From albums released under his own name, to those with proteges and pseudonyms, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby rates all 65 Prince albums from worst to best.
It’s already been over two months since Prince passed away, and it still feels odd to talk about him in the past tense. In fact, we’re still half expecting him to show up at the Grammys next year.
Although there will likely be a multitude of releases from his infamous “Vault”, the sad fact is that albums curated and approved by Prince are well and truly over, and we can definitive line between then and now. And this is how we’re drawing that line.
This is Getintothis’ definitive guide to all of Prince‘s albums, no matter what name they were released under. Some of these are down as Prince or , some of them share billings with his backing bands The Revolution, 3RDEYEGIRL and New Power Generation.
But that’s not all. Prince was so prolific that he wrote, produced and recorded dozens of albums for other artists, before drafting in another vocalist and having the record released under their name. This is true for albums by The Time, Sheila E, Vanity 6 and even some of his personal heroes, such as Stax/gospel/soul icon Mavis Staples. Do these not count as Prince albums because his name isn’t on the tin? Of course they do. We decided that for these albums to count, at least 50% of the work must have been done by Prince. Ergo, albums that included songs written for the likes of The Bangles, Patti LaBelle, Three O’ Clock, Martika and Tevin Campbell were not eligible, despite the fact that Prince was responsible for the most well-known tracks on there.
In terms of albums that carried Prince names, only albums made up entirely (or mostly) of previously unreleased material were allowed, so live albums and compilations are missing (with the exception of compilations of previously unreleased material, such as Crystal Ball or The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale). Each album must have been officially sanctioned by Prince, so the compilations of recordings of his pre-fame band 94 East are not included here.
Many of these records have been deleted, so to ensure that we left nothing out, Prince Vault was used as our reference point, and we rated each album on a percentage.
All in all, we found that Prince released 65 albums over 38 years, as well as dozens of non-album b-sides. So, indulge us and take a peek at where we believe each album fits in the pantheon of his work. If you disagree and think we are full of it, feel free to comment below!
Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby compiled 12 hours of radio in which he chronicled Prince’s entire music career via hits, misses and rarities which you can listen to here.
65. Carmen Electra [Carmen Electra, 1993]
Prince’s Paisley Park label basically became a way for him to get laid. It was a bit of a joke at times, and this kind of sums it up. Just…ugh…no. Incidentally, Prince discovered Carmen and even gave her that name…so not all of his contributions were that great.
64. 20Ten [Prince, 2010]
Snoozefest. It sounds like he knocked it off in his sleep. In fact, he probably did. There’s a bizarre lack of atmosphere to it. Prince being Prince, he couldn’t make a total stinker and Beginning Endlessly and hidden track Laydown (“From the heart of Minnesota, here come the Purple Yoda!“) make up for Everybody Loves Me and…erm…jeez, we can’t even remember the names of the songs. As it was given away in newspapers and magazines all over Europe, it’s hard to come by. It isn’t on TIDAL either. Think it’s the only album credited to “Prince” that isn’t.
63. Kama Sutra [NPG Orchestra, 1998]
Prince’s ballet, back when he was called . It mixes classical and jazz, and isn’t really all that great. However, we do give it extra points simply for trying so different and utterly bonkers. Deleted and incredibly hard to find.
62. The Slaughterhouse [Prince, 2004]
A bit dull to get through. Released via the NPG Music Club, Prince‘s pre-iTunes online subscription service that helped revolutionise what artists could do online. Really not much to say about it. Northside is pretty good. Deleted but available to stream on TIDAL.
61. New Power Soul [New Power Generation, 1998]
Prince (as ) actually takes all the vocals on this, even though it’s down as an NPG album. The One, Come On and Wasted Kisses are great…but you can pretty much bin the rest. Apparently even the engineer on this thought it sucked. Deleted, but streamable on TIDAL.
60. Elixer [Bria Valente, 2009]
Prince’s then-girlfriend tries to do Sade. A bit like elevator music at times, never really takes off. We do have a soft spot for Another Boy though. Never even released in the UK and not on TIDAL.
59. N.E.W.S. [Prince, 2003]
Instrumental jazz. Feels more like an experiment on his part than anything. Pretty good for what it is, but all the tracks are 14 minutes, so they meander and occasionally drag.
