Moving forward, we have some legendary albums coming up. The first is the next release from Prince, “1999”. Back in 1982, 1999 seemed so far away… just like it does in 2021. This a great record, I only have one complaint (the same one I usually have for Prince) on this album, but we will get to that soon enough. I’m surprised it isn’t a little higher, but this is the #130 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
When you share the love of music with friends and family, occasionally it can become the source of a healthy debate. This album, and specifically the title song, gives me two of my rare triumphs as I’m sure I am wrong more often than I’m right. The first was easy and obvious, when I debated with my son, who is a massive Prince fan, who sings the first two lines of the song. He was somehow convinced it was all Prince. However, any reasonable review of the audio or video reveals that with Prince’s band The Revolution, who make their debut on this album, we hear that Lisa Coleman and Dez Dickerson sing the first two lines of the first and second verse, before Prince enters the scene.
The much more glorious, and long running debate, was with regards to Mr. Dickerson specifically. My good friend Jim, for reasons unexplained by science or reason, was convinced Mr. Dickerson was Puerto Rican or otherwise a Latino, when I could see, and knew in my heart, that he was and is a proud, all-American black man. While I will always claim an obvious victory here, just for reinforcement, some quick research indicates that Mr. Dickerson was born and raised in Minneapolis, just like Prince. Now maybe there was a burgeoning Puerto Rican population in the Twin Cities in the 1950s, but I like my odds here. “But life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last…”
OK, enough of the frivolity here, let’s move on to the album itself. It really is a great record from beginning to end. My one complaint, and it isn’t a new one, is that Prince just lets too many of his songs go too damn long. I have no issues with long songs that evolve and remain interesting. I can let an extra minute or two of Prince riffing and losing his mind at the end of a song slide, but on a song like “Automatic”, which clocks in at 9:28, there is at least six minutes of unnecessary and redundant filler music at the end of the song. OK… rant over, at least for this album.
This double-album, which possibly could have been downsized to a single album with a “less is more” philosophy, opens with three massive hits on side one. First, we have the above-noted title track, warning us all of the need to party while we still can, in advance of nuclear annihilation which coincides with the end of the century. It’s an iconic track, possibly his most famous song of all time. Next comes my favorite song on the album, and definitely an all-time favorite, “Little Red Corvette”. It is the perfect reflection of Prince’s of pop-hit expertise, with a subtler edge and an irresistible hook. As if those two songs aren’t enough, side one also includes “Delirious”, yet another phenomenal Prince dance song.
The other three sides aren’t quite as hit-laden, but I love every song, at least the first four or five minutes of each. Among my favorites are “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “D.M.S.R” (which is Dance, Music, Sex, Romance for you newbies), “Free”, “Lady Cab Driver”, and “All the Critics Love U in New York”. There isn’t, in my opinion, a single dud on this album, and it remains one of the most timeless and significant albums of the early 1980s. It might have done even better, were it not for what came next…