"This is not music, this is a trip," Prince declares on extended version of "Alphabet St." Indeed, like few artists, Prince has successfully melded a variety of genres into his own unique brand of music. Who could forget such classics as "Purple Rain," "When Doves Cry," "Kiss," and "1999"? But browsing through his extensive catalog reveals a variety of songs that were minor hits, B-sides, and should-have-been singles. The following list spotlights some of these lesser-known classics that deserve special mention.
"17 Days": The original B-side to the "When Doves Cry" single, the tune represents vintage Prince: a funky, slightly offbeat tempo, psychedelic accents, and a catchy chorus: "If you're the one who's always lonely/Then I'm the one who's always alone," he croons, pining after his lover. Think of this cut as the funkier version of "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore." Why this was never released as a single is a mystery.
"Alphabet St.": The first single off the commercially unsuccessful Lovesexy album, the track contains an irresistible beat, a scratchy guitar riff, and Prince's channeling of James Brown. Filled with sexual innuendo, "Alphabet St." recalls the spare arrangement of "Kiss."
"Anotherloverholenyohead": This slice of funk off 1986's Parade (the soundtrack for the Prince film, Under the Cherry Moon) contains a memorable chorus and a strong beat. While its lyrics may be nothing incredibly original, the song still functions as a piece of quality pop.
"Money Don't Matter 2Night": 1991's Diamonds and Pearls yielded a number of hits, including "Cream" and the title track. But this song deserves a mention for its nice chord changes and Prince's straightforward, soulful vocal. Inexplicably never played on contemporary radio, "Money Don't Matter 2Night" seamlessly fuses old school soul with modern beats.
"Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance": 2004 marked Prince's return to form with Musicology, a collection of good time soul. It's difficult to choose just one track from this strong effort, as cuts such as the title song and "Life 'o' the Party" pleasantly thump through the speakers. But this track exemplifies Prince's love of wordplay and offbeat images. "She knew which fork 2 use but she couldn't dance/So he hipped her 2 the funk in xchange 4 the finance," he snarls. "Who's pimpin' who if nobody gets a second chance?/This is the story of illusion, coma, pimp & circumstance." These interesting lyrics and Prince's strong vocals make the listener want to hear the rest of the tale.
"Mountains": This epic Parade cut illustrates what a memorable single is all about. The echoing beat, a signature guitar riff, and intriguing lyrics combine to create this minor hit. As usual, Prince intertwines love with the spiritual, religious, and, here, nature:
But I say it's only mountains and the sea
Love will conquer if u just believe (Oh yeah)
It's only mountains and the sea
There's nothing greater, u and me
Due to Prince's performance, one can imagine Sly Stone covering this song. Don't overlook this unjustly forgotten track, and try to find the 12-inch remix, which greatly expands the instrumentation.
"Pop Life": Coming off Purple Rain's massive success, Prince released Around the World in A Day, an album steeped in '60s psychedelia yet commenting on such current topics as AIDS and drugs. While the first single, "Raspberry Beret," ranked high in the charts, the follow-up, "Pop Life," failed to chart quite as high. Yet its finger-popping tempo and insightful lyrics still resonate today. "What U putting in your nose/Is that where your money goes?" he sings. "The river of addiction flows, U think it's hot/ But there won't be no water/When the fire blows." Perhaps a precursor to "Sign O' the Times," this track shows Prince's talent for combining a danceable beat with timely lyrics.
History may best remember Prince for Purple Rain, and songs such as "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" will always have a place on radio. But his entire catalog deserves multiple listens in order to find some hidden treasures.