58. C-NOTE [Prince, 2004]
Recorded at soundchecks. Basically a bunch of instrumental jams, but bonus points for including lost outtake Empty Room – fan favourite and genuinely brilliant.
57. Apollonia 6 [Apollonia 6, 1984]
Apollonia 6 were once Vanity 6, but Vanity left the group. So in comes Apollonia for both the group leader and for Prince’s love interest in the Purple Rain movie. No-one really sounds like they care. It is possible that these songs would have been improved with Vanity rather than Apollonia, as her delivery was much more in-keeping. We’ve softened on this one a little though. Still not great. Deleted.
56. Child of the Sun [Mayte, 1995]
An album that sounds exactly like the kind of album you would expect Prince to make with his (then-)wife. Not much to recommend here, but If Eye Love U 2Nite (which he had previously given to Mica Paris) is quite cool. He also continues milking The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, awkwardly renaming it The Most Beautiful Boy In The World, which doesn’t role off the tongue quite so well.
55. Rave Un2 / In2 The Joy Fantastic [, 1999/2000]
After a couple of years off most people’s radar, Clive Davis tried to do for Prince (or , as he was known at the time) what he did for Santana’s Supernatural. Only problem is, where Santana listened to advice from the label, was gonna do what do for Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. A lot more radio friendly than some of his previous albums, but it doesn’t really work as well as it could have. Guests include Gwen Stefani, Chuck D, Sheryl Crow and funk legend Maceo Parker (saxophonist with James Brown and George Clinton). Like the audience and critics, wasn’t happy with it and released a remixed version called Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic (notice the slight vowel change). It isn’t much better or worse, but does feature Beautiful Strange. Both have been hard to track down via official channels, but are now on TIDAL.
54. Goldn*gga [New Power Generation, 1993]
Prince tries hip-hop with the NPG. “Tries” being the operative word. Tony M wasn’t that good a rapper. Warner Bros refused to release it and considered him selling it at shows as a blatant break in contract, adding to his worsening relationship with them at the time. Deleted.
53. For You [Prince, 1978]
His debut feels more like a “Hey, look what I can do” moment than a real stab at genius. He was only 18 to be fair, and provided him a platform to build on, but comes up a little short when compared to the next few years. Debut single Soft and Wet was a minor hit and hinted at the more explicit work to come, Just As Long As We’re Together is one of the great lost singles, and Crazy You is a surprisingly effective, dreamy little acoustic ditty.
52. HitNRun Phase I [Prince, 2015]
Prince collaborated with Joshua Welton – wife of 3RDEYEGIRL drummer Hannah Welton-Ford – on the production here. To be honest, it feels like a little too much Josh. A couple of remixes from previous album Art Official Age are extremely unnecessary and don’t really add much to the original tracks. There’s at least an attempt to engage with something new, and the last two tracks (1,000 X’s & O’s and June) are worth the admission price.
51. The Chocolate Invasion [Prince, 2004]
Like The Slaughterhouse, a compilation of individual songs from the early 2000s released to the NPG Music Club. A few more highlights than the other. A few neo soul-type songs on there, which has never been this writer’s favourite variation of soul. The Angie Stone-featuring U Make My Sunshine was a single in 2001 and, like a lot of the songs here, was meant for the aborted High album, which was replaced with The Rainbow Children. Available on TIDAL.
50. Time Waits For No-One [Mavis Staples, 1989]
Mavis is a true legend, but we don’t think her collaborations with Prince ever reached their potential. This is the first one. It’s OK. Luckily, Staples is one of the greatest ever soul/gospel singers. Deleted.
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49. Xpectation [Prince, 2003]
More instrumental jazz. This one is a little more varied than N.E.W.S. and the pieces are much shorter so tend not to drag. Available on TIDAL.
48. I Am [Elisa Fiorillo, 1990]
Prince is responsible for about half of this. The title track is probably the best, and Oooh This I Need was a fair hit. Elisa basically ended up as one of the regular backing vocalists with the NPG. Deleted.
