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Thread started 01/15/17 10:30pm

26ten

What do you feel is the most challenging Prince album?

I've been listening to a lot of avante garde music and have been considering music that is progressive in general - or kind of pushes the art form in some way.

.

With that in mind what do you think the most challenging Prince album is? One where he got furthest away from pop and really contributed something interesting and entirely different to the world of music?

.

Cheers!

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Reply #1 posted 01/15/17 11:15pm

ufoclub

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I think his run of Sign O' the Times / Black Album / Lovesexy seems to be his most unique sounds and certainly to the average listener those would be challenging. They defy normal genres and, or, normal arrangements in many of the songs.

But for me personally "Lovesexy" was his most challenging album. I felt like it was a great experiment without regard to what was cool at the time.
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Reply #2 posted 01/15/17 11:17pm

TrivialPursuit

The Rainbow Children. I've yet to warm up to it. I don't hate it...much. But it's never one I pull out to hear something different.

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Reply #3 posted 01/15/17 11:25pm

paulludvig

ufoclub said:

I think his run of Sign O' the Times / Black Album / Lovesexy seems to be his most unique sounds and certainly to the average listener those would be challenging. They defy normal genres and, or, normal arrangements in many of the songs. But for me personally "Lovesexy" was his most challenging album. I felt like it was a great experiment without regard to what was cool at the time.

Totally agree.

The wooh is on the one!
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Reply #4 posted 01/16/17 1:05am

dance4me3121

TrivialPursuit said:

The Rainbow Children. I've yet to warm up to it. I don't hate it...much. But it's never one I pull out to hear something different.


I agree.some fans love this one and some dislike it a lot.That's why I believe its most challenging.
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Reply #5 posted 01/16/17 5:27am

GoldStandard

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Xpectation or Rainbow Children perhaps.

Nobody I know gun' bite
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Reply #6 posted 01/16/17 5:42am

EmmaMcG

If you're talking about most challenging from the perspective of when it was released, I'd say Around The World In A Day. Coming off the back of something as big and accessible as Purple Rain I can see how ATWIAD would be seen as a massive departure and would be challenging for most of his fanbase at the time. It's not even really comparable to other chart music at the time.

If you're referring to his back catalogue now, then my vote would be for Rainbow Children. The religious feel of it is definitely not to everyone's taste and it tends to split opinion of even the most hardcore fans.
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Reply #7 posted 01/16/17 6:01am

gandorb

N.E.W.S. and TRC,

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Reply #8 posted 01/16/17 6:06am

Poplife88

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The Rainbow Children by far. I have always liked some of the songs, but as a whole, the concept is over my head. I know its JWs theology which explains all of it.

We're gonna need a bigger boat
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Reply #9 posted 01/16/17 6:19am

NorthC

It was obvious that TRC would be the winner here, so I'll name another one: the sheer length and diversity of Emancipation also took some time and effort to digest.
Don't ever lose your dreams.
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Reply #10 posted 01/16/17 7:52am

DarkKnight1

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TRC

You shouldnt have to try so hard to like a Prince album.

(Insert something clever here)
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Reply #11 posted 01/16/17 8:17am

ForbiddenFruit

Lovesexy

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Reply #12 posted 01/16/17 9:05am

MIRvmn

TRC smile

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Take my hand, it'll be alright
C'mon save your soul tonight
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Reply #13 posted 01/16/17 9:06am

databank

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It's hard to tell. As said above there were many challenging elements in his "golden age" Dirty Mind -> Lovesexy run, and people were often puzzled. However his challenge was more in redefining pop music, or giving it an odd flavour, than in going avant-garde in the proper sense of the term, except maybe with 16, which was everything but a pop record. The song Crystal Ball, for one, was certainly very challenging (released much later but recorded at that time). Structurally as well as sonically, Parade was a very challenging pop record by the standards of 1986.

.

Later on he had some more experimental albums: mostly Kamasutra, The War and N.E.W.S. I remember 2 friends of mine, who were totally unaware of anything beyond mainstream pop, being horrified at the intro to East, asking what the hell was that thing that was hardly music at all to their ears. Even among Prince fans it's pretty obvious that certain things Prince has done were too awkward for their understanding of music.

.

On the other hand I have more and more issues with terms such as avant-garde or experimental: I don't believe they mean much anymore, and probably they haven't since at least the 80's. I listen to a lot of that stuff: ambient, contemporary, improvisation and so on, and fail to see what's more experimental in it today than when it was done by Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Brian Eno in their time. Not to claim that everything has been done forever but in terms of what's going on at the moment, everything has been done and done again so many times that just because one isn't making regular orchestral, jazz or pop doesn't mean they're "experimenting" or being at the "avant garde" at all anymore. There's nothing experimental anymore in making drone music or free jazz after 40+ years of drone music and free jazz, it's just as formulaic as a pop song. Maybe the last truly experimental/avant garde musical movement was the European electronic scene in the mid/late 90's: certainly that led to news ways of composing music, and certainly people like Aphex Twin and the whole "clicks n bleeps" scene, or others such as Björk, Tricky, Bill Laswell or Nils Petter Molvaer (to name a few) were experimenting at the time. Ever since, I don't see anything truly groundbreaking for the good reason that technology hasn't eveolved much in the last 15 years. I don't mean by that that there's no good music being made anymore: there's a shitload of good music in 2017, but nothing esthetically groundbreaking.

.

So in the end I wonder whether any music is challenging at all, Prince or otherwise. I think music is only as challenging as its listener is musically illiterate. A Lady Gaga or Beyonce song, as ordinbary and formulaic as it sounds to us, would be as disturbing to the ears of a man who's only heard Indian classical music as Indian classical music is disturbing to the ears of an American teenager in 2017.

.

Therefore, the accurate question would be: "who do you feel are the most challenged Prince listeners?".

.

[Edited 1/16/17 9:08am]

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Reply #14 posted 01/16/17 9:41am

gandorb

databank said:

It's hard to tell. As said above there were many challenging elements in his "golden age" Dirty Mind -> Lovesexy run, and people were often puzzled. However his challenge was more in redefining pop music, or giving it an odd flavour, than in going avant-garde in the proper sense of the term, except maybe with 16, which was everything but a pop record. The song Crystal Ball, for one, was certainly very challenging (released much later but recorded at that time). Structurally as well as sonically, Parade was a very challenging pop record by the standards of 1986.

.

Later on he had some more experimental albums: mostly Kamasutra, The War and N.E.W.S. I remember 2 friends of mine, who were totally unaware of anything beyond mainstream pop, being horrified at the intro to East, asking what the hell was that thing that was hardly music at all to their ears. Even among Prince fans it's pretty obvious that certain things Prince has done were too awkward for their understanding of music.

.

On the other hand I have more and more issues with terms such as avant-garde or experimental: I don't believe they mean much anymore, and probably they haven't since at least the 80's. I listen to a lot of that stuff: ambient, contemporary, improvisation and so on, and fail to see what's more experimental in it today than when it was done by Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Brian Eno in their time. Not to claim that everything has been done forever but in terms of what's going on at the moment, everything has been done and done again so many times that just because one isn't making regular orchestral, jazz or pop doesn't mean they're "experimenting" or being at the "avant garde" at all anymore. There's nothing experimental anymore in making drone music or free jazz after 40+ years of drone music and free jazz, it's just as formulaic as a pop song. Maybe the last truly experimental/avant garde musical movement was the European electronic scene in the mid/late 90's: certainly that led to news ways of composing music, and certainly people like Aphex Twin and the whole "clicks n bleeps" scene, or others such as Björk, Tricky, Bill Laswell or Nils Petter Molvaer (to name a few) were experimenting at the time. Ever since, I don't see anything truly groundbreaking for the good reason that technology hasn't eveolved much in the last 15 years. I don't mean by that that there's no good music being made anymore: there's a shitload of good music in 2017, but nothing esthetically groundbreaking.

.

So in the end I wonder whether any music is challenging at all, Prince or otherwise. I think music is only as challenging as its listener is musically illiterate. A Lady Gaga or Beyonce song, as ordinbary and formulaic as it sounds to us, would be as disturbing to the ears of a man who's only heard Indian classical music as Indian classical music is disturbing to the ears of an American teenager in 2017.

.

Therefore, the accurate question would be: "who do you feel are the most challenged Prince listeners?".

.

[Edited 1/16/17 9:08am]

thumbs up!

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Reply #15 posted 01/16/17 9:42am

gandorb

databank said:

It's hard to tell. As said above there were many challenging elements in his "golden age" Dirty Mind -> Lovesexy run, and people were often puzzled. However his challenge was more in redefining pop music, or giving it an odd flavour, than in going avant-garde in the proper sense of the term, except maybe with 16, which was everything but a pop record. The song Crystal Ball, for one, was certainly very challenging (released much later but recorded at that time). Structurally as well as sonically, Parade was a very challenging pop record by the standards of 1986.

.

Later on he had some more experimental albums: mostly Kamasutra, The War and N.E.W.S. I remember 2 friends of mine, who were totally unaware of anything beyond mainstream pop, being horrified at the intro to East, asking what the hell was that thing that was hardly music at all to their ears. Even among Prince fans it's pretty obvious that certain things Prince has done were too awkward for their understanding of music.

.

On the other hand I have more and more issues with terms such as avant-garde or experimental: I don't believe they mean much anymore, and probably they haven't since at least the 80's. I listen to a lot of that stuff: ambient, contemporary, improvisation and so on, and fail to see what's more experimental in it today than when it was done by Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Brian Eno in their time. Not to claim that everything has been done forever but in terms of what's going on at the moment, everything has been done and done again so many times that just because one isn't making regular orchestral, jazz or pop doesn't mean they're "experimenting" or being at the "avant garde" at all anymore. There's nothing experimental anymore in making drone music or free jazz after 40+ years of drone music and free jazz, it's just as formulaic as a pop song. Maybe the last truly experimental/avant garde musical movement was the European electronic scene in the mid/late 90's: certainly that led to news ways of composing music, and certainly people like Aphex Twin and the whole "clicks n bleeps" scene, or others such as Björk, Tricky, Bill Laswell or Nils Petter Molvaer (to name a few) were experimenting at the time. Ever since, I don't see anything truly groundbreaking for the good reason that technology hasn't eveolved much in the last 15 years. I don't mean by that that there's no good music being made anymore: there's a shitload of good music in 2017, but nothing esthetically groundbreaking.

.

So in the end I wonder whether any music is challenging at all, Prince or otherwise. I think music is only as challenging as its listener is musically illiterate. A Lady Gaga or Beyonce song, as ordinbary and formulaic as it sounds to us, would be as disturbing to the ears of a man who's only heard Indian classical music as Indian classical music is disturbing to the ears of an American teenager in 2017.

.

Therefore, the accurate question would be: "who do you feel are the most challenged Prince listeners?".

.

[Edited 1/16/17 9:08am]

thumbs up! I like your thinking here!

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Reply #16 posted 01/16/17 9:53am

Se7en

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I don't think of SOTT as a challenging album. Yes, it's different from previous Prince albums, and has a wide variety of sounds, but it is still overall an enjoyable listen. It doesn't challenge the listener with political/religious lyrics, and doesn't have overly-foreign sounds. The political stuff on the album is more "generic" in the sense that it's still hopeful and approachable (in stark contrast to Family Name or Avalanche). The religious content on SOTT is also more approachable and "everyone is welcome" than perhaps a Rainbow Children or The War.

In lyrical content, I would say that The Rainbow Children is the most challenging album. It forces someone to listen to the lyrics (probably with the intention of someone accepting the lyrics). The music on its own is phenomenal.

