Top 10 Favorite Prince Records

Because Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness, he isn’t allowed to celebrate his birthday today, but I can (and will!) by giving you my Top 10 Favorite Prince Records, as of 7 June 2006. Please note this list is known to change by the minute. This is just a rough guide and only pertains to officially released records. Perhaps in the future I will do an unreleased Top 10.

  1. 1999 (1982) – Without this record, Purple Rain never would have happened the way it did. It was the springboard for the serious synths to come in Purple Rain and beyond. As a rather obvious [to me] nod to Kraftwerk, there is a strange element of cold dancy kraut in this record. Prince really pushed the envelope [for 1982] with the funk drums overlaid with the Linn Drum in “Lady Cab Driver.” If you get a chance to hear the extended mix, it’s a treat. Dance on, sister.
  2. Prince (1979) – Here we have Prince’s second record based around R&B and funk with all songs sung in falsetto. This self-titled album was definitely an extension of his first record but with much better songs. His songwriting grew exponentially on this record, and perhaps he learned about how an edit of a song can make a serious difference by cutting the fluff, etc. Songs like “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Bambi” begin to show his strengths in his songwriting abilities. And, by the way, you can’t beat a record cover like that. Those words become an ongoing theme with Prince’s record covers.
  3. Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987) – While I did much more prefer the track listing for The Dream Factory (dated June 3rd. 1986), not to mention the involvement of Wendy and Lisa (and the rest of the Revolution) – Prince did eventually decide to ‘disband’ the Revolution and more or less put out The Crystal Ball (a three record – six sided album which included a few cuts from the album from the same time, Camille) by himself and rerecorded a lot of the songs solo. Prince was amazing if not equally frustrating in that respect. Luckily Wendy and Lisa’s influence had already been set in motion and he couldn’t avoid that. The record was rejected by the label due to it’s sheer volume and eventually got cut to two records or 4 sides and was released as Sign ‘O’ The Times. Songs like “Hot Thing” and “Housequake” brought back a lot of the funk that had been lost in previous records. “Housequake” was probably a nod to the growth of hip-hop during that time. Songs like “Starfish and Coffee”, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, “Sign ‘O’ the Times”, & “Adore” solidify the fact that Prince was the most versatile and talented songwriter of the 1980s. This was also a notably political record. Not since Controversy had Prince been so openly political. The stark production of “The Cross” is breathtaking and highly effective. This was also the last real double record of the 1980s. With record meaning vinyl. 4 sides, etc. The end of an era, some say. A remaster of this disc with the outtakes from Dream Factory and Crystal Ball would rule.
  4. Purple Rain (1984) – Yes, this record is clichéd but with good reason. It’s badass! “Take Me With U”, “Baby I’m A Star” and “Purple Rain”. Please note this was the only use of a sequencer, up to this point, serving as the bassline to “I Would Die 4 U”. The synth was synched up with the Linn Drum that was MIDI retrofitted. How’s that for a factoid?! Also noteworthy is the fact that “Purple Rain,” as well as I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m A Star,” were all recorded at Wendy’s first show when she was just 19. That hot and humid August night in 1983 at First Avenue will forever been remembered. You should also realize that at that show was the first time Prince covered a song publicly. He covered “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell. Oh yeah, and it sold something like 13 million units domestically. This era also was one of his most prolific. He was also writing, producing and performing on records by Sheila E., Apollonia 6, The Family and the Time. My favorite B-sides, “Another Lonely Christmas” and “17 Days”, come from the era. Note: the extended mix of “17 Days” is great and clocks in over 10 minutes.
  5. Parade (1986)- While not the critics’ favorite, this record is chock full of funky goodness. Songs like “Anotherloverholenyohead” “Kiss” and “Mountains” – Again the 12″ mix of Mountains is superb. If you can get it, do it. This was also the last record with the Revolution. There was still a little bit of left over psychedelics from the Around the World In A Day record, but it’s less obvious here. This record is becoming a favorite of mine. Oh, and don’t even bother seeing the accompanying movie, Under the Cherry Moon. It’s trash. But interesting to see Kristin Scott Thomas in it. Jerome Benton is however in excellent form, a la Purple Rain.
  6. Batman (1989) – Definitely not a favorite amongst fans and critics, but it was one of the first records that really spoke to me by Prince. I was 12 when I first heard this record on a cassette. What really got to me was the simplicity of the drum programming. Songs like “Vicky Waiting” and “The Future” still hold a special place in my pop life. And while “Batdance” did use the sampler to a sickening degree it was pretty innovative for the time. The breakdown groove is still to die for. That funky guitar is the sickness. And yes, we can all do without the Scandalous songs. Make sure to not buy the Scandalous Suite which has 18 minutes of that song. Yikes!
  7. The Love Symbol Album (1992) – All you need to do is make out to this album one time and it’s forever ingrained in your mind. Yeah, I made out with a girl from senior year of high school to this record the first time I heard it. The production is sickeningly good. Like Ocean Way good. It definitely gets interesting once you get to the deep cuts like “The Continental” and “7”. Speaking of “7” – that is perhaps the best cut on the record and despite its seeming simplicity. Acoustic guitar. Drum machine. Finger cymbal. Whip. Bass tones. And stax of vocals. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple, but compared to other music of that time, it sure sounds like it.
  8. The Gold Experience (1993) – The first record released under his new unpronounceable name. ( O(+> ) – Yes, it was a weird stunt, but it also got him out of a Warner Bros. contract. Genius if you ask me. This record was a response to his love of rock music and guitars that had been put to the side for the past few years. It’s not as funky and soulful as his other records, however it’s definitely an interesting one. It just reiterates how diverse his influences are. “Endorphinmachine” and “319” are standout tracks for me, but this whole album sans “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is a keeper. “Gold” also has a great guitar solo, but the song itself borders on cheesy most of the way through. As a whole it’s pretty cohesive in a similar vein as the The Love Symbol record. Less pop and more rock, however.
  9. Lovesexy (1988) – This record as a whole sounds rushed and not well put together, but there are songs like “Dance On” and “Alphabet Street” which bring it all home for me. His drums on “Dance On” are funky as ever. It might be worth it based on that alone. You decide. A simple beat ganked from Sheila E. goes a long way. Also notable is the record cover, very Georgia O’Keeffe a la Penisville.
  10. Around the World In a Day (1985) – To release this record after Purple Rain‘s success was ballsy as it was so different from its predecessor, and definitely was not the Purple Rain II that everyone expected. That would have been the “smart” and safe thing to do, at least from a record label’s perspective. Prince wouldn’t have any part in it. He clearly was making a statement above and beyond. He decided to do something 180 from what was expected. Songs like the title track, “Paisley Park” and “Tamborine” are keepers and “Raspberry Beret” is quite possibly the greatest pop song ever written. Note the slight dis to Jesse Johnson for leaving The Time to pursue a solo career with the lyrics “And we went riding down by old man Johnson’s farm.”

