Randomising the record collection #15: Prince – Lovesexy

#2900 – Prince – Lovesexy
(CD, 1988) (Discogs tracklisting)

15 prince lovesexy

For the second time in three days, my randomiser has given me Prince – and also for the second time in three days, it has given me an officially documented (oh yes!) year-end favourite. There’s the confirmation, in the Filofax in the breakfast room dresser: Lovesexy topped my Best of 1988 list, beating off competition from Tracy Chapman, Pet Shop Boys, Michelle Shocked and Trio Bulgarka.

I’ve sometimes wondered about that choice. Didn’t I love Parade and Sign Of The Times more? Was Lovesexy really their equal, or was I just surfing the back end of my Prince-can-do-no-wrong fanboy wave, before Graffiti Bridge sent me crashing into the rocks? Or perhaps I had been overly influenced by the glories of the Lovesexy tour, which I caught twice – most memorably at Wembley Arena, still one of the greatest shows I have ever witnessed.

This morning, played on the CD bought many years later rather than the LP bought at the time, it sounded utterly magnificent, my top pick of the random choices to date. I was expecting at least a few fillers; not so. It peaked early with “Alphabet St.”, the best Prince party jam of all, and then peaked again with the sublime “Anna Stesia” (at the end of the LP’s first side) and the ridiculously infectious “Dance On” (at the start of Side Two).

On “Dance On”, the drumming alone floored me. I checked to see who was playing. Sheila E, surely? Like almost everything else on the record (apart from the opener “Eye No”, a full band piece), it was the man himself. Writing about Lovesexy on Then Play Long, which discusses every UK Number One album from July 1956 to April 1990, my longtime blogging compatriot Marcello Carlin suggests that its “skittering, randomly-stopping-and-starting rhythm […] must have been an influence on early drum n’ bass“. I am minded to agree.

Unlike yesterday’s Odelay, whose inventiveness rarely seemed to serve a purpose much beyond demonstrating the artist’s cleverness, the inventiveness of Lovesexy – and oh, there are so many fresh ideas on display here – is always pressed into serving the song, heightening the emotions and quickening the pulse.

Yes, there’s rather a lot of God here – people have called it Prince’s gospel album – but even though I don’t really do God, I can’t help being struck by the passion that is being expressed. This is his truth, and he has chosen the height of his fame to deliver it. It cost him sales – well, that and the lack of potential hit singles, and that cover art – but perhaps staying at Number One wasn’t his goal anymore. (Although in fact, Lovesexy became his first chart-topping album in the UK.)

I was expecting to be slightly underwhelmed, and instead I got to enjoy 45 minutes of brilliance. A morning well spent, then.

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