47. Musicology [Prince, 2004]
His big comeback album. A bit Prince by numbers. Not great enough to be a classic, not lousy enough to be dismissed. Did its job to remind people why they liked Prince in the first place after the damage of the years, though. Title track still a belter. Runs out of steam after a while.
46. MPLSouND [Prince, 2009]
Quite a self-conscious attempt to reclaim his 80s electronic sound. Works better in some places than others. Much more successful at it than similar follow-up 20Ten. Never officially released in the UK, but available on TIDAL (as the second disc of Lotusflow3r, with which it was simultaneously released).
45. Exodus [New Power Generation, 1995]
Probably the best “solo” NPG album. Bass player Sonny T takes vocals, because Prince wasn’t allowed to due to his problems with Warner at the time. Unmistakably his lyrics, though. Available on TIDAL.
44. PlectrumElectrum [Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL, 2014]
The only 3RDEYEGIRL album, Prince doesn’t take all the lead vocals, and the ones on which drummer Hannah Ford-Welton does definitely lets it down. It was supposed to be a rock album, but Prince can’t be limited! Sadly, though, it didn’t quite live up to his 18 months of hype.
43. Graffiti Bridge [Prince, 1990]
The soundtrack to an awful movie. Again, not Prince on all lead vocals – protégés like The Time (who reunited for the project) and Tevin Campbell step in, as do legends like George Clinton and Mavis Staples, both of whom were signed to his Paisley Park label at the time. Still some great songs; Joy In Repetition, Thieves In The Temple, The Question of U, but it heavily relies on songs from the much-mytholigised vault. Also, superficially – we always hated his look here.
42. Times Squared [Eric Leeds, 1991]
This started out as the third album by Prince‘s jazz side project Madhouse, but somewhere along the way morphed into a solo album for long-time saxophonist Eric Leeds. It’s still more or less what you would imagine the third Madhouse album would sound like. Not quite as Kenny G as it could have been. Deleted.
41. The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale [Prince, 1999]
Outtakes odds and sods collection he gave to Warner Bros to end his contract. He literally didn’t care at that point, but there’s some real gems on there. Things are a bit jazzier, and Extraordinary was occasionally dusted off during his 2010-2012 Welcome 2… Tours. Although known as at the time, Warner confusingly released it as “Prince“, which probably shows his lack of involvement.
40. Come [Prince, 1994]
This is the last album before he became . It wasn’t very well liked at the time, but has aged much better. Some real cool P-Funk–esque stuff on there, and we could easily hear George Clinton growling over it if it wasn’t so damn sexy. Last track Orgasm is clearly a joke, as it literally consists of less than two minutes of waves, random guitar sounds and former girlfriend Vanity doing a Meg Ryan – but it mainly just makes us roll our eyes (which is a shame, because the preceding Letitgo is a marvellous summer jam).
39. 16 [Madhouse, 1987]
Prince’s second album with instrumental jazz group Madhouse (basically him and Eric Leeds). It’s a case of “more of the same, but not quite as good”. Deleted.
38. One Nite Alone… [Prince, 2002]
Extremely rare album; just Prince on a piano. The title track, U’re Gonna C Me and a version of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of U particular highlights. Nice to chill to. Never commercially released (only through his NPG Music Club), but currently available on TIDAL.
37. Batman [Prince, 1989]
This soundtrack was originally supposed to be a Michael Jackson and Prince collaboration; MJ on Batman’s songs, P on The Joker’s. Sadly it ended up just being Prince. He mainly seemed to use it as a clearing house. This gets a bit of a bad rap. It is a complete commercial tie-in, which means it sold about 11 million copies. But there’s some great jams on there; Partyman, Trust, The Future, Scandalous. Lead single (and baffling hit) Batdance isn’t a great song, but it is impressive production. Deleted due to Batman connection, but available on TIDAL.
36. HitNRun Phase II [Prince, 2015]
Much more organic than Phase I. Another house-cleaner, but much more fun to listen to. Baltimore makes us wish he’d done a What’s Goin’ On-type album. Screwdriver was released as a single nearly three years earlier with 3RDEYEGIRL and is one of the most alert songs he’d come out with in years, whereas Groovy Potential could have formed the pivotal part of his live show. This was his final studio album, and his last last words on closer Big City are; “That’s it”. Coincidence? (Yes).
