Thursday, April 21, 2016

When Music Mattered - Purple Rain (1984)

I figured I would get around to reviewing this album at some point, and today wound up being that day. On the heels of the announcement that Prince has passed away, I wanted to just take the time to honor the record that helped to make him into Prince the superstar. While 1999 was a great album, it was the Purple Rain movie and album that put the Paisley Wizard onto the map.

To those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, the track listing for Purple Rain is burned into our minds. Anyone from my generation will instantly recognize the whining keyboard sound from the opening of "Let's Go Crazy," and the mournful guitar that starts off the album's title track. Prince created a lot of great music during his life, but this was the record that reached out to the widest audience and, in my opinion, made the biggest impact.

I saw Prince at the old Memorial Auditorium on this tour, and the show was exactly like the movie. Prince had laryngitis that night, and he asked us all for our forgiveness for the sound of his voice. But he was still able to hit the notes, and his guitar was just as brilliant as it always was. The man was a virtuoso on a long list of instruments, and the only reason he needed a band was because he could only play one instrument at a time.

Purple Rain is a classic for the same reason Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon remains relevant to this day. Both of those classic records are oozing with emotion, and both records hit on common themes that are as timeless as they are personal. The biggest difference between Prince's display of emotion and Pink Floyd's is that Prince is not nearly as subtle as Floyd. When you listen to Purple Rain, you can tell when Prince is angry, happy, and heart-broken. It is all right there, and it is easy to absorb.

Despite the fact that Purple Rain is a movie soundtrack, it still stands up on its own. Many of the tracks on the album were actual live performances and done well before the movie was written. Prince was always the kind of person who preferred to show his emotions in his music, instead of in his actions.

As we mourn the loss of this iconic artist, we can at least comfort ourselves with his huge catalog of music. He leaves behind a legacy that includes some of the finest music ever recorded, and an image that has endured through years of fads and trends that have come and gone. Prince will be as relevant 100 years from now as he is on this day, and that is something that not many artists can say.

R.I.P. to a genius, and thank you for all of the music.

Rating: 5 out of 5

George N Root III is a classic rock fan and huge fan of Prince. We mourn Prince's death by enjoying his music. Follow George on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at