Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Prince and the Revolution

  • Purple Rain [Paisley Park, 1984] A-
  • Around the World in a Day [Warner Bros., 1985] B-
  • Parade [Paisley Park, 1986] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Purple Rain [Paisley Park, 1984]
Like the cocky high speed of the brazenly redundant "Baby I'm a Star," the demurely complaisant "Thank you" that answers "You're sheer perfection" signals an artist in full formal flower, and he's got something to say. Maybe even a structure: the frantic self-indulgence of "Let's Go Crazy" gives way to a bitter on-again-off-again affair that climaxes in the loving resignation of the title song--from in-this-life-you're-on-your-own to in-this-life-heaven-is-other-people (and-you're-still-on-your-own). But insofar as his messages are the same old outrageous ones, they've lost steam: "1999" is a more irresistible dance lesson for the edge of the apocalypse than "Let's Go Crazy," "Head" and "Jack U Off" more salacious than the groundout "Darling Nikki." He may have gained maturity, but like many grown-ups before him, he gets a little blocked making rebel-rock out of it. A-

Around the World in a Day [Warner Bros., 1985]
It's pretty strange, given that he looked like a visionary not long ago. But this arrested adolescent obviously don't know nuthin about nuthin--except maybe his own life, which for all practical purposes ended in his adolescence, since even for a pop star he does his damnedest to keep the world out. So while his sexual fantasies are outrageous only in their callous predictability and his ballads compelling only as shows of technique, they sure beat his reflexive antinomianism and dim politics. Which suggests why the solid if decidedly unpsychedelic musical pleasures our young craftsman makes available here don't wash. Only the crass "Raspberry Beret" and maybe the crooning "Condition of the Heart" are worth your time. B-

Parade [Paisley Park, 1986]
Musically, this anything but retro fusion of Fresh's foundation and Sgt. Pepper's filigrees is nothing short of amazing. Only the tin-eared will overlook the unkiltered wit of its pop-baroque inventions, only the lead-assed deny its lean, quirky grooves, both of which are so arresting that at first you don't take in the equally spectacular assurance with which the singer skips from mood to mood and register to register. I just wish the thing weren't such a damn kaleidoscope: far from unifying its multifarious parts, its soundtrack function destroys what little chance the lyrics have of bringing it together. Christopher is Prince, I guess, but nothing here tempts me to make sure. I'd much rather find out whether the former Rogers Nelson really takes all this trouble just so he can die and/or make love underneath whatever kind of moon, or if he has something less banal in mind. A-