Prince, the gifted guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter, has always been known for his grand performances, flamboyant stage presence, over the top make-up and fashion style, and stunning vocal range. Thus, most of his fans were expecting that his first official album would be just like this.
Unbeknownst to his fans, his first official album released from his fabled vault since his death showcases his simple but striking raw talent in jazzy piano playing.
35 years ago, Prince recorded a one-take performance of Piano & A Microphone (1983) and Purple Rain along with eight other songs which were all released by Warner Bros.
Prince’s pristine masterpiece was recorded on a simple cassette. The 35-minute worktape brings the music of Prince back to life.
“It was just mind-blowing listening to this raw, simplistic performance,” Troy Carter, the adviser of Prince estate shared in an interview. “It just felt like the right next move to let the world hear this version of it.”
According to Troy, Prince’s first jam session is a lot more intended for music lovers rather than for his super die-hard fans.
The recovered tape sounds clean except for a few gaps. His songs recorded in his now-demolished home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, are: Purple Rain, 17 Days, When Doves Cry, A Case of You, Internation Lover, Strange Relationship, and the Sign O’ the Times.
Through his performance of these beautiful compositions, Prince expressed his talent and skills in playing the guitar, breaking into improvisational riffs, and playing the keyboard while maintaining a strong and clear voice as he sung.
One of the discovered album’s highlight is Prince’s emotional and powerful rendition of Mary Don’t You Weep, an African-American spiritual song featured over the closing credits of a blockbuster movie, BlacKkKlansman.
On the other hand, Prince sounded playful on Cold Coffee & Cocaine, even lowering his voice into a Miles Davis’ growl! The main course of the album, however, is Why The Butterflies, featuring the gifted musician’s yearning and breathy vocals.
The tape had been heavily sold illegally for years but with low quality sound. Fortunately, Prince’s final artists-and-repertoire person at Warner Bros. Records named Michael Howe, became a fan of the fabled tape when the musician was still alive.
In his desire to grab hold of the master copy, he looked hard and soon found it inside Prince’s vault, which is also a home to Prince’s other unreleased recordings and performances.
“It was in remarkably good condition,” Howe said, referring to the highly besought tape. The tape was released as it had been recorded, with Prince stomping his feet on the background, coughing and asking someone to flip the cassette tape over.
“Prince had not yet become the sort of globe-trotting arena-filling superstar that he was destined to become a year later,” Howe shared in an interview. “You can hear him strapping the rocket engine on that would propel him to superstardom.”
Fellow musician, Lisa Coleman who performed with Prince as part of The Revolution, attested to the late performer’s dedication to his craft. The keyboardist and singer shared that Prince would spend time exploring songs until he felt he could really give them justice.
“This particular cassette of Prince is such a great little slice of history,” Coleman said,, referring to the tape as an invaluable treasure to a scholarly approach of Prince’s music. “You could literally teach a class from this tape if you went into it and deconstructed it,” Coleman added.
Since the gifted musician’s death in year 2016, his estate has been selective in releasing his works. Carter and Howe have shut their lips and wouldn’t divulge any information about future releases from Prince’s vault.
“He has a ton of unreleased materials,” Carter said., expressing the reason behind their very selective process. “We’re being thoughtful on how much we release to the world when we release it.”
Certainly, nothing sounds more refreshing than learning something totally new about our favorite artists. With his first unpublished album, one will truly be reminded of how much of a music genius he was! We surely cannot wait to hear the entire album to relive Prince’s greatness once more!
Here is the official announcement from Prince’s Facebook page: