NPG, Warner Bros.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The first posthumous record release hailing from the wildly influential Prince, Piano & A Microphone 1983, reveals the tender side of the pop icon’s songwriting and performance abilities.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the album is that it appears to have been recorded entirely in one take. Each track gracefully transitions from one to the next, even accounting for emotional changes between songs. The apex of this occurs in the flow from the driving opener “17 Days” and the elegant rendition of Prince’s classic ballad “Purple Rain.” On the latter track in particular, Prince showcases nuances of his vocal style not often expressed, applying light vibrato and an intense timbre.
The production on this recording stands out as well. The reverb of the room and microphone quality expertly capture the rawness of the performance along with a dash of delay thrown into the mix. The tracks “International Lover” and “Why the Butterflies” are especially cavernous, allowing the chord hits and vocal lines to resonate fully.
Prince fans are additionally treated to exciting stylistic explorations from the multi-instrumentalist. Many of the tunes are more soulful than the remainder of the Prince catalogue, providing interpretive piano instrumentals underlying bluesy, heartfelt vocals. “Cold Coffee & Cocaine” exemplifies this in particular, sung in Prince’s infamous “Jamie Starr” voice, painting the picture of a hungover morning after. “Mary Don’t You Weep” treads into blues-driven territory as well but delves more toward the traditional gospel structure. This song’s wide dynamic range drives the expressivity associated with the biblically-tinged lyrics as well.
Piano & A Microphone 1983 serves as an ideal homage to the late Prince and will contribute to the fond memories held by the pop world of such a prolific, genre-defining individual.