Today's artist will be with us for sometime here, after all he has an enormous ouvre with lot's unreleased stuff as well. He commands the biggest space in my collection. Normally i'd post chronically but this time i will post cross his discography from 4 different decades. You can wait to see what i'll post or your welcome to request a title, first request can be found here ... N'joy
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Legends have circulated since the 1980s about Prince’s vault, where music that was 'left behind' in this ceaseless flow was stored - in some cases, entire albums that, once recorded, were felt to be behind the musical locale Prince’s mind had moved on to, and so he simply shelved them. Some bands struggle to come up with an album’s worth of material over a few years – and yet Prince, writing and recording everything as an individual, couldn’t find time to release everything he came up with. So much so that the vault is now said to contain over 2000 songs - perhaps enough to release an album every year for the next century after his passing.
continued from last week
Islands of Genius
In reading about these aspects of Prince’s talent and personality, I was struck by an interesting correspondence to the traits of those individuals who are said to have ’savant syndrome', particularly those whose enhanced skills lie in the field of music. Savant syndrome is...:
...a rare but remarkable condition in which persons with developmental disabilities (including but not limited to autistic disorder), or other central nervous system injuries or diseases, have some spectacular “islands of genius”.
…The same five general areas of skill - art, music, calendar calculating, lightning calculating and mechanical or spatial skills - all coupled with massive memory continue to dominate the condition wherever in the world it appears.
Autistic savants are the most commonly known about type of savant (perhaps due to Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of autistic savant Raymond Babbitt in the film Rain Man), and so readers’ knee-jerk reaction might be to dismiss the idea that Prince’s skills could be associated with savant syndrome as ridiculous. But savant syndrome is present in people with IQs measured between 40 and 140, with another group, the ‘acquired savants’ being less recognised by the general public. Perhaps the most respected investigator of savant syndrome, Darold Treffert, describes this group as...
...normal (neurotypical) persons who, having previously shown no particular special savant skills or abilities, suddenly, after a head injury, stroke, or other brain disease or disorder, develop art, music or math skills, for example, sometimes at a prodigious level.
Most savants do lie on the autistic spectrum though, even some of those who are considered acquired savants, such as Daniel Tammet. His prodigious savant skills are in calculation and memory (he famously sees mathematical calculations visually, via colours, shape and texture; has memorised pi to 22,514 digits; and taught himself ten languages, including learning ‘conversational' Icelandic in a week). While some savants’ autism is severe and debilitating, others like Tammet are diagnosed in the ‘high-functioning’ range (Asperger Syndrome). For nearly all these individuals though, social interaction is extremely difficult and is something that, at best, they learn how to do over time. (Tammet notes, in the foreword to Darold Treffert's Islands of Genius, that “scientists now know that the brains we are born with are not ‘fixed’ at birth, as once believed, but continue to change throughout our lifetime. It is how I have learned to look people in the eye when I talk, or to understand body language, or to tell funny jokes.” )
As Darold Treffert points out, the prodigious skills of acquired savants are generally brought on by some “central nervous system trauma, disease, or disorder". For Daniel Tammet, the cause of his development into a savant is thought to have been a series of childhood epileptic seizures, possibly in concert with his already existing high-functioning autism. Though Tammet is not a musical savant, it is interesting to note that Prince too suffered from childhood epilepsy, from birth to the age of seven (he famously recounted once that he told his mother an angel had cured him of the neurological disorder).
Darold Treffert ranks musical ability as the second most frequently reported savant skill:
It is usually performance, and it is almost always accompanied by perfect pitch. Composing in the absence of performing has been reported, as has playing multiple instruments, as many as 22 or more. Almost all musical savants have a remarkable “literal” memory, which allows them to play back entire pieces after hearing them for the first time.
It is interesting to compare Prince’s childhood development to diagnosed savant Matt Savage, who quickly mastered the piano at age 6, created his first CD of jazz compositions at age 8, and by 17 was touring the globe as the leader of the Matt Savage Trio. Matt has a chapter devoted to him in Treffert's Islands of Genius:
He rarely played with other children and would often run away from any such interaction… Matt’s musical ability appeared quite unexpectedly when he was about six years old. One evening Matt’s parents were startled to hear ‘London Bridge’ being pounded out, in an adjacent room, on a toy keyboard his mother had purchased for him. His mother then introduced him to the full piano and he learned to play ‘almost overnight.’ In six months he mastered a Schubert sonata… After a year of classical music lessons, he was enrolled in the jazz program at the New England Conservatory of Music where he progressed quickly.
