1999

Prince

Warner Brothers, 1982

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/17/2013

[READ THIS FIRST.]

The 1999 LP represents a few firsts in Prince’s illustrious career. It was the first double LP that he released; it would not be the only, though, as he would go on to release more double, triple and even quadruple sets in future. It also marks the first time Prince scored a Top Ten hit single with the fantastic “Little Red Corvette” peaking at number #6 on the Billboard singles chart in 1983. The most notable first for us Prince fanatics is the fact that it marked Prince’s official introduction to his wider audience of his road band, The Revolution, which consisted of Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Dez Dickerson, Dr. Fink, and Bobby Z.  The band’s name was written in reverse on the album cover, and although their performance credits were restricted to mainly vocal duties (Dez played some guitar parts), it is still a significant shift for Prince when one considers what was to follow over the next five years. 

Prince again produced himself on this record, and his growth as an artist since his debut release in 1978 is fully evident throughout this 11 track, almost 80 minute long funk/soul/pop odyssey. Prince was by now exploring his vocal range much more and only employed the falsetto in selected moments rather than across whole albums as he had done previously. His natural speaking voice was and still is a deep baritone of sexual sophistication, and here he used it to startling effect. The Minneapolis sound was also expanded upon, with the record taking on a more dance-pop orientated sound as opposed to the funk/rock hybrid of albums like his first three releases. 

All of the tracks here are fully embellished with Prince’s extensive array of studio tricks and techniques. He wrote much longer tracks this time and indulged himself in extending them into drawn out funk-jam dance tracks that would have to be heavily edited before any were released as singles. The back end of the tracks also gave him the opportunity to indulge in another of his penchants on record, which was his love of dirty talk – vocal porn if you like. The phrase during the last minute of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” has to be heard to be believed and was far more daring and explicit than anything Madonna came out with over the next decade, including the infamous Sex book. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Far cleverer and subtler was Prince’s use of double entendres, which was most effective on the glorious crossover pop of “Little Red Corvette.” The lyrics are caustically smart and the track itself is a lesson in less is more and is executed perfectly. The electric guitar is still there to punctuate the choruses and the drum machine and soft percussion throughout easily lend the song to the dance floor. That song, however popular, was not the lead single from this album, though; that credit goes to the record’s opener and title track. 

“1999” is an awesome slice of dance pop that featured Dez Dickerson and Lisa Coleman on co-lead vocals. As great as the track is, it didn’t see much chart action at first but following the runaway success of “Little Red Corvette,” it was re-released and finally got the acclaim it deserved. A note of interest, though, it did become a hit the first time around in Australia late in as it peaked at #2 on our national singles chart. Much was made of the apocalyptic lyrics as this was really the beginning of the interest in all of the mythology that Prince and his posse surrounded themselves in, but it really means nothing more than the age-old message of live every moment as if it’s your last.

“Delirious” was a moderate hit from the album and it also holds the distinction of being the shortest track here, clocking in at exactly four minutes; its infectious groove and sexual content are again a winning formula for the Purple One.  For me, though, the album is strongest during the extended jam tracks of porn-sleaze pop starting with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” which snaps into “D.M.S.R.” (Dance, Music, Sex, Romance) which then climaxes with the slow-burning “Automatic.”

 “Lady Cab Driver” is also an undoubted highlight as it represents Prince’s first real foray into jazz on record; it has a more live band feel to it and the synths are used to great effect in the way of a horn section. The funk rock of “All The Critics Love You In New York” and the sensational ballad “International Lover” close the album out in style and sport some of Prince’s finest solos to date.

Prince toured heavily in support of this record with The Revolution and their cohorts The Time and Vanity 6 on the legendary Triple Threat Tour, which then segued into his glorious “Purple Era.” But it was with 1999 that his genius was first truly realized.

Rating: A

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