REVIEW: PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – Around The World In A Day (Warner Bros.)
I am always stuck when people ask me what is my favourite album of all time, I can never decide between two. The first being Kiss’ Unmasked from 1980 and this is the second. Around The World In A Day is a huge record for me. Massive. Every track contained within reminds me of a different time or place and yet in no way do I paint this album with a nostalgic brush. The songs stand up on their own. Each track is perfection, all killer, not one filler, harking back to a time when Prince had quality control and before he named himself squiggly slave. Around The World In A Day captured the man at the pinnacle of his career.
The album kicks off with the title track and from the off the listener is fully aware that ATWIAD is going to be a completely different beast than its multi million selling bombastic predecessor Purple Rain. It kicks off with a low whistling followed by an Indian themed run on the drums and continues along mid tempo with the far eastern theme. Prince’s opening lines are “Open your heart, open your mind”. As a listener if you do this then the record will win you over. The production is fluffier than we had been used to with Prince but it only takes three minutes for him to mention the colour purple so not everything had changed. The most striking difference is the neo psychedelic textures he weaves throughout the tracks. In my eyes the title track is as good if not better than anything found on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and as for Their Satanic Majesties Request, well, that record doesn’t hold a candle to this.
I’ve talked about the singles Raspberry Beret, Pop Life and Paisley Park elsewhere in the best singles of 1985 section. The only thing to add would be to say that as a trilogy of records when you listen to them in context to what else came out in 1985 what becomes quickly apparent is the sheer alien quality they have. At a time when Jennifer Rush and Paul Hardcastle were the norm Prince was crafting his own analogue niche into pop’s almost synthetic digital market place. Only Raspberry Beret was a hit from ATWIAD and the album itself sold just two million copies which whilst being nothing to sniff at in no way compared to what had gone before. The general public was just not prepared to take a gamble on his continuing development as an artist.
The ballad Condition Of The Heart is a case in point. It’s a song to which I’ve only come to start loving in the last few years. It’s such a gentle piece of music I used to consider it simply too light. Princes register was just that bit too high and whilst I thought the lyrics were solid I couldn’t get to grips with anything musically so weightless. Today I consider it a stand out. Unlike Sometimes It Snows In April (from 1986’s Parade) and When 2 R In Love (from 1988’s Lovesexy) Prince strips everything down except for the essentials. I can’t take anything away from them as they are both essential Prince but Condition Of the Heart dares to be so unconventionally quiet that Warner’s must have wondered how the hell they were going to sell the thing. Luckily or rather unluckily for them the purple one’s contract gave him huge creative control. He wanted minimal advertising and no singles released up front, convinced that the listener should hear the whole record as one piece. Personally, I think he should have released Condition Of The Heart as the only single. Letting the critics and the fans including my musically uneducated eleven year old self hear that he knows best.
Tamborine and America often get criticized as being the duds on this album but as you can guess I couldn’t disagree more. Tamborine has a rhythm in the same vein as Dance On from Lovesexy in the way that it shimmies its way through less than three minutes of perved up vocal wizardry. As for America the only lyrical comparisons could be to Ronnie, Talk To Russia from Controversy (1981). When Prince gets political it’s generally rubbish. And lyrically it’s pretty much the norm. You feel his heart is in the right place but his efforts are half baked like when Bono dabbles with the theme. Musically though the song is another stormer, particularly the intro where the guitar is scratched for a few seconds.
To finish up there is the best final salvo of any Prince record. The dual whammy of The Ladder followed by the insane journey through Temptation is a monumental listen. The Ladder is full of religious imagery and contains oddly enough a few lyrics penned by Prince’s father John. It tells the tale of “a king who did not deserve to be” and after this introduction Prince goes on to inform us how we can reach eternal salvation along with the king. Which is nice. If you found Bob Dylan’s Saved album nice that is.
Around The World In A Day wraps up with the strangest eight minutes Prince ever served up on vinyl. Temptation is a Hendrix fuelled, psychedelic, pompous and deviously sexual romp through the most twisted parts of his mind. The scope of the song is phenomenal. Beginning the song by panting the mantra SEX, TEMPTATION and LUST could only ever work in this odd man’s mind. There is a funky swing to the chorus which just when you think it’s going to fade out all of a sudden drops a notch and we then get listen in on Prince having a conversation with who else but God. It’s brilliant. It turns out that God is deeply unhappy with Prince’s deviant ways and now wishes to smite him. Thankfully the big G shows mercy on the little fellow when Prince realizes that “love is more important than sex”. Cue relief all round amongst his fans and I imagine jaws dropping on the floor at the Warner Bros. annual AGM.
The album blossoms over time and if it doesn’t stick on the first listen then my advice would be to persevere. I have no doubt that I’ll love it just as much in 2025 as I did in 1985. I can’t recommend it enough. I have never understood the negative press it has received but I completely understand why Kiss’ Unmasked is so hated. I’m not that out of the loop. Around The World In A Day is a stone cold classic. Critics and Prince fans alike, get with the programme will ya!