As far as sonically challenging . . . in a weird way it might be Slaughterhouse or The Chocolate Invasion. The sounds on those albums are pretty sparse (some might argue that they're not Prince-caliber quality).

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Reply #17 posted 01/16/17 10:22am

databank

avatar

Se7en said:


As far as sonically challenging . . . in a weird way it might be Slaughterhouse or The Chocolate Invasion. The sounds on those albums are pretty sparse (some might argue that they're not Prince-caliber quality).

To me those 2 albums embrace the very essence of what Prince's music had always been, was, and would always be, at its most fundamental level.

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Reply #18 posted 01/16/17 12:24pm

lynx

Rainbow Children came to mind first. Man, the effort was there on that one, too bad about the JW brainwashing nonsense, that could have been Prince's greatest record since Purple Rain.

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Reply #19 posted 01/16/17 12:59pm

RJOrion

Hit & Run Phase 1

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Reply #20 posted 01/16/17 12:59pm

RJOrion

databank said:

Se7en said:


As far as sonically challenging . . . in a weird way it might be Slaughterhouse or The Chocolate Invasion. The sounds on those albums are pretty sparse (some might argue that they're not Prince-caliber quality).

To me those 2 albums embrace the very essence of what Prince's music had always been, was, and would always be, at its most fundamental level.

Exactly...thats why i love them both

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Reply #21 posted 01/16/17 1:40pm

214

databank said:

It's hard to tell. As said above there were many challenging elements in his "golden age" Dirty Mind -> Lovesexy run, and people were often puzzled. However his challenge was more in redefining pop music, or giving it an odd flavour, than in going avant-garde in the proper sense of the term, except maybe with 16, which was everything but a pop record. The song Crystal Ball, for one, was certainly very challenging (released much later but recorded at that time). Structurally as well as sonically, Parade was a very challenging pop record by the standards of 1986.

.

Later on he had some more experimental albums: mostly Kamasutra, The War and N.E.W.S. I remember 2 friends of mine, who were totally unaware of anything beyond mainstream pop, being horrified at the intro to East, asking what the hell was that thing that was hardly music at all to their ears. Even among Prince fans it's pretty obvious that certain things Prince has done were too awkward for their understanding of music.

.

On the other hand I have more and more issues with terms such as avant-garde or experimental: I don't believe they mean much anymore, and probably they haven't since at least the 80's. I listen to a lot of that stuff: ambient, contemporary, improvisation and so on, and fail to see what's more experimental in it today than when it was done by Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Brian Eno in their time. Not to claim that everything has been done forever but in terms of what's going on at the moment, everything has been done and done again so many times that just because one isn't making regular orchestral, jazz or pop doesn't mean they're "experimenting" or being at the "avant garde" at all anymore. There's nothing experimental anymore in making drone music or free jazz after 40+ years of drone music and free jazz, it's just as formulaic as a pop song. Maybe the last truly experimental/avant garde musical movement was the European electronic scene in the mid/late 90's: certainly that led to news ways of composing music, and certainly people like Aphex Twin and the whole "clicks n bleeps" scene, or others such as Björk, Tricky, Bill Laswell or Nils Petter Molvaer (to name a few) were experimenting at the time. Ever since, I don't see anything truly groundbreaking for the good reason that technology hasn't eveolved much in the last 15 years. I don't mean by that that there's no good music being made anymore: there's a shitload of good music in 2017, but nothing esthetically groundbreaking.

.

So in the end I wonder whether any music is challenging at all, Prince or otherwise. I think music is only as challenging as its listener is musically illiterate. A Lady Gaga or Beyonce song, as ordinbary and formulaic as it sounds to us, would be as disturbing to the ears of a man who's only heard Indian classical music as Indian classical music is disturbing to the ears of an American teenager in 2017.

.

Therefore, the accurate question would be: "who do you feel are the most challenged Prince listeners?".

.

[Edited 1/16/17 9:08am]

I agree with you,thanks.