Honorable Mention: the 3rd disc from The Hits 3-Disc set. Those B-sides are incredible even if they are the edits of most of the songs. A lot of those B-sides are better than the A-sides they mirror.

Thanks for humoring me with my obsession. And thanks to Feets for playing the role as Editor to save my writing from a seriously derailing train wreck.

19 Responses to “Top 10 Favorite Prince Records”

  • i ain’t playin’, foo’!

  • Good call on all of these, except I still haven’t been able to get into 1999 the way that most Prince fans have. It’s very hard for me to rank favorites, or even choose a single favorite – of anything, much less Prince albums – so I won’t try; instead, I’ll just read your list. 🙂

  • Hehehe, yeah, this was hard for me, and honestly, it changes a lot depending on my mood and time of year… Playing favorites with Prince records is like playing favorites with your children.

    1999 out of context can be a tough record, perhaps. The songs are extended and there weren’t THAT many hits… but i really think it’s a super solid dance record.

    You should try to do a Top 10. I’d be interested to see other people’s perspectives.

  • Wow, no Dirty Mind? That’s been all up in my steez lately.

    Swimmingly good list regardless. I love your attempt at his nameless symbol.

  • Okay, I’ll do a top five, simply because I don’t know if I even own ten Prince records:

    5. Purple Rain.. Is there an extended mix of “I Would Die 4 U”?
    4. The Love Symbol Album. His sexiest.
    3. 1999.. If only for “Lady Cab Driver.”
    2. Dirty Mind. The second half is amazing!
    1. Sign ‘O’ The Times. Should be obvious. Every track is a gem.

  • Sweet! 5 works for me.

    There a 12″ mix of I Would Die 4 U that’s just over 10 minutes that was recorded in the “Warehouse” Studio in 1983 which surprisingly is an edit of a longer unreleased version.

    The full version of the 12″ mix (or some call the Extended Mix) – is about 30 minutes long. I kid you not. And it’s breathtaking.

    The version you know and love from Purple Rain was actually recorded live from that concert in August of ’83 at First Ave.

  • A 30-minute version of “I Would Die 4 U”? Must hear! When are you visiting relatives in New England so I can get my hands on that piece?

  • As an aside, I grew up thinking that when prince said “I Would Die 4 U” he was actually saying “Apple Dapple Doo”

    I honestly only realized that I was wrong about this five years ago, or so, and I to this day cannot hear that song without singing my version.

  • It’s kind of funny to me that you’d say Parade is “not the critics’ favorite,” that might be true but I swear every critic I know who likes Prince is way way into Parade and thinks it’s one of his best. Myself, I still kinda don’t get it, the drum sounds on that album are just too out there for me, but there are some songs on it that I like. My top 5 would probably be Sign > Prince > Purple Rain > 1999 > Dirty Mind. But there’s still a lot of albums I need to get, I’ll take your top 10’s bottom half as a list of reccomendations.

  • Some (perhaps too much) background:

    When it came out Parade was never the critics favorite in the States… Not to mention the movie it shadowed. Everything was still compared to Purple Rain. Remember it was only 2 years prior that Purple Rain was released. I guess after you sell 13 million units everything after that is a failure. If I recall Parade was better received in Europe hence all the touring over there during that time period.

