Prince, “1999 (Deluxe Edition, Remastered)”

Prince
1999 (Deluxe Edition, Remastered)
WARNER
9/10

Even in its original 1982 release, Prince’s 1999 sounded as if it was busting precociously at the seams at some point in an imagined future. Like The Clash’s Sandinista!, Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything?, and Prince’s own Sign O’ the Times several years later—famously oversized multi-album projects, all—Prince was playing with too much, too fast, at too great an aesthetic height. Then again, that was the whole point of looking into a funky, futuristic apocalypse and laughing, just like the protagonists of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. You have nothing to lose.

With the just-released Super Deluxe Version of 1999, we are witness to the full frenzy effect of Prince truly letting it all hang out with a concert DVD (in Houston) and a live album (Detroit), filmed and recorded around this very time in 1982, to say nothing of twenty-four previously unissued studio tracks and demos, B-sides and remixes, and a spanking new version of the original album that manages to sound, as it did upon first release, grimy and glossy all at once in its guitar wonk–strewn, in-the-red, funky synth–phonic glory.  

Like the gluttonous Reagan era in which it was born, the new 1999 is explosively opulent and appropriate for the Trump moment in its excess and mess. The future-forward death-disco R&B of the title song, the swaggering swirl of “D.M.S.R.,” the new wave halt of “Delirious,” and the slamming tech-throb ballad, “Little Red Corvette,” come across as both freshly free and eerily lived in, the latter perhaps because, as Prince fans, we grew accustomed to his pace and gait. The snide and sexy verbal asides, always a highlight of a Prince opus, come across louder and clearer here, as if its remasterers intended us to hear the likes of Lisa Coleman’s sped-up “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?,” and the secret ire in Prince’s nattering vocals when he sing-speaks “It’s time for a new direction / It’s time for jazz to die / Fourth day of November / We need a purple high,” during the rousing “All the Critics Love U in New York.”

If you’re any kind of Prince aficionado, you’ve heard the outtakes and outside tracks like the tight-as-a-drum James Brown manqué “Irresistible Bitch,” the Rufus-like space out of “Moonbeam Levels,” the absolutely mesmerizing “Money Don’t Grow on Trees,” and  the warm and fuzzy “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” Placing these songs, plus cuts such as the fatuous “Vagina,” close to their original mooring station gives them heart and context, rather than leaving them dangling in the wind.

Not since the multi-album re-examination of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street has an equally out-of-place (for its time) masterpiece and its outtakes nestled in one place to create a feeling of such soulful, sonic completion. 

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