Though the word "genius" often gets bandied about very irresponsibly these days, there's no denying that the late great Prince was indeed a musical genius. He was also a guarded perfectionist, only allowing fans to hear and see exactly what he envisioned when it came to his art. Because of this and the mysterious aura he shrouded himself in, we rarely got to see him in moments of vulnerability. The release of Piano & A Microphone 1983 changes that by giving us an unprecedented listen to the artist at work as he plays simply for himself while noodling around with ideas that would become some of his biggest hits.
The first thing anyone heard from the collection of demos was "Mary Don't You Weep," Prince's take on the gospel standard that mixed spiritual and secular as only he could. There's a lot more here though. The recordings, created when he had an obvious bout of the sniffles following a cold, contain one of the first recorded instances of his signature song "Purple Rain, albeit it a much faster-paced and shorter version than the one we've grown accustomed to. Also present is an early sketch of Sign O' The Times track "Strange Relationship," where the beginnings of the songs lyrics are taking shape while Prince allows himself to get lost in the groove of it all. Perhaps one of the most interesting moments here, though, is his revisiting of his 1999 track "International Lover," which was released just the prior year. He strips down the song to it's barest essence, turning it from a lustful come-on to something much more tender as he harmonizes and explores its edges and harmonies.
Piano & A Microphone also offers a few never-before-heard songs — including "Wednesday," "Cold Coffee & Cocaine" and "Why The Butterflies" — that further the Prince legend while showing his genre-defying capabilities as he jumps from blues to gospel to folk (see his short but sweet cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You") with an effortlessness that most artists would envy. If you're a Prince fan, you've definitely got to hear this collection.
You can stream Piano & A Microphone 1983 via Spotify below and pick it up from your favorite digital retailer right now.