269: Thunder

Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
It seems perverse to reach Thunder before we’re done with half of HITnRUN Phase One, as this Diamonds and Pearls opener is one of Prince’s most atmospheric pieces of art and an incredible way to kick off his best selling album of the 90s. But there’s something holding the song back from attaining the soul-soaring heights of Thieves in the Temple or 7. Quite possibly it’s the Funky Drummer loop dating it – a James Brown sample that wasn’t particularly fresh in 1991 and has only gotten staler since. But ’nuff bellyaching, Thunder is still a tour de force. Gothic horror meets Christian rock. We’re back in Nikki’s castle hearing doves cry and watching the devil dance in the pale moonlight to the sound of a sitar. The first 15 seconds alone burn with the intensity of God’s gaze and that’s before the choral elements rush at you like an Omen supercut. Maybe we can’t handle that much raw emotion and need a familiar drum-break thrown in as a life raft. Something mortal to help us on our journey through this realm of pure light, like a coin placed in your mouth to pay the ferryman. As the only solo recording on this album though it does make me wonder what it would sound like if the NPG were unleashed on it.