Piano & A Microphone 1983
Warner Bros. Records
I popped it in and, wow, that’s the one we’ve been looking for.
Piano & A Microphone 1983 is the first release in collaboration between the Prince Estate and Warner Bros Records. It is a collection of nine songs recorded in 1983 for demo purposes by Prince on piano at his home studio in Kiowa Trail, Minnesota, one year prior to being propelled to fame with the album and film Purple Rain. Recorded on cassette and which was subsequently stored in his Paisley Park vault and only discovered following his death in 2016 when his estate made an inventory of its contents.
Piano & A Microphone 1983 is the first album comprising entirely of material gleaned from the vault. The tracks were chosen ahead of all others because of their intimacy and the spontaneity of the recording, and which closely echoes the format of his 2016 and final tour Piano & A Microphone, thus honouring the full circle of Prince’s career. Therefore, the first seven tracks are presented as they were originally recorded, as one continuous medley. The release also marks what would have been the 60th year in Prince’s life.
The song Mary Don’t You Weep is the closing track to Spike Lee’s 2018 film BlacKkKlansman.
- Vocals & Piano
- NPG Records
- Warner Bros. Records
- Allen Beaulieu and Alex Tenta
- 2 years, 3 months ago on 21 September 2018
- Running Time
- US Chart Peak
- UK Chart Peak
- Orig. Formats
- 17 Days (6:23)
- Purple Rain (1:27)
- A Case Of You (1:41) 1
- Mary Don't You Weep (4:42)
- Strange Relationship (2:39)
- International Lover (3:38)
- Wednesday (2:00)
- Cold Coffee & Cocaine (5:13)
- Why The Butterflies (6:27)
1 Written by Joni Mitchell.
Piano & A Microphone 1983 – review
Piano & A Microphone 1983 is the first release from The Estate. While sifting through the contents of Prince’s prised open vault it’s a lost tape rediscovered and contains nine songs. Prince played so continuously and fluidly on the piano the first half is recorded in medley and effortlessly rattled through and the last two recorded on the cassette’s Side Two when ran out of tape we hear him tell the engineer to ‘flip it over’ to continue the recording for the two final songs. It’s a tape of one of the hundreds of other demo and sessions which ended up squirrelled away for three decades but now it’s out it reveals the genesis of various keystones in his 80’s catalogue: namely 17 Days, Strange Relationship and Purple Rain. But let’s remember, why we’re hearing this only now is because of a tragedy. The sound quality (surprisingly good considering its less than ideal storage in Prince’s basement) gives it that earthy ‘lost tape’ vibe. The Blair Witch parallels continue, since the tone of the overall work is dark and lamenting. Yet what’s revealing about it, is that this is a surviving document of what Prince’s creative process sounds like. It’s personal, experimental and lays down newly worked tracks for future development. He clearly intended it never to be released, but let’s thank the Estate it is. Its intimacy is touching – it’s Prince, a piano and a microphone, the very format that inspired the final tour of his life. The year of this recording, 1983, is when Prince was on the verge of international stardom and this release was singled out by the archivist to mark these two facts, to bring his music catalogue full circle. The release contains four previously unreleased tracks (demos and likely the only versions of them he ever recorded) and are: Mary Don’t You Weep, soulful but tantalisingly too short; Wednesday, originally intended for inclusion as track five on Purple Rain is dark, an almost suicide note and as if probably pulled for that reason. Cold Coffee & Cocaine is fun, sung in the vein of Jamie Starr, was intended to be given to a project for The Time; the last track Why The Butterflies, is undoubtedly the highlight of the album. Prince’s playing is wonderfully tight, of a real genius at work; Piano & A Microphone 1983 is a wonderful choice by the Estate to not give this great music the light of day, it reveals workings of Prince’s mind, that does not simply cash in on his musical legacy. The fact it’s been locks away for all these years, the best duty the Estate could perform Prince is to keep his music played. It will take years to catalogue the vault, but now he is gone let’s cherish and count your blessings this wonderful stockpile, now under careful curation, let’s Prince live on, as look forward to the many more such ‘lost tapes’ to come.
Piano & A Microphone 1983 is rated 4 out of 5 by Goldies Parade.
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