In a similar manner to how Prince felt that the flow of music was coming from somewhere else, as if it was being transmitted into his head asking to be transcribed into the physical world, one of Matt’s jazz instructors commented that "Matt seems to know things that are deeper than his own existence”, while his mother told how "Matt tells us the music is already in his head. He hears it, and he plays it. He knows he has to practice technique. But the music itself - it’s already there.”
We find a similar theme in the case of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tony Cicoria, who suddenly acquired his musical savant skills after being struck by lightning (during which he had an intense near-death experience as well). Cicoria has noted that after this point, he began to hear music in his head: “It’s like a frequency, a radio band. If I open myself up, it comes.” Oliver Sacks wrote about Cicoria's case in his book Musicophilia, describing how after his near-death experience at age 42 he became - rather like descriptions of Prince - "inspired, even possessed by music, and scarcely had time for anything else”.
The breathtaking musical skills of autistic savants are also reminiscent of some of the descriptions of Prince’s level of talent. For example, Derek Paravacini is an autistic musical savant who has been blind from birth. And yet Derek has perfect pitch, and a prodigious memory, allowing him to repeat any piece he hears instantly - as well as remembering it perfectly, forever:
I am reminded of an anecdote that Morris Hayes, long-time keyboardist for Prince, told about his first rehearsals attempting to learn just some of the vast repertoire of His Purpleness’s song catalogue:
I was just one of those church cats that played music by ear, so at first it was very difficult for me to keep up. We wouldn’t just learn one song, we’d learn a string of songs, and when we’d come back the next day I’d forget some. I remember he pulled me to the side and said, ‘Are you a genius, Morris?’ I said no. ‘O.K., then write it down. I don’t write it down ‘cause I’m a genius. I’ve got a million of ‘em, and I can remember. But unless you’re a genius, write it down.
Thomas Bethune, known as ‘Blind Tom’ was the most celebrated black concert artist of the nineteenth century, and the greatest musical prodigy of the age. Tom was also blind and mentally handicapped. In 1860, aged 11, he played at the White House before the President. Several musicians were convinced by this performance that he was a fraud, and so tested him the following day: they played two newly composed pieces, one 13 pages long, the other 20, which Tom was able to immediately repeat “from beginning to end without error”. One account notes that Tom’s musical skill extended to astounding his audiences “by turning his back to the piano and giving an exact replication - a reversal of the keys the left and right hand played" Prince himself had a few 'tricks', such as playing piano and guitar at the same time:
In light of the above, and given this article is about Prince, I feel compelled to mention with curiosity that another multi-instrumentalist, child prodigy pop icon who was a role model for Prince - Stevie Wonder - is also a child of the 1950s who suffers from ROP blindness due to being born 6 weeks early). Musical savants are also often not restricted to one instrument. Wen Kuei, of Taiwan, fell in love with music aged 12 when he unintentionally touched an organ keyboard. Darold Treffert notes that “he now plays multiple instruments with ease”. Ellen Boudreaux is a virtuoso performer on piano and guitar. Tony DeBlois, a blind autistic musical savant who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, plays over 22 instruments, including piano, guitar, harmonica, violin, banjo, drums, trumpet, saxophone and flute.
Given all these similarities, is it possible that Prince’s talent originated, like the case of Daniel Tammet, in acquired savant syndrome from his childhood epilepsy, along with perhaps some form of high-functioning autism?
Resisting the Temptation
While the similarities are compelling, I am chastened by the words of Darold Treffert, who during his career has been bombarded with theories about past geniuses, and communication from parents concerned that their child is autistic:
It is popular these days to apply the diagnosis of high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome to almost anyone generally considered to have been a prodigy or genius in the past. Names such as Mozart, Rembrandt, Einstein and others are bandied about, conjecturing that these persons were really persons with high-functioning autism rather than prodigies or geniuses.
...Suffice it to say that prodigies and geniuses do exist. They are not all savants. There is a critical difference in that prodigies and geniuses, unlike savants, do not have some underlying developmental or other disability…not every child who reads early, likes to line up railroad cars, remembers songs, draws spectacularly, plays tunes prolifically and likes routine is autistic.
In reality, we will likely never know the explanation of Prince’s musical genius, and we should be skeptical in considering the idea that it may have originated with savant syndrome due to his childhood epilepsy - there are certainly other explanations, such as his family situation mentioned earlier.
But a key question raised by Treffert’s research on savants - especially in light of the sudden, almost miraculous abilities of ‘acquired savants’, is whether these talents lie dormant within us all as a hidden potential waiting to be unlocked in some way.
