Prince & The Revolution – Around The World In A Day
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC & mp3 | 300 dpi LP Artwork
904 MB (24/96) + 323 MB (16/44) + 113 MB (320) | Direct Links | Genre: Prince | 1985
Warner Brothers / Paisley Park ~ 9 25286-1 ~ SRC Pressing
I bought this album the same week it was released with money I earned from my paper route as a ten year-old kid. In a previous post, I described this album as a “the gateway drug” to a universe of unheard sounds that would shape my musical tastes in unexpected ways for years to come. It may not have have been Prince’s most consistent record from start to finish, but it was a bold and unpredictable artistic statement from somebody who could have just released Purple Rain II and made everybody happy. The critics loved to hate this album. His fans have always known better.
1. “Around the World in a Day” (Prince, John L. Nelson, David Coleman) 3:28
2. “Paisley Park” 4:42
3. “Condition of the Heart” 6:48
4. “Raspberry Beret” 3:33
5. “Tamborine” 2:47
6. “America” (Prince and The Revolution) 3:42
7. “Pop Life” 3:43
8. “The Ladder” (Prince, John L. Nelson) 5:29
9. “Temptation” 8:18
Prince – lead vocals and various instruments, cello
David Coleman – cello, oud, fingercymbals, darbuka and background vocals on “Around the
World in a Day”, cello on “Raspberry Beret” and “The Ladder”
Jonathan Melvoin – tambourine and background vocals on “Around the World in a Day”, “Pop Life”
Wendy Melvoin – background vocals on “Around the World in a Day”, “Paisley Park”,
“Raspberry Beret”, guitars and background vocals on “America”, “Pop Life”, “The Ladder”
Lisa Coleman – background vocals on “Around the World in a Day”, “Paisley Park”, “Raspberry
Beret”, keyboards and background vocals on “America”, “Pop Life”, “The Ladder”
Susannah Melvoin – background vocals on “Around the World in a Day”, “Raspberry Beret” and “The Ladder”
Novi Novog – violin on “Paisley Park” and “Raspberry Beret”
Bobby Z. – drums and percussion on “America”, “Pop Life”, “The Ladder”
Brown Mark – bass guitar and background vocals on “America”, “Pop Life”, “The Ladder”
Dr. Fink – keyboards on “America”, “Pop Life”, “The Ladder”
Brad Marsh – tambourine on “America”
Sheila E. – drums on “Pop Life”
Eddie M. – saxophone on “The Ladder” and “Temptation”
Suzie Katayama – cello on “Raspberry Beret” and “The Ladder”
Sid Page – violin on “The Ladder”
Marcy Dicterow-Vaj – violin on “The Ladder” (as “Vaj”)
Denyse Buffum – viola on “The Ladder”
Laury Woods – viola on “The Ladder”
Tim Barr – stand-up bass on “The Ladder”
Annette Atkinson – stand-up bass on “The Ladder”
Taja Sevelle – background vocals on “The Ladder” (as “Taj”)
I have been planning to write about this record here for the entire last year, as well as quite a few other Prince LPs from Parade, to Sign ‘o The Times, The Black Album, and some others. But it’s been a year where nothing has gone as planned. Including the passing of Prince years before his time. While this may not be his best record, it holds a special place for me. I talked a little bit about this one already on a post the day after Prince died. There, I called this album a gateway drug to new musical landscapes. After the whirlwind that was its predecessor, Purple Rain, this record took a bit more patience and repeated listens to absorb. It was immediately tagged with the backhanded compliment of being “retro”, about which I’ll say more shortly. But in terms of business and hype strategy, Prince did indeed seem to take a page from the book of giants of the early 70s who had a reached a plateau of “we did it because we can” hubris: the story is that Around The World In A Day was initially released without any accompanying singles and no instructions to radio DJ’s for recommended cuts. As he would again a few years later with Lovesexy, Prince wanted this record to stand on its own as a work of art to be experienced from start to finish, with an idea that the “hits” would emerge organically. Or something like that. Because unlike, say, Led Zeppelin’s period devoid of singles, the 45’s and extended 7″ remixes did emerge shortly after the album’s release, as did the requisite music videos, all of which take time and planning.
