Artist: Prince Title: Parade Year: 1986 Tracklist: Christopher Tracy's Parade 02:11 New Position 02:21 I Wonder U 01:39 Under The Cherry Moon 02:57 Girls & Boys 05:29 Life Can Be So Nice 03:13 Venus De Milo 01:55 Mountains 03:57 Do U Lie? 02:44 Kiss* 03:37 Anotherloverholenyohead 04:00 Sometimes It Snows In April 06:49

Who but Prince fills us today with the kind of anticipation we once reserved for new work by Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones? Happily, following the commercial and creative letdown of Around the World in a Day (cleverly presented as his Personal Statement record), Parade: Music from 'Under the Cherry Moon' bears the weight of intense hope and scrutiny as lightly as its maker wears the satin capes he favors.
Prince has made it his task to shock us: his work sounds so inevitable we can no longer identify what it was that first surprised us. He did this on "When Doves Cry." Was it simply the omission of bass guitar or the retention of a single line of melody for verse and chorus? The answer lies in the way it was assembled; the result is that most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing the first time we heard it.
"When Doves Cry" and Purple Rain, the blockbuster it introduced, weren't even Prince's best work. That had been achieved one record before -- on 1999.


A febrile double album of extended dance pieces, it featured his best song, "Little Red Corvette," and an example of his musical wit, "1999." A lover of sixties pop, he built "1999" around the central riff of the Mamas and the Papas' "Monday, Monday." To complete this tribute-by-triangulation, Prince has now written for the Bangles "Manic Monday," which bears a melody almost identical to "1999" but omits the founding riff that would link it to its original source.
This is the degree of energy and intelligence we have come to expect from Prince. This is the promise he has once again kept -- on Parade. Like Purple Rain, the new album is a soundtrack (for the forthcoming Under the Cherry Moon) and is preceded by the stunning "Kiss." The single has been mistaken as a return to the music of his Dirty Mind period. In fact, it is made with a sparseness and -- most surprising to the ear -- an absence of reverb that bespeak years of learning. Rhythmically, "Kiss" is funk; harmonically, it is rhythm & blues; lyrically, it proves Prince is crossing yet another frontier, into emotional maturity.
The petulant baby -- first trumpeting a purported sexuality and then expecting us to care about a so-called spiritual rejuvenation -- is no more. Not that Prince wasn't intelligent enough to say interesting things all along, between the nonsense. Usually, though, sex was his code word for a kind of achievement in which the gratification of voyeur and audience defined success. This explains the curious the curious lack of love, or even motivation, in Prince's sex songs. Dirty Mind's "Sister," for example, isn't a song about making love to one's sister; it's a song about making love in which the female seducer is cast as the protagonist's sister, much as a pornographer might create a fantasy to titillate his audience. "Sister" is not about what it claims to be about, and neither incites nor shocks.
What really shocks, of course, is the aural landscape of records like "When Doves Cry" and "Kiss." We all may have dirty minds, but few of us are visionaries. In the arrangements on Parade, it is Prince's vision to that is paraded: a simple Weillen waltz like "Under the Cherry Moon" proves an excuse for all manner of orchestral invention; when Prince says on "New Position," "You've got to try my new funk," believe him. In "New Position," on "Kiss" and above all in the sensational "Girls & Boys," Prince conceives a clean, diamond-hard style that could spawn years of imitations.
Far from the funk of Dirty Mind, this style springs from an understanding f orchestration, rather than the innate ability to jam on rhythm instruments. On Parade, all sounds -- snippets of guitar, horn, percussion, voice -- are treated equally, erasing the line between "basic track" and "sweetening." Prince has achieved the effect of a full groove using only the elements essential to a listener's understanding -- and so has devised a funk completed only by the listener's response.
Thanks to Under the Cherry Moon, we get the title song, "Sometimes It Snows in April" and "Christopher Tracy's Parade"; thanks to shooting in France, we get the French touches in "Girls & Boys" and "Do U Lie?" But the growth in Prince's lyrics isn't because maturity is written into the film script. On Parade, sex and love sound real, and perhaps for the first time, they sound related. He's made the adult discovery -- or is it an admission? -- that the people you care about can be the people who turn you on the most. "Kiss" even offers something of a manifesto: in lines like "Women not girls rule my world," "U don't have 2 watch Dynasty 2 have an attitude" and "U can't be 2 flirty mama I know how 2 undress me," Prince smiles at his old ways. On another track, he serves notice that he's "got 2 try a new position."
If Parade harks back to Dirty Mind, it is less in the surface similarities of the falsetto funk style than in its freedom from thematic pretensions. Prince has given us three successive concept albums -- first the unintended masterpiece 1999; next the Cinerama extravaganza Purple Rain, where his exertions occasionally drowned out his intentions; and finally the con job Around the World in a Day, when he summoned craft and packaging to bridge the creative chasm he faced. Having gathered enough laurels on which to rest comfortably forevermore, Prince wants to have some fun with music, or as he puts it, to "go fishing in the river, the river of life." What better time for a new baptism?
(RS 472)