    As of late, it\’s had more a resurrection here in the States. Why? I have no clue. Al, you tell me, you are the professional critic! 😉

    I just know I really like it. Song wise and production wise. It was at the height of his happy creative energy. Susannah Melvoin really put a spell on him. Which then contrasts with the breakup and his next more darker record, \’Sign\’.

    Al, I think you\’d really like the Batman soundtrack out of those last 5. The minimal production is great. Especially on the drums.

  • OK, don’t hold me to this…

    1. Sign O’ The Times
    2. Purple Rain
    3. 1999
    4. The Love Symbol Album
    5. Parade
    6. Diamonds & Pearls
    7. Lovesexy
    8. Prince
    9. Dirty Mind
    10. Emancipation

    AIM me if you’d lke to discuss in detail.

  • I loved the album that had the song “get off” on it. 🙂 Very sexy song!

  • 1)SIGN O THE TIMES, 2)PURPLE RAIN, 3)1999, 4)THE GOLD EXPERIENCE(the most underrated prince album ever),5)THE RAINBOW CHILDREN( IF ONLY FOR LAST DECEMBER)-TOP 5 TO ME WITHOUT A DOUBT. Prince musicianship skills is just mindblowing and often overlooked by casual listners. The b sides (full versions) are probably his best songs…who could deny POWER FANTASIC, and ANOTHER LONELY CHRISTMAS? Honorable mention would have to go to his MADHOUSE albums 8 & 16 ( 11 babydoll house)!


  • Hope this isn’t too much information, but here goes:

    April 1986 – the first known version of Dream Factory is assembled.
    (this is just a rough cassette, and was never intended as a potentially releaseable sequence)

    side 1:
    01. Visions
    02. Dream Factory
    03. It’s A Wonderful Day
    04. The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
    05. Big Tall Wall
    06. And That Says What?
    side 2:
    07. Strange Relationship
    08. Teacher Teacher
    09. Starfish And Coffee
    10. A Place In Heaven
    11. Sexual Suicide

    June 3rd. 1986 – the first true configuration of Dream Factory is completed.
    It had now expanded into a double album, and was intended to be very much a ‘band’ project, with prominent contributions from Revolution members, especially Wendy & Lisa.

    side 1:
    01. Visions
    02. Dream Factory
    03. It’s A Wonderful Day
    04. The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
    05. It
    side 2:
    06. Strange Relationship
    07. Teacher Teacher
    08. Starfish And Coffee
    (segue: interlude)
    09. In A Large Room With No Light
    (segue: nevaeh ni ecalp a)
    10. Sexual Suicide
    side 3:
    11. Crystal Ball
    12. Power Fantastic
    side 4:
    13. Last Heart
    14. Witness 4 The Prosecution
    15. Movie Star
    16. A Place In Heaven
    17. All My Dreams

    July 18th 1986 – final configuration of Dream Factory is assembled before the project is shelved.

    side 1:
    01. Visions
    (segue: nevaeh ni ecalp a)
    02. Dream Factory
    03. Train
    04. The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
    05. It
    side 2:
    06. Strange Relationship
    07. Starfish And Coffee
    (segue: interlude)
    08. Slow Love
    09. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
    side 3:
    10. Sign O’ The Times
    11. A Place In Heaven
    12. Crystal Ball
    side 4:
    13. The Cross
    14. Last Heart
    15. Witness 4 The Prosecution
    16. Movie Star
    17. All My Dreams

    Then came Crystal Ball and the Camille record. They were combined and whittled down to what we all know as Sign O’ The Times because of record label pressures.

    Hope this helps.

  • johnny fantastic

    Thanx for the DREAMFACTORY track list. No doubt had the album been released in any one of those configurations it would have been the best ever PRINCE album. Ever wonder what happened to the ambitious & adventurous passion PRINCE once had? I know he’s older, but how could it just leave like that? He had it a lil on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN(FAMILY NAME, LAST DECEMBER& DIGITAL GARDEN), but MUSICOLOGY, & 3121 has none…well maybe the song 3121 to some extent. Don’t mind me, i’m just rambling, but thanx again.

  • I heard some songs from THE DREAM FACTORY, but not the album in it’s entirity. from what i’ve read of some of the songs, it would have been wonderful. Per Neilsen from the UPTOWN fanzine wrote how good ALL MY DREAMS is. Something to the extent(and he does great song descriptions on PRINCE songs) it was one of those suite like ambitious numbers, with WENDY & LISA input. You know if the album, or any of the songs….other than the ones on SIGN ‘O’ THE TIMES are available?

  • 1. Sign o the times
    2. 3121
    3. Diamonds and pearls
    4. Purple rain
    5. 1999

  • Top 10 Prince Albums.

    1. Parade
    2. Purple Rain
    3. Diamonds & Pearls
    4. Graffiti Bridge
    5. Sign o’ The Times
    6. Musicology
    7. The Gold Experience
    8. Love Sexy
    9. 1999

Comments are currently closed.