35. The Voice [Mavis Staples, 1993]
The second – and final – album with Mavis Staples is a marginal improvement on the first. You Will Be Moved might be the best “original” song on there, but she does some songs that are also known as Prince songs (Positivity, The Undertaker). Melody Cool also appears on Graffiti Bridge, but we’re not sure the persona needed ever really suited Mavis. Like the first one, it’s Mavis‘ voice that makes it. Appropriate title. Deleted.
34. Lotusflow3r [Prince, 2009]
Mainly psychedelic rock-based, and as expected he really shows his guitar chops. The Hendrix-esque Dreamer may be his heaviest ever song, or is at least up there. It also taps into more politics than you would expect; Dreamer, $, Colonized Mind. Unless you paid $77 to join his then-website there was no way to get this album in the UK, but is now available on TIDAL.
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33. Chaos & Disorder [, 1996]
This one is a bit of a kiss-off to Warner Bros. apparently refused to record new material for them, so is really another clearing house record, and another guitar-heavy rock one. But you can hear the bile he is playing with. It may be a throwaway, but it is a passionate throwaway and not a side of Prince/ that we saw very often. It was not liked much at the time, but one that could use revisiting. It is deleted, but you can stream it on TIDAL.
32. Shelia E [Sheila E, 1987]
Shelia was one of Prince‘s closest long-time comrades. This is her final album with Prince and has the least amount of input from him. To be fair, he also released two Madhouse albums, a Jill Jones album, wrote several hits for other people, composed The Black Album, released Sign “O” The Times, toured Europe and made a movie in that year, so can forgive a little less of a hand in this one. Koo Koo remains a bit of a favourite.
31. Planet Earth [Prince, 2007]
Free giveaway with The Mail On Sunday – the first time ever that a new album was a covermount (though he had wanted to do it with a guitar magazine in the 90s before Warner put a stop to it). This was just before his 21 nights at the O2 Arena, and the album was really promoting the shows rather than vice-versa. It is still a decent collection of songs, though. Looked at like that and it’s a very strong effort. The One U Wanna C is one of our favourite power pop songs ever, whereas Guitar was a mainstay in his setlist for his final years. Due to it being a giveaway, it is hard to find, but is available to stream on TIDAL.
30. Art Official Age [Prince, 2014]
His last stab at a record with some real scope. Something about being in suspended animation for 45 years. That’s about all we could fathom. As unpredictable as ever, this saw him return to Warner Bros for the first time since 1996’s Chaos and Disorder and was probably his most inventive album in quite a long time, though still a little patchy towards the end.
29. May 19, 1992 [Ingrid Chavez, 1991]
Bizarre spoken word album, with most of the music by Prince. Better than you’d think it would be. Deleted.
28. Crystal Ball [, 1998]
This was three discs of outtakes dating from as far back as the mid-80s. It was sequenced a bit weirdly, but there is a lot of great stuff in there (of course). It ranges from awe-inspiring 10 minute epics and frothy pop, to studio jams and a few pointless remixes that we could live without in lieu of much fabled “Vault” items such as Moonbeam Levels, Wally, Wednesday etc. Of note, this was the first album ever to be distributed on the internet with a system that seems like the precursor to Kickstarter. That proved problematic. Deleted, but available to stream on TIDAL.
27. Emancipation [, 1996]
A massive, three-hour album and his first after leaving Warner Bros. It was probably a bit much to take all at once, but it is mostly consistent. A baffling version of Joan Osborne’s massively shit One of Us still makes us scratch our heads. Regular in CEX shops and available to stream on TIDAL.
26. Diamonds & Pearls [Prince & The New Power Generation, 1991]
This one turned his commercial fortunes around in the US as his first big, non-soundtrack album in quite a while. It engages with hip hop much stronger than you would expect, and probably includes his last stretch of across the board hits (Gett Off, the T. Rex-ish Cream and the title track). It may feel like he went out of his way to make a crowd pleaser, but it is still a good ‘un.