Do we all have these powers unlocked to variable amounts, with just a precious few, like Prince, having the lid of this treasure chest of abilities thrown open?
These are questions that the science of the future might one day answer. For now though, we have just lost one of the all-time greats of music, and we are only left to wonder at the source of his magic.
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Neither For You nor Prince was adequate preparation for the full-blown masterpiece of Prince's third album, Dirty Mind. Recorded in his home studio, with Prince playing nearly every instrument, Dirty Mind is a stunning, audacious amalgam of funk, new wave, R&B, and pop, fueled by grinningly salacious sex and the desire to shock. Where other pop musicians suggested sex in lewd double-entendres, Prince left nothing to hide -- before its release, no other rock or funk record was ever quite as explicit as Dirty Mind, with its gleeful tales of oral sex, threesomes, and even incest. Certainly, it opened the doors for countless sexually explicit albums, but to reduce its impact to mere profanity is too reductive -- the music of Dirty Mind is as shocking as its graphic language, bending styles and breaking rules with little regard for fixed genres. Basing the album on a harder, rock-oriented beat more than before, Prince tries everything -- there's pure new wave pop ("When You Were Mine"), soulful crooning ("Gotta Broken Heart Again"), robotic funk ("Dirty Mind"), rock & roll ("Sister"), sultry funk ("Head," "Do It All Night"), and relentless dance jams ("Uptown," "Partyup"), all in the space of half an hour. It's a breathtaking, visionary album, and its fusion of synthesizers, rock rhythms, and funk set the style for much of the urban soul and funk of the early '80s.
Prince - Prince (flac 172mb)
01 Dirty Mind 4:11
02 When You Were Mine 3:44
03 Do It All Night 3:42
04 Gotta Broken Heart Again 2:13
05 Uptown 5:30
06 Head 4:40
07 Sister 1:33
08 Party Up 4:24
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Emancipation was a critical moment for Prince, one that he designed as an artistic rebirth and, optimistically, as a commercial comeback. In a typically perverse fashion, Prince decided to make the album a triple-disc set running exactly three hours, easily making it the longest album of all-new original material ever released by a popular artist. As the first album he released since leaving Warner Brothers, Emancipation was supposed to dazzle, proving that he had not lost any of his creative skills or power. And it does dazzle, but it's hard to digest a full three discs of music, even if it is almost all of high quality. Fortunately, Prince made each disc into a distinct entity in its own right, with the first being the most pop, the second being a song cycle devoted to his new marriage, and the third being a dance/funk extravaganza. Throughout all three discs, Prince tries on a variety of styles, from jazz to R&B, but he doesn't break any new ground; instead, the album is simply reaffirmation of his strengths as a composer and a musician. Emancipation doesn't have the bristling, colorful eclecticism of Sign 'o' the Times nor does it have the wildness of early one-man projects like 1999 or Dirty Mind, but with its gentle ballads and complex jams, it signals that Prince has evolved into middle-age gracefully. It's a mature effort, to be certain, but in this case that doesn't mean that it's an album bankrupt of ideas -- it means that Prince's craft continues to grow.
Prince - Emancipation 1 (flac 394mb)
01 Jam Of The Year 6:10
02 Right Back Here In My Arms 4:43
03 Somebody's Somebody 4:43
04 Get Yo Groove On 6:31
05 Courtin' Time 2:46
06 Betcha By Golly Wow! 3:31
07 We Gets Up 4:18
08 White Mansion 4:47
09 Damned If I Do 5:21
10 I Can't Make You Love Me 6:37
11 Mr. Happy 4:46
12 In This Bed I Scream 5:40
Prince - Emancipation 1 (ogg 138mb)
Prince - Emancipation 2 (flac 369mb)
01 Sex In The Summer 5:57
02 One Kiss At A Time 4:41
03 Soul Sanctuary 4:41
04 Emale 3:38
05 Curious Child 2:57
06 Dreamin' About U 3:52
07 Joint 2 Joint 7:52
08 The Holy River 6:55
09 Let's Have A Baby 4:07
10 Saviour 5:48
11 The Plan 1:47
12 Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife 7:37
Prince - Emancipation 2 (ogg 135mb)
Prince - Emancipation 3 (flac 406mb)
01 Slave 4:51
02 New World 3:43
03 The Human Body 5:42
04 Face Down 3:17
05 La, La, La Means I Love U 3:59
06 Style 6:40
07 Sleep Around 7:42
08 Da, Da, Da 5:15
09 My Computer 4:37
10 One Of Us 5:19
11 The Love We Make 4:39
12 Emancipation 4:12
Prince - Emancipation 3 (ogg 138mb)
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