In any event, any fan, critic, or casual listeners putting this disc on and expecting to be greeted by an energetic call-to-arms like “Let’s Go Crazy” most certainly experienced pangs of disappointment. Instead the molecules between their speakers and their eardrums were animated slowly with a languid musical safari around the globe, performed by a cast of supporting musicians larger than any to grace his albums up to that point. In the era when superstars like Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon were plucking “exotic” elements to hang like trophies on their slick, upwardly-mobile musical yachts in the first neo-colonial surge of a branded “world music,” Prince was taking a different approach. Being serenaded by ouds rather than an electric guitar, with a back-beat supplied by doumbeks and gongs, “Around The World In A Day” was his invitation to rethink the rules of pop music while still keeping a focus on the “life-as-a-party” ethos, something that was noticeably different from the “lattes-and-body-scrubs-in-an-Amazonion-retreat” aesthetic of those other guys. And this is where I think the 60’s, ‘retro’ descriptors are mostly apt: Prince’s new aural globetrotting didn’t set out to save the children; it set out to change your consciousness. And the first change you would experience is a shattering of expectations, as the title cut ranks among the weakest openers on any Prince record, more like a missionary expedition than a military sortie worthy of The Revolution. To use anachronistic language that didn’t exist then, listeners may have wondered if Prince was “trolling” them with these first few numbers. The opener manages to name-check most of the songs about to come on the album, lending fuel to the suspicion that this was some sort of concept album. The song Paisley Park indicates that, no, Prince is really serious about this psychedelic soul-pop thing, as the flute-y synth patches further invoke memories of a famous song by four fabulous Liverpudlians who described a place where certain berries grew. Paisley Park was in your mind, indeed, and had yet to be built as an actual place, the magical compound of buildings, sound stages, and studio suites where Prince would eventually crank out many more albums of the “I did it because I can” variety. It may be difficult for those in the generations before or after – whether baby boomers or Millenials – to grok how smoothly radical his message was in 1985. As he stated in his wonderfully awkward interview on MTV featured below – his first ever TV interview! – surrounded by doe-eyed young people cast as extras in a video shoot, “Paisley Park” represented a place with no limitations and no judgements. The lyrics’ depiction of lost-but-happy souls disconnected from the Reaganite rat-race for unlimited consumption and status seemed downright antisocial to anyone who bought into all that garbage, the materialistic ambitions that helped destroy the planet and get us where we are today. Prince’s attitude wasn’t aggressive like punk, and (bereft of some of his Rick James-isms at this point) less hedonistic and sensual than his earlier work. Although he weaves them all back into the tapestry in that way he was so skilled at, throughout the opening salvos of this album he seems to have abandoned the fiery funk, electro, and new wave that had built his reputation, giving way to this more contemplative (and, for some, bewildering) phase that would branch off into many different directions in the coming years. This 1985 interview is classic, vintage Prince, by the way, with extra points for the way he handles the question about race and audience:
The pensive ‘Condition of the Heart’, whose only rhythm elements are tympani and finger cymbals, at first seems to bring things to a screeching halt and overstay it’s welcome at nearly 7 minutes. Eventually, I came to regard it as essential to the pace of the album, like a less pastoral ‘Rain Song,’ but it could also be a test of endurance to separate the casual fans from the true believers. Because if you haven’t taken the needle off the platter yet, you are then rewarded with the first bonafide ‘sing along at the top of your lungs’ track on the record, the magical Raspberry Berry. It’s wispy, strummy, dreamy folk-rock, the kind of thing that in 2017 can come on the PA system while shopping at Walgreens or Tesco and not disturb anybody or provoke an orgy in Aisle 69. Since his passing, I’ve noticed that Prince fans are an extremely eclectic bunch with a huge variety in their likes and dislikes of his oeuvre, but I’d like to feel that this song is as universally loved as I think it seems to be. I’m pretty sure it was the first Prince song that, emanating from the car radio, prompted my own mother to say “I like that song!” Thematically, bittersweet nostalgic songs about the loss of virginity are as old as popular music itself, wrapped in greater or lesser degrees of metaphor and double entendre. That Prince could pull this off with only the slightest allusions to The Deed itself (“I wouldn’t change a stroke..”) seems to show him coming to a new realization about his writing, that he could sometimes paint more vivid and enduring pictures in our mind through impressionistic suggestion than explicit description. In the first twenty-four hours after Prince’s departure from Planet Earth, George Clinton gave a phone interview where he seemed both genuinely devastated and also deeply perceptive and succinct about what his legacy meant for him. At one point he said that there was a period when Prince was effortlessly cranking out so many hit tunes that one would be forgiven for dismissing him as bubble-gum fluff, until you stopped and looked closely at them. That made me instantly think of Raspberry Beret, Pop Life, and others from this fertile period. Prince was channeling some planetary mercurial energy; he seemed to be “doing something close to nothing, but different from the day before” every day, somebody through whom music just flowed freely like a fountain. He was like a city fire hydrant in summer with the valve broken off, letting all of us refresh ourselves in cool water until the Powers That Be came to shut down the party.
