Fans will concentrate on the prodigious run of albums released between 1979-1988, and Lovesexy will do as signpost. The first album to miss the top ten since Controversy, it also reflected the circumscribing of his commercial peak. From now on he could depend on at least one top ten per album and go instant gold (further circumscribing: 1994’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is his last American top five).
I want to mention five excellent songs that Prince recorded from the moment George H.W. Bush became president.
Love…Thy Will Be Done — Martika’s Kitchen (1991)
Oh really, you might think. The teen who hit number one two summers earlier with the cautionary “Toy Soldiers” embraces a love that’s akin to a spiritual experience. Experience this track as pure aural pleasure and it won’t disappoint. Lowering her voice to a sultry lower register to harmonize with her co-writer, she has no trouble situating herself amid a cello and a slide guitar, the latter echoing the principle melody. Five years later a torrid essential cover of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” on Emancipation boasted the purloined drum program. It peaked at #10.
Willing and Able — <em>Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
A strong West African lilt to the guitars join gospel call and response vocals for the most surprising moment on an unsurprising album.
The Morning Papers — Love Symbol (1992)
“If he poured his heart into a glass/And offered it like wine/She could drink and be back in time for the morning papers,” Prince sings on this power ballad, graced by subtle horns and a typically on the money guitar solo. An album boasting some of the worst rap performances of the decade has delicate flowers like this.
Pink Cashmere — The Hits 1 (1993)
Another poised power ballad, another excuse to lavish falsetto and a sequence of liquid six-string notes on a melody reminiscent of 1987’s “Forever in My Life.”
Face Down — Emancipation; (1996)
This triple album has so many good songs that the excellent ones slip past me until I remember I own the damn thing, whereupon I play it all weekend. Last night I spent time with the second and third discs. “Face Down” has one of his few convincing attempts at assimilating hip hop swag in his vocal. And the bottom’s heavy. “Somebody once told him that he wouldn’t take Prince through the ringer,” he huffs in the opening verse, and it gets nastier from there.