexual thrust to “love without sex” in the midst of the passion of “Lady Cab Driver” or the sonic paradox of “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),” a song literally being torn apart by the opposing forces of order in the form of the computerized synth and turbulence in the passion of Prince’s guttural screams and the beat which is systematically chaotic, Prince was clearly functioning on a new level with this album, not just personally, but in music as a whole. Nothing previous to this had been as irreverent as “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” only to turn a complete 180 and declare love of God. Nothing prior to this had seen a song effortlessly blend the primitive outburst of screaming and the forward-looking sound of “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute).” What was this guy thinking?
“1999″ also earns the award because it breaks so many formats. The smash singles are all placed at the beginning of the album, after which it meanders into much darker, experimental territory. The outburst of raging, swaggering funk in “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” “DMSR,” “Automatic,” “Lady Cab Driver” and “All the Critics Love U in New York” are stunning not because they are so drawn out (all but “All the Critics” are over 7 minutes in length), but because they still seem concise. Not a beat was misused, not a measure was misplaced. Speaking of “All the Critics Love U in New York,” this song stands out not only as the most experimental song in Prince’s career, but among the most experimental music of the modern era. Supremely funky, Prince turns a swipe at critics and hippies alike into a nasty, frenetic, rhythmic explosion over seemingly disinterested, lazy half-rapping.
“1999″ has a distinct sound. The entire album is tied together by a common sound, with instantly recognizable beats, synths and attitude. Despite this bond, the songs are easily distinguishable from each other. Regardless, no song on “1999″ can be mistaken for being on any other album. I believe that albums work best that stretch the palate of one sound as far as it can go. “1999″ is arguably Prince’s most minimalist work, employing few instruments in the mix, yet it propagates a dense fog of funk that sounds both sparse and forebodingly full. Prince pushed himself to his creative limit with this album and the outtakes most associated with it. Prince incorporates inexplicable gurgling sounds, elephant noises, soldier footsteps and city noises into the mix and they perfectly fit the scheme of the music, sounding as if they were recorded for the sole purpose of inclusion on this album. Other albums also are deeply rooted with a single sound, but none, with perhaps the exception of David Bowie’s “Low,” Prince’s “Lovesexy” and Bjork’s “Vespertine,” involve as much creativity. “1999″ is a black beacon of foreboding funk.
“1999″ also rules the rest because it was recorded by an incredibly gifted artist on the brink of superstardom. This was the LAST music Prince recorded before becoming a bonafide mega-star. It exhibits all of the hunger, drive and determination of the first four releases, but it adds a confident swagger and a new maturity as well. This was Prince’s rite of passage into manhood. Prince KNEW this music was legendary and stood out on its own. It didn’t need any gimmicks- it didn’t need Prince to grace the cover in some provocative pose. The music spoke for itself. Anything recorded after “1999″ was created by someone who was already a household name. “1999″ came from a relative unknown, making it all the more surprising.
Lastly, “1999″ is so stunning because it is entirely the work of one man. Certainly, studio engineers were involved in the mix. Prince even includes “the Revolution” for the first time on this album. However, Dez…
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2000 zero-zero party’s over oops out of time,
Looking back, I don’t know if we were ever that close to nuclear war, but Prince put out a double-LP worth of songs (due to the plethora of long songs) back in 1982 and declared that he was gonna “party like it’s 1999.” That album made 17 years before the title year is one of Prince’s most vital, danceable, and best albums.
“1999″ is one of Prince’s masterpieces, punctuated by punchy synthesizers and an infectious percussive beat, with Cold War nuclear angst lyrics: “Everybody’s got a bomb/we could all die anyway. Jill Jones, keyboardist Lisa Coleman, and guitarist Dez Dickerson all have guest vocal duties. The song closes with a poignant child-like question “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?” Why indeed?
That classic number is followed by “Little Red Corvette,” the highest charting single from this album, and rivalling “1999″ in importance, career-wise. Using a hot red car as a metaphor to a red hot, love’em and leave’em lover before AIDS was a concern works. Lisa and Dez have more co-lead vocal contributions here.
“Delirious” follows with an infectious backbeat and squeaky keyboards. Hey, I don’t know how else to describe it, okay?
Things get a little bit hotter with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” hotter meaning explicit content. I’ve no doubt that it was the single edit that was played on the radio and not the unexpurgated version here. As this is an unabashed paean to free love, the line “all the hippies sing together” is apposite. It also paraphrases the 60′s slogan, “if it feels good, do it.” Key lyric: “My baby’s gone and she don’t care at all/And if she did, so what, come on baby, let’s —-.”
“D.M.S.R.” continues the party but with a funkier tone, handclaps, synthesizers, and in a more fun, Bacchanalian vein.
For a song to clock in over nine minutes, it had better be good. Well, “Automatic,” though not as rowdy as “D.M.S.R.”, is compelling even at its great length.
“Free” starts out as a ballad before exploding into a gospelish-style number. If John Stuart Mill ever needed a song to associate to, this would be it. Prince is ever the populist, civil libertarian, and this is his best political song. The song tells us to be glad that we are free compared to other countries in the world. What about Holland or Denmark? For those worried about the denting of our personal liberties in the wake of 9-11, these lyrics seem apropos: “Soldiers are a marching they’re writing brand new laws/We will all fight together for the most important cause/Will we all fight for the right to be free?” And I’m NOT referring to the terrorists! A wonderful song, with backing vocals courtesy of Jill Jones, Lisa, Vanity, and Wendy Melvoin.
Prince then asks a “Lady Cab Driver” (Jill Jones) to take him away from his “trouble winds [that] are blowin hard” and back to her place, where some heavy action takes place. It would be more appropriate to call Jill’s lines, “sounds.” Yes, THOSE kinds of sounds. Come on, this is a Prince album!
“International Lover” is done in the same vein as Controversy’s “Do Me Baby.” He uses the analogy of a pilot inviting a passenger aboard, flying to one’s destination, and preparing to land an airplane to a date and sex. After the climactic falsetto screams, he gasps, exhausted but satisfied, “Thank you for flying Prince International.” Sheer genius of the man!
Trivia: on the album cover, notice the football-shaped bulge in the “I” of “Prince.” Spelt backwards are the words “and the Revolution.” The unisex symbol that would be on Prince’s Purple Rain motorcycle can be seen in the first “9.”…
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Party Like It’s…..,
1999 is the album that propelled Prince from a crtical darling to a best-selling artist. The album contains all the familar Prince elements from rock to funk to dance while exploring his favorite themes: sex and religion. The album was originally released as a double with most of the songs clocking in somewhere between 6 & 10 minutes. Each is a musical workout from the apocalyptic dance of the title cut to the ripping guitar solo on “Little Red Corvette” to the sexed up funk of “D.S.M.R.” There are no bad songs contained here but some to pay attention to include the hit “Delirous”, “Something In the Water”, “Free” & “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” which I think is one Prince’s all-time best songs. The album has it all from great songwriting to supreme musicianship and is a true classic.
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