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Reply #22 posted 01/16/17 2:44pm

coldasice

Parade...is the most out of the box Prince Album. ATWIAD is a close second.
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Reply #23 posted 01/16/17 5:25pm

fen

avatar

databank said:

It's hard to tell. As said above there were many challenging elements in his "golden age" Dirty Mind -> Lovesexy run, and people were often puzzled. However his challenge was more in redefining pop music, or giving it an odd flavour, than in going avant-garde in the proper sense of the term, except maybe with 16, which was everything but a pop record. The song Crystal Ball, for one, was certainly very challenging (released much later but recorded at that time). Structurally as well as sonically, Parade was a very challenging pop record by the standards of 1986.

.

Later on he had some more experimental albums: mostly Kamasutra, The War and N.E.W.S. I remember 2 friends of mine, who were totally unaware of anything beyond mainstream pop, being horrified at the intro to East, asking what the hell was that thing that was hardly music at all to their ears. Even among Prince fans it's pretty obvious that certain things Prince has done were too awkward for their understanding of music.

.

On the other hand I have more and more issues with terms such as avant-garde or experimental: I don't believe they mean much anymore, and probably they haven't since at least the 80's. I listen to a lot of that stuff: ambient, contemporary, improvisation and so on, and fail to see what's more experimental in it today than when it was done by Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Brian Eno in their time. Not to claim that everything has been done forever but in terms of what's going on at the moment, everything has been done and done again so many times that just because one isn't making regular orchestral, jazz or pop doesn't mean they're "experimenting" or being at the "avant garde" at all anymore. There's nothing experimental anymore in making drone music or free jazz after 40+ years of drone music and free jazz, it's just as formulaic as a pop song. Maybe the last truly experimental/avant garde musical movement was the European electronic scene in the mid/late 90's: certainly that led to news ways of composing music, and certainly people like Aphex Twin and the whole "clicks n bleeps" scene, or others such as Björk, Tricky, Bill Laswell or Nils Petter Molvaer (to name a few) were experimenting at the time. Ever since, I don't see anything truly groundbreaking for the good reason that technology hasn't eveolved much in the last 15 years. I don't mean by that that there's no good music being made anymore: there's a shitload of good music in 2017, but nothing esthetically groundbreaking.

.

So in the end I wonder whether any music is challenging at all, Prince or otherwise. I think music is only as challenging as its listener is musically illiterate. A Lady Gaga or Beyonce song, as ordinbary and formulaic as it sounds to us, would be as disturbing to the ears of a man who's only heard Indian classical music as Indian classical music is disturbing to the ears of an American teenager in 2017.

.

Therefore, the accurate question would be: "who do you feel are the most challenged Prince listeners?".

.

[Edited 1/16/17 9:08am]

A very thoughtful comment Databank. I think that Autechre are still putting out progressive work, but it's easy to become a little jaded when listening to genres in which ceaseless experimentation has become the rule. I do a bit of sound design and make electronic music myself, so perhaps I study what's going on technically more closely than the casual listener. I think that Arca represents a fresh sound (his work with FKA Twigs is great). He has a great melodic and rhythmic sense, but I suppose the uniqueness of his sound comes from his emphasis on FFT-based resynthesis, something which could be seen as a continuation of Autechre's work (and largely thanks to Izotope's Iris in all likelihood). I see what you are saying though – variations on a theme rather than anything truly ground breaking. I've often wondered how aware Prince was of artists such as these (I know that he admired FKA Twigs, but I wonder whether he'd listened to Aphex Twin etc). I always felt that it was a much better fit for him than Hip-Hop and mainstream modern R&B (his minimalism, his elegant musical restraint, his pioneering use of synthesisers etc). I use the trick of gating synth parts to delayed percussion all the time (as heard on “Kiss”).