There is definitely a similarity to moody ‘classic rock’ albums in this way this album is sequenced, but the same can be said of the operatic qualities of Purple Rain. I always thought the Beatles comparisons spouted by critics regarding this album (which I always suspected began with the album cover, before they even heard any of it) were facile and shallow. As a kid who was getting into The Beatles at the same time I was getting into Prince, I thought the analogy was stupid, and I didn’t really hear it. In the pretty bland, homogeneous, predictable world of mid-80s pop stars, I just think critics found it really difficult to characterize the moving target of Prince’s unfolding body of work. (In the tagged metadata, I’ve decided just to list the “genre” of this album as “Prince.”) What I did hear was his expanded sonic palette and debt to unlikely musical idols like Joni Mitchell. While it may have been no surprise to those lucky enough to catch live shows on the Purple Rain tour (I was not one of them), where he was known to pull out solo renditions of Mitchell’s A Case of You decades before he recorded it in the studio dedicated it to his father, this flirtation with folk-funk and bohemian jazz-singing was a revelation to a ten-year-old me (you might even say I was Flabbergasted). Within a couple years of being exposed to this album, I was soaking up Joni’s quixotic visions spanning ‘Blue’, ‘Court and Spark,’ and ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’, records that would continue to yield more rewards as I got older. Yesterday I just learned that Mitchell’s “Hejira” was one of a handful of CD’s Prince bought on Record Store Day just days before he died. I can only presume he didn’t feel like having an assistant sift through his archives for his other two or three copies.
He could still treat us to some uptempo, funkier stuff. “Tamborine” is a paean to onanism, and appropriately enough Prince plays all the instruments himself. Short and sweet and not exactly a staple, it ends Side One on an energetic enough vibe that you feel like flipping the album over. Opening Side Two, “America” is a weird piece of Cold War funk rock, which as I speculated in this other blog post on the unedited 20-minute version, was possibly part of the same covert mind-control and propaganda effort that commissioned James Brown to make “Living In America.” You can read all about it there. “Pop Life” is brilliant and still gives me chills, managing to be cool and deep in such an off-hand way. The aural intrusion of a boxing match into the middle of the song is perhaps the one true Sgt.Pepper moment of the album. (That ‘found sound’ effect is missing from the “dance version” remix done by Shiela E which I will feature here soon enough. There was also a much longer, extended mix of Pop Life with new verses and an extended piano solo.)
Not having grown up in the black church myself, I don’t think I realized the extent of the gospel roots of The Ladder until much later. The deep sway, the way he alternates between speaking and singing, this is Prince taking us to church, revealing by guarded glimpses more of the spirituality that drove him to create. The closing number,
Temptation, is even longer than Condition of the Heart. It’s mid-tempo, guitar-shredding blues-soul-rock grinder that winds up with Prince in one of his best “I can’t tell if he’s being serious any longer” moments, in a conversation with a pitch-shifted God condemning him for his base, carnal desires. This is Dave Chappelle-humping-a-basketball level of Prince histrionics and it’s pretty great, although it might possibly make for an uncomfortable moments if played around mixed company. Prince never aspired to be “casual listening” anyway. Thirty-two years later, Around The World In A Day strikes me as a record that set out for some kind of musical transcendence, and while it may have fallen short of the next bardo, it came pretty close.
This needledrop is from the same copy I have owned since I bought it with money saved up from gig delivering newspapers in my neighborhood in 1985. Apparently I have always been kind of OCD about taking care of my albums as there isn’t a scratch on it. The handful of Prince albums I had up to this point were on cassette – this was the first I had on wax. While I usually am not too interested in gimmicky 180-gram reissues, I am a little curious about how this title in particular sounds after being remastered by Bernie Grundman. A great deal of this original pressing goes very light on the lower frequencies, and there is room for improvement with a tighter bass response. But ultimately I’m glad I hung on to this relic I got the same week it was released. Subsequent records like “Parade” and “Sign O’ The Times” would ultimately end up getting a lot more heavy rotation from me, but this album helped open my third eye, so it’s an honor to share it here. I’ll dedicate to all those babies born on April 21, who must inevitably have a Little Prince in them now.