Wednesday, April 07, 2004

 
Oh, hell, I'll jump on the Prince bandwagon as well, and hopefully I'm not duplicating another mp3 blog. (It's getting so there are too many to keep track of. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before two or three of us show up wearing the same dress. Maybe today's the day.)

I went apeshit over Purple Rain when it first came out, just like everyone else. It's probably the last time that I was perfectly in sync with popular music. Saw the movie the day it opened, bought some extremely embarrassing "Prince inspired" clothes, played the soundtrack endlessly. My best friend actually quoted When Doves Cry once when his mom was yelling at him: "Mom, don't you realize that this is what it sounds like when doves cry!" I don't think she knew how to respond to that. I haven't watched the movie since, and I don't think I will. I remember it as a masterpiece, and I doubt that I'll gain any more insight by a second viewing.

But, aside from Cut Your Hair I mean Raspberry Beret, I haven't been as interested in his subsequent songs. Who knows why. Different times, different priorities, and I have a limited tolerance for sifting through enormous catalogs for the occasional gem. So that's how Prince and I relate.

Sometimes, though, music snobbery comes to the rescue. I have this occasionally productive habit of buying rare records when I find them on the cheap, regardless of whether they're by bands I know. You just never know who you're going to end up liking, so it's sometimes worth gambling $5-10 on the unknown from time to time. As it happens, I had just read about Prince's protege Jill Jones when a copy of her self-titled album showed up at the local record store, so I bought it despite having a limited interest at the time. As you probably know, it's a gem that would probably get more attention if it was a little less hard to find: the CD never did get reissued and sells for a fair chunk of change on eBay. It was released in '87, but composed over several years prior to that, meaning its creation coincides with a period when Prince was very much on.

You know, Prince apparently wrote all the songs and recorded (at least some of) the music and Jill Jones sings so much like Prince that I don't really hear much difference between this and a Prince album. In fact, there are a few tracks where you could probably have told me that it was Prince singing and I would have believed you (he does have that falsetto thing, after all). Like For Love, for example (one of three songs marked as "co-produced by Prince" and I have no idea if that means he's singing on it...sure sounds like it). My favorite track is the last one on the album, Baby You're a Trip. I'm not expert enough to know if anyone else made this a hit, but if not, it's a sad loss for high-school dances everywhere.

Here's a (out of date but very thorough, not that I'd really know if it wasn't) page for Jill Jones. Her album on vinyl costs *a lot* less than the CD, so here's a perfect example of the benefits of holding on to your turntable. I haven't heard the CD version, but given the quality of CD mastering in 1987 I wouldn't be at all surprised if the vinyl sounds better.

Keeping with the theme of Minnesota, here's a band that started out at Macalester college in St. Paul, Walt Mink. They have nothing in common with Prince, as far as I know. Their first album to see a real release, Miss Happiness, is one of the few items from indie-rock land that you can play to impress fans of guitar wankery. John Kimbrough manages to be a monster on guitar without letting it detract from some ever-so-slightly proggy pop songs. One of the most unlikely successes on the album is this high energy cover of Nick Drake's Pink Moon...it would have been kind of fun if this had been the song playing at the party in that famous Volkswagon ad. The other song that I like a lot is Smoothing The Ride, but the whole album is great. Probably fantastic driving music if I drove. The vocals are a little high and nasal, so you may have a problem if that's the sort of thing that bothers you. Sometimes it annoys me and sometimes it doesn't...on this record I'd say mostly not 'cause I'm really listening to the guitars. Drumming by that famous Joey Waronker, by the way.

Walt Mink's second album didn't have the same quality of songwriting as the first. Their third record El Producto is a comeback of sorts, but it's still not as good as the first, and I kind of stopped paying attention at that point even though they have a few more releases and I wouldn't be at all surprised if these contain some decent tracks. Here's a page that hosts a few mp3's and there are still more here. Still not happy? Ok, here's their demo tapes. Special thanks to my little sister, a Macalester alumna, who introduced me to the music of Walt Mink.



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