Around The World In A Day

Prince And The Revolution

Paisley Park, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Around The World In A Day, the follow-up album to Prince & The Revolution's chart-buster Purple Rain, came out, one could almost hear the collective jaws of a nation hit the floor. Gone was a lot of the daring rock and funk that Prince had captured just one album ago. And if our jaws were agape, they had to be handing out smelling salts at Warner Brothers by the boatload - there went Prince's commercial appeal, they had to think.

It's been 12 years since Prince shot this one out at us, and in retrospect,it's not that bad - a hell of a step from where Purple Rain was, and maybe a shade weaker. But if you think about it, now it's not surprising to see that Prince would make this move. He had spent his whole career to this point bangin' out the funk to win acceptance. Now that he had proven his worth, he had the freedom to experiment. In some cases, this album could be seen as Prince's Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Middle Eastern influence of the title track is the first sign that this is not going to be the type of ride we were used to from Prince. But if you invest a little time in listening to the track, it does reveal a subtle charm that makes the listener smile. The Sargeant Pepper theme is confirmed with the very next track, "Paisley Park" - which takes the rules of chordal progression and musical theory and throws them out the window. Chords bend when they shouldn't, the track sounds like it's on a multispeed tape deck and Prince is futzing with the speed knob - you could point out many little experiments with this track. But the thing is Prince & The Revolution make it work, and work well, proving there's a fine line between genius and lunacy.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The two singles off Around The World In A Day, "Raspberry Beret" and "Pop Life," show both where Prince had been and where he wanted to go. "Pop Life" is a wonderful amalgam of funk and rock (featuring percussion work by Sheila E.), and would probably have been a better first single than "Raspberry Beret." "Raspberry" is an attempt at psychadelia that just doesn't work for Prince - not that he gets failing marks for effort. (Warren Zevon and the Hindu Love Gods put an interesting twist on this cut on their only release a few years later.) But the track shows Prince growing bored with funk for funk's sake.

The hidden gem on this album is "America," a song which captures the ferociousness of the band's playing with the power of Prince's songwriting. Again, this one turned out to be a sign of things to come - Prince would turn to this genre two albums later with Sign 'O' The Times. "America" is a track that you cannot afford to pass up.

But for all the strengths on this album, there are a few blanks the Purple one shoots. "Condition Of The Heart" is a poor effort at a ballad - it just needed more development. "The Ladder," co-written with Prince's father, is a weak re-hash of the single "Purple Rain," and suffers from the same lack of development. The album's closer, "Temptation," is a joke from the outset. What starts off as a sultry lust song turns out to be a morality play as our hero tries to answer to God, loses, and ends up sounding like Michael Jackson ("I'm sorry - I'll be good") - I'll stop here, because I'm dangerously close to making some tasteless jokes.

Around The World In A Day is not an easy listen, to be sure - some critics point this album out as an early warning sign that Prince would go off the deep end. But it's also not the piece of trash that some may try to paint it as. Keep in mind that Prince had just become a superstar along the lines of Michael Jackson, and I'm sure the pressure was difficult to deal with. Here was this funk rocker putting out music he enjoyed when, to his luck, he hit the jackpot. Now, he's trying to expand and grow as an artist, and the tides begin to turn on him. Give the man credit for not continuing to throw the same pabulum in front of our noses and hoping we can't see that it was getting older and weaker. Prince made us think with this album.

It's also now a tragic sidenote that Jonathan Melvoin appears on the title track. Melvoin, who was the brother of backup singer Wendy Melvoin, was the keyboard player for the Smashing Pumpkins who overdosed in 1996. What makes it more tragic can be found in one line of "Pop Life": "What u puttin in your nose / Is that where your money goes".

Prince may have lost a few disheartened fans on Around The World In A Day, but he showed he wasn't going to be pigeonholed in any one genre of music. And for that, we should be grateful.

Rating: B

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Paisley Park, and is used for informational purposes only.