25. Romance 1600 [Sheila E, 1985]
We always thought this was almost a concept album, but can’t figure out if that is true, or Sheila just adopted a particular aesthetic. Prince is actually on A Love Bizarre, which remains a funkin’ jam and a fan favourite.
24. The Truth [, 1998]
A little solo acoustic album that hardly anyone knows about. They should. If you can track it down, it’s a real treat. Some people have gone a bit too nuts on it in our opinion, and we think if it was widely available, it wouldn’t be considered quite the masterpiece some people do. But it is definitely worth getting your hands on all the same. After twenty years of printing “May u live 2 c the dawn” on his album sleeves, this one has a track called The Dawn. Originally came with the Crystal Ball set, but now on TIDAL.
23. 8 [Madhouse, 1987]
Prince’s first foray into instrumental jazz is by far his best. This is the only one we can listen to all the way through without a break. It feels like a natural extension of The Family (see below), to be honest. Deleted.
22. Pandemonium! [The Time, 1990]
The Time were Prince’s first protégés and gave the world Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Despite being at the top of their game with Janet Jackson at the time, Prince still takes the reigns for a lot of this album, but the band get a bigger say than in the past – about 50% more say. Lead single Jerk Out was a #1 on the R&B chart, Donald Trump (Black Version) proves he was always a joke and My Summertime Thang is way better than its counterpart, Graffiti Bridge’s The Latest Fashion. The whole band reconvened sans Prince for the much better Condensate in 2011 (though they had to use the name The Original 7Ven).
21. (Love Symbol) [Prince & The New Power Generation, 1992]
…and you thought R. Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet was ridiculous! is obviously what he ended up changing his name to a year or so later (making opener My Name Is Prince somewhat ironic), and the lack of available pronunciation led it to be referred to as Love Symbol. It is a bit meandering in the middle, but definitely one of his stronger 90s albums. Really brimming with creativity with this one. It was supposed to be a sort of concept album, but he removed a lot of the “dialogue”, so the story is lost. More consistent than Diamonds & Pearls, but not as many stand out tracks. Those that do, though (like the explicitly funky Sexy MF, reggae-ish Blue Light, almost prog rock 3 Chains O’ Gold and masterstroke 7) are marvellous. If you need a good laugh, track down the accompanying “video album” 3 Chains O’ Gold – which ironically doesn’t feature the song 3 Chains O’ Gold.
20. The Black Album [Prince, 1987/1994]
Famously pulled in late-1987 and finally given limited release during ‘s beef with Warner Bros in 1994. The legend of The Black Album looms large. It is unquestionably one of – if not THE – most bootlegged albums ever. But it probably has too much legend to be able to back it up. Still a great one, though and maybe his last word in funk. 10 seconds into opener Le Grind and you should be sold! Deleted, but available to stream on TIDAL, and as it is the most bootlegged album in history, just take a look around at some record fairs. A reissued vinyl is apparently on the way.
19. Jill Jones [Jill Jones, 1987]
Jill had been hanging around for a few years – sang backing vocals on 1999 (she’s the blonde at the keyboards in the video), played a waitress in the Purple Rain movie. A solo album had been mooted for a while, when it arrived it was a funky piece of 80s pop. Great stuff. Though the first line in Mia Bocca always troubled me; “I’ve only had one lover since I was 12 years old”. Erm…yeah. Deleted.
18. The Rainbow Children [Prince, 2001]
Sometimes you need to switch the lyrics off in your head when listening to this one, because the dogmatic Jehovah’s Witness message is hard to swallow. Unless you are a devout believer yourself, some of it may make you balk. There have also been accusations of antisemitism in the otherwise brilliant Muse 2 The Pharaoh, but although the lyrics may need a bit of clarification we don’t think that was the intention, just that Prince (as he became once again on this album, leaving behind for good) wasn’t very good at articulating what he meant at times. The only other real problem with this album is that there is a weird, low pitched narration that is a bit annoying and spoils the flow. Musically, it is incredible. Probably his last truly daring album.
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17. Controversy [Prince, 1981]
This writer always viewed Controversy as a bit of a stop-gap between Dirty Mind and 1999. It isn’t as strong as either of them, but bridges the gap and does its job brilliantly. It is fun, sexy and…erm…political (Ronnie Talk To Russia, aimed squarely at President Reagan, which also dates it a bit). Of course, the title track became one of Prince‘s most enduring anthems and Do Me, Baby is one of the all-time great sex jams.