[Edited 1/16/17 18:20pm]

[Edited 1/16/17 21:00pm]

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Reply #24 posted 01/16/17 6:05pm

fen

avatar

Databank has already summed it up pretty well, but it's important not to confuse albums that are challenging and progressive from a musical perspective with the albums that are simply difficult to like for other reasons (RTC and so on). The OP is referring to music that is challenging in the same way that some might consider Miles Davis' electric period challenging, Coltrane's “Ascension”, the work of Cecil Taylor, Conlon Nancarrow, Captain Beefheart's “Trout Mask Replica” and so on. Stuff that challenges your notions of what music should sound like.

As Databank said, it's ultimately just a matter of perspective and exposure. Personally, I think that “The Black Album” was the furthest that Prince ever strayed from the mainstream (in album form at least). “Parade” and “Sign O The Times” would be strong candidates as well, but they remained anchored to mainstream pop forms to a greater or lesser degree. I still find the Camille stuff strange and inspiring. Most of the work that he did between Dirty Mind and Lovesexy was innovative in one way or another. I imagine that 1999 sounded shocking and exotic to contemporary listeners as well.

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Reply #25 posted 01/16/17 6:08pm

TKO

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The Black Album

The Rainbow Children

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Reply #26 posted 01/16/17 6:37pm

jaawwnn

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Yeah mostly agree with databank

having said that:

26ten said:

I've been listening to a lot of avante garde music and have been considering music that is progressive in general - or kind of pushes the art form in some way.

.

With that in mind what do you think the most challenging Prince album is? One where he got furthest away from pop and really contributed something interesting and entirely different to the world of music?

.

Cheers!

I think Prince's strength wasn't in creating something entirely new but in pushing where pop could go, what you could actually do with music and still call it pop music, the likes of When Doves Cry at number 1 or even just working on Crystal Ball comes to mind (pity so much of it went unreleased at the time).

I think his non-pop work, the jazz things especially, whether it's Madhouse or Xpectation/C-note, are interesting as a glimpse into his artistry and definitely fun as a fan to listen to but less essential in that there are people doing that kind of music better than him in the various fields; but they couldn't also do the pop thing. or the rock thing. or the funk thing. or all of it at once thing. I like how musically on The Rainbow Children he is again attempting (often successfully imho) to fuse his pop songwriting instincts with more than the usual funk/rock/soul hybrid sounds.

[Edited 1/16/17 18:43pm]

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Reply #27 posted 01/16/17 6:57pm

Menes

From an arrangement /orchestration POV, Around The World In A Day. Lots of strange changes and instrumentation choices that were not very "pop" friendly.

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Reply #28 posted 01/16/17 7:52pm

bonnie184

Purple Rain

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Reply #29 posted 01/16/17 9:25pm

fen

avatar

jaawwnn said:

Yeah mostly agree with databank

having said that:

26ten said:

I've been listening to a lot of avante garde music and have been considering music that is progressive in general - or kind of pushes the art form in some way.

.

With that in mind what do you think the most challenging Prince album is? One where he got furthest away from pop and really contributed something interesting and entirely different to the world of music?

.

Cheers!

I think Prince's strength wasn't in creating something entirely new but in pushing where pop could go, what you could actually do with music and still call it pop music, the likes of When Doves Cry at number 1 or even just working on Crystal Ball comes to mind (pity so much of it went unreleased at the time).

I think his non-pop work, the jazz things especially, whether it's Madhouse or Xpectation/C-note, are interesting as a glimpse into his artistry and definitely fun as a fan to listen to but less essential in that there are people doing that kind of music better than him in the various fields; but they couldn't also do the pop thing. or the rock thing. or the funk thing. or all of it at once thing. I like how musically on The Rainbow Children he is again attempting (often successfully imho) to fuse his pop songwriting instincts with more than the usual funk/rock/soul hybrid sounds.

[Edited 1/16/17 18:43pm]

Yes, this is true jaawwnn, but he managed to combine seemingly disparate forms to produce something uniquely his own. You can hear clear references to parliament-funkadelic in “Erotic City” and the “Camille” tracks for example, but they represent a genuine innovation nonetheless (all of that intricate, sophisticated pitch manipulation etc). Of course, I’m preaching to the converted. biggrin

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