2020 Album Draft- Round 11 Pick 2- Soundtracks- Music City Mike selects- Prince- Purple Rain.
When I was informed that there was room to take my favorite original movie soundtrack (“OST”) LP with me to the desert island, I realized that there were four possible directions I could go in picking an OST. Dissecting my possible choices, I surmised that OSTs can be categorized as being comprised of (1) original instrumental music, (2) popular songs by various artists, (3) live musical performances, or (4) original theme-driven songs. My pondering led me to the last type, recognizing it as perhaps the most challenging of the four.
With that decision made, it was quite easy to select Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain. Released in 1984 to accompany the highly successful film of the same name, Purple Rain furthered the process of making Prince a household name that began with his previous LP, 1999. I guess the 25 million fans who made Purple Rain one of the best-selling albums of all time can’t be wrong. Its music also garnered two Grammys and an Academy Award for Prince. On a personal note, it was the first pre-recorded movie I ever purchased, buying it on Betamax!
While not taking anything away from the record, I guess it is a little bit easier to compose original songs when the movie is about a musician and is fairly autobiographical. But these songs fit the movie about as well as Prince fits atop his motorcycle. Some of the songs were presented in the movie as staged live performances by Prince and the Revolution. (Purple Rain marked the debut of The Revolution.) Three of the songs were in fact recorded live at the iconic Minneapolis club, First Avenue, that is featured in the film. However, some were set cinematically. Either way, these were among the finest songs that Prince has ever created.
Having seen the film on repeated occasions, the sound and scene grabber for me is without a doubt is Prince’s duet with his female protégé, Apollonia, on “Take Me with U.” In the movie, this can’t-sit-still Pop song follows the couple as they ride on Prince’s bike and you can practically feel the wind on your face and smell the fresh fall air. Even without the visual, the song is a grabber.
Another cinematic high point is “When Doves Cry” which serves as great mid-movie pause and reflection moment where Prince’s character, “The Kid,” reviews all that is going on in his world. The song too stands alone as a brilliant work lyrically posing the questions that its singer faces which the bonus of some dazzling guitar work by Prince.
As for the movie’s performance songs, the drama and emotion in the title track is chilling and its guitar solo is one of music history’s best. Again, remarkable with and without seeing it, although when just listening you don’t get to see Prince’s totally cool white Cloud guitar.
Even with its on-screen drama removed, can anyone sit still for “Let’s Go Crazy”? Opening both the LP and the film, it’s an amazing foreshadowing of what’s ahead of us, and in the movie, it serves as introduction to the key characters in the film.
If there is something I felt was missing from this record, it was its failure to feature cuts by the two other bands who appear in the film. I would have loved to have seen it include Morris Day & the Time’s “Jungle Love” and Prince’s former guitarist Dez Dickerson’s “Modernaire.” In addition to padding their bank accounts, these songs would have made the record better follow the movies storyline as would have including Revolution members Wendy & Lisa’s instrumental noodling in their on-screen fictional creation of the music to “Purple Rain.”
This slight misgiving aside, Purple Rain stands out as my favorite, and perhaps the greatest OST of all time. Even without the movie, it would still be one of the greatest LPs of all time, but hearing it blast on the big screen to a well written and acted film, really takes it to another level. It’s just amazing that such great music and a great film came together like this.