Friday, November 2, 2018

Prince 8: Parade

Prince’s second major motion picture was a big deal destined to crash, and it did. So a lot of what people think of Parade, the album designed as a companion to the film, is colored by whether they have any opinion of Under The Cherry Moon, and most of that isn’t positive. A narcissistic exercise in black and white, at first it appears to take place in an earlier decade, but the music doesn’t match, and much of the dialogue is too modern. Prince directed the movie himself, and completely relishes the script in every scene. Jerome Benton plays a larger version of the version of himself from Purple Rain, but doesn’t quite have the capacity for some of the more dramatic lines he has to deliver.
Therefore it’s best to take the album as its own entity, despite some obvious references in the lyrics and a heavily French influence. While credited to the Revolution, the whole band only plays on three tracks, the rest consisting of Prince by himself, per usual, with help from Wendy and Lisa, and lots of cinematic orchestration by Hollywood veteran Clare Fischer. (Pointedly, however, all the singles taken from the album save the first were Revolution tracks.)
“Christopher Tracy’s Parade” doesn’t just open the album; it kicks off a suite of tracks that were recorded as one sequence, with changes in rhythm, time, and key intact. A fanfare with plenty of flourishes, it crumbles down into something of a muddle, before returning as “New Position”, accompanied by the barest percussion and broken steel drums. That slows down as well to the even more spare, even briefer “I Wonder U”, wherein Wendy sings the lead. It’s a quick change of tempo to the disturbed waltz of “Under The Cherry Moon”. Strange as it is, the segment works. It’s not the psychedelia of the last album, nor is it rock or funk. And that makes the arrival of “Girls And Boys” welcome, as it sounds more like the type of Prince track people might have come to expect, finger cymbals and all. The whole band seems to be singing the repeated chant of a chorus, with Wendy’s sister Susannah and Sheila E. in there too, plus a woman talking in French for about a minute. “Life Could Be So Nice” has a big uptempo sound, though it’s just him, and it too stops abruptly for the lush instrumental “Venus De Milo”, just a hint of the background music used in the film.
Side two is framed by two of his most underappreciated tracks. “Mountains” has all the pieces: a good groove, Prince on falsetto, decent horns that don’t overplay, a catchy chorus. (There’s a nearly ten-minute version on the 12-inch single, which would be nice to hear again.) In case you forgot where we were, the track fades into another French trifle, “Do U Lie?” Female vocals fight for space with the orchestra, and yes, there’s an accordion. The song that people do know is “Kiss”, which he originally gave to one of his protégé slash side projects, only to take it back when he liked their minimal arrangement. The video is still fun for showing of his sense of humor. The Revolution returns for “Anotherloverholenyohead”; the wordplay of the title likely contributed to its lack of success on the radio, but the movie was out of theaters by then anyway. And everything quiets down for “Sometimes It Snows In April”. This gorgeous lament features only acoustic guitars and piano, with Wendy and Lisa joining his vocals for an extended ethereal introduction. The chorus, sad as it is, has wonderful changes, and just like that, the album’s over.
It’s hard to believe now that this album came out less than two short years after Purple Rain, during which he did two albums for Sheila E. and tried to morph the remains of The Time into The Family (known today for releasing the first version of a little number called “Nothing Compares 2 U”). Also, during the three-month period between the release of the album and the film, he was competing with himself, as the Bangles had a smash hit with “Manic Monday”, credited to his character onscreen. Parade is a strange little album, but very rewarding given time to breathe.

Prince and the Revolution Parade: Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon (1986)—

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