16. Vanity 6 [Vanity 6, 1982]
This is brilliant, and explicit for the time. You can actually weirdly hear the beginnings of Janet Jackson in some of this (not all of it, just flashes here and there). He’s So Dull is great girl group pop, If A Girl Answers (Don’t Hang Up) is a Yo Mama-type series of put downs that probably influenced Daphne and Celeste (remember them? Just us?) and Nasty Girl is a filthy, funky classic. Vanity became a born again Christian, renouncing this part of her life, and died just two months before Prince. Deleted.
15. Prince [Prince, 1979]
Maybe the last great R&B album of the 70s? It’s a pretty typical R&B/soul/funk album of the era (despite the rock & roll in Bambi), and doesn’t really hint the genius to come, but is a wonderful collection of songs all the same. the back cover features a naked Prince riding a unicorn. Because, you know, it was the 70s.
14. The Time [The Time, 1981]
The first non-Prince Prince album. Written, recorded and produced entirely by him, other than Morris Day’s drums and vocals. As good as some of the songs are (even the ones that go on a bit too long), it’s Morris Day’s charisma that really makes this work. He really sells this. Cool was the most enduring song, and was even regularly performed live by Prince himself. C-O-O-L; what’s that spell?
13. Lovesexy [Prince, 1988]
Prince always mixed up the spiritual and the sexual, and this album is one of the most obvious examples of that. It is a bit of a controversial one – definitely one that has as many detractors as fans. Especially in America, where it didn’t even go Top 10, despite being #1 all over Europe. We can understand why his African American audience had started deserting him so; 1988 saw the release of N.W.A.‘s Straight Outta Compton and Public Enemy‘s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. Prince came out with Lovesexy – talk about beat of your own drum. Also, we love that he thought that front cover was a good idea!
12. 3121 [Prince, 2006]
We would say this is the last time he sounded truly inspired. Hot off the heels of 2004’s massive Musicology comeback, he buckled down and made an album that sounded both like classic Prince and contemporary for the time. It has a bit of a Latin flavour, especially on Te Amo Corazon and Get On The Boat, whilst Lolita utilises some The Time-esque shout outs. It basically sounds like you imagine living in a beautiful villa would sound like. It was both his final US #1, and his first since 1989. Had he toured it properly, it may have been even bigger.
11. The Glamorous Life [Sheila E, 1984]
A brilliant 80s pop album, and Sheila E is a bloody star in her own right. The title track became a bit of an 80s anthem in the states, but for some reason The Belle of St Mark became a bigger hit in the UK. Most of it was supposed to be for a second Apollonia 6 album, which thankfully never happened. It’s all about Sheila!
10. Ice Cream Castles [The Time, 1984]
The Time’s Purple Rain movie tie-in, where they played the rival band to Prince’s The Revolution. Their biggest hit is on it; Jungle Love, as is The Bird. The title track is an unusually serious track for them too, detailing a bi-racial love affair. It’s all good fun, but maybe one more great song like those in the place of Chilli Sauce would have pushed it over the edge.
9. The Gold Experience [, 1995]
Hailed by critics, but The Gold Experience didn’t do much commercially. Maybe it was a fall out from the negative press surrounding the name change, which nobody understood. It is hard to find and is now deleted (though is available to stream on TIDAL), which is weird because The Most Beautiful Girl In The World is on it. Dolphin is overlooked, Endorphinmachine was a regular in the 3RDEYEGIRL live sets and the closing Gold is a pretty obvious attempt at a 90s Purple Rain, but it actually works!
8. Around The World in a Day [Prince & The Revolution, 1985]
How do you follow up Purple Rain? With a neo-psychedelic album, full of wholly uncommercial material, of course! This ruined his post-Purple Rain momentum, but made a profound point about his artistry. Truth be told, it isn’t fully psychedelic, but it is extremely experimental and not the album people expected. It also received no promotion on release, at Prince‘s request. Eventually, the only obvious single, the baroque Raspberry Beret, was released and became an all-time favourite. You need to put a lot into it, but if you do you will be greatly rewarded.
7. 1999 [Prince, 1982]
Audacious for a guy who hadn’t really had many hits to demand to make a double album, awash with 10-minute electronic funk jams. Even more audacious that it ended up being his commercial breakthrough, especially with the title track and this writer’s favourite song ever (Little Red Corvette, which also helped break the racial barrier on MTV). Most of the songs on the record have become favourites, especially DMSR and Something In The Water (Does Not Compute). He would stop performing songs like Let’s Pretend We’re Married (“I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth“) after he became a Jehovah’s Witness.
6. The Family [The Family, 1985]
Absolutely fucking brilliant. Prince put this band together out of the ashes of The Time when they split. We always thought this was one of the best albums Prince ever released under any name. Brilliant mix of new wave, pop, soul, funk, jazz and balladry. Aside from the funky Mutiny, the fun instrumental Susannah’s Pyjamas and the electronic new wave of The Screams of Passion, it also features the original version of Nothing Compares 2 U. This one needs a remaster and rediscovery soon. Had Prince slapped his name on this one it could have been huge. The fact that he didn’t proves how much it was about the music for him. Like The Time, The Family re-grouped without Prince in 2011 and released another excellent album as fDeluxe; Gaslight. Deleted.
5. What Time Is It? [The Time, 1982]
Technically speaking, The Family is probably the best Prince protégé album. BUT…this is our favourite, so there. It was recorded in just two recording sessions, and is totally unpretentious – building on the vague promise of The Time’s debut. Morris Day is as hilarious as ever, the sound is fuller, and the songs are much better. Some of Prince’s funkiest ever. The ballad, Gigolos Get Lonely Too, is a lost hit and 777-9311 needs to be better known. Is it a masterpiece of epic proportions? No. But it’s not trying to be. It’s just pure, unadultered fun. And we love it.
4. Dirty Mind [Prince, 1980]
Pure filth. Not wanting to be stuck labelled as the latest “New Stevie Wonder”, Prince pushed boundaries and buttons. He (mainly) left the R&B behind and made an extremely minimalist new wave record. It still sounds amazing today. Where the first half of the album merely titillates, the second brings almost a full side of debauchery, particularly with Head (self-explanatory) segueing into Sister (we really wish that wasn’t self-explanatory!). Partyup is an anti-war anthem based on a groove created by Morris Day – Prince apparently said “You can have the money or I’ll help you form a band“. Hence, The Time.
3. Parade [Prince & The Revolution, 1986]
Another soundtrack to another awful film (Under The Cherry Moon, we think it is supposed to be a comedy), but one of Prince’s best records. Most of his stuff is quite sparse, but Parade is full, with orchestrations and a European-influenced sound. Quite a unique record in his oeuvre. There is probably a parallel universe where this sits near the top of “Greatest Album” polls with Sgt Pepper and Thriller.
2. Purple Rain [Prince & The Revolution, 1984]
An obvious one to be so high, but sometimes they’re obvious for a reason. As big as it was, it’s still not a safe record; opener Let’s Go Crazy starts with a sermon, When Doves Cry has no bass, the title track has a 4-minute guitar solo, Darling Nikki led to “Parental Guidance” stickers on albums (despite Prince performing much more explicit material in the past) and Computer Blue is on it. There is no dud anywhere to be seen, and if you don’t own this one, we don’t know why you have read this far down the list.
1. Sign “O” The Times [Prince, 1987]
The best album that the greatest musician ever made. It is astonishing, and probably has to be heard to be believed. Within it’s two discs, you get to see pretty much every side of Prince. The funk-off? Housequake. The political? Sign “O” The Times. The power pop? I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man. The hits? U Got The Look. The jazz? Slow Love. The balladry? Adore. The psychedelic pop? Play In The Sunshine. The spirituality? The Cross. The rampant sex drive? Hot Thing. The crazy experimentation? If I Was Your Girlfriend. The explosive live performances? A live cut of It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night. Each performed with tenacity and jaw-dropping musicality. All of which would all be worthless if the songs weren’t so bloody brilliant. This album could punch us repeatedly in the face, and we would still love it. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece.