180: Revelation

HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
Not to be confused with Resolution or The Revolution, Revelation is a late-career high-point, initially released on the internet in 2014 but with its pharaoh and Hebrew references, I suspect its origins date back to The Rainbow Children. Snatches of sax float in on the wind alongside half-formed memories of jazz and ennui. It’s all very solemn. A track for deep introspection. So we’re off-balance when Prince asks “can I play with it now?” and a soul-bare guitar solo reaches us from whichever plain he now resides. That moment floors me every time. If the album had ended there, Revelation could have launched a thousand myths and conspiracy theories. It would have made a stellar swan song. The Doppler effect at the end sounds like his voice ascending the heavens. Instead, we’re brought back down to earth by Big City with it’s bluntly resolute ‘that’s it!’ sign-off. Who would have thought a song with Zappa aspirations could be the prosaic choice?

207: Black Muse

HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
This masterclass in retro kitsch has a baseline so cocky it makes you feel you can walk through walls. Imagine a Bob James and the New Birth penned theme tune for a cop show starring Burt Reynolds as the renegade who doesn’t play by the book, and Pam Grier playing the hooker with a heart of gold. As the song drifts towards the “1000 light years from here” hook the air gets thinner and you’d be forgiven for believing you momentarily passed out from altitude sickness and woken up during a different song (that’s because it initially was). Here, the bassline has long stopped holding your hand and you’re spiralling towards a valium cloud of nostalgic bliss. A new day is dawning and it’s called 1978.

291: Groovy Potential

Internet download (2013) / HITnRun Phase Two (2015)
The title may be Austin Powersy but the music is a rich, elegant duvet of sound from Prince’s final album. If you like horns, Groovy Potential is bursting at the seams with them. In various flavours and sizes. Wave after wave of luscious brass and woodwind flood the track, turning all they touch into sonic gold. They’re not the only element to give you shivers – the vocals have a Fallinlove2nite vibe and the bass teases like an expert lover – but when you walk away, your only memory will be of a thousand horns singing the cosmic language of Unconditional Love.

310: Stare

HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
A bass riff so thick and funky it was brought in from the live environment to be tamed into a studio recording. The result sounds several shades of awesome but an animal this wild can’t be made to play by our rules. It can be coaxed into wearing a simple three verse song structure if labelled clearly (“first things first…” etc.) but compromises aren’t a part of its limited vocab. The lead will just unflinchingly do its thing, only pausing briefly at crowd-pleasing commands like Kiss (evidently yet to learn the trick Sexy Dancer). Whatever you do though, don’t fade out early or you’ll be knocked aside as it runs snarling to the mixing desk to get its paws on the fader. Best to leave it to play until it tires. Or better yet release back into its natural habitat on stage. Remember what happened to Siegfried and Roy?

324: 1000 X’s & O’s

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
Written in 1992 for Rosie Gaines, A 1000 Hugs and Kisses was plucked out of obscurity fifteen years later for one of Prince’s London shows. It was then a further eight years until it became an official release with the hugs and kisses transposed in the title for some reason. The only earlier recording I’ve heard has Nona Gaye on vocals and is a beautiful declaration of young love, but the stripped-back, updated version has an intriguing atmosphere that worms its way into the core of my being. There’s a coldness and distance introduced as the vagaries of human emotion are now chained to an unwavering beat that’s as still as a birdless dawn. The 1000 hugs and kisses may be waiting but they will never be received as Prince sings his loveletter at the unforgiving void.

334: Extraloveable

Unreleased (1982) / Internet download (2011) / HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
During your first listen to the original, unreleased recording of Extraloveable you think you’ve got the pop song sussed. With its cutesy title and “ooh-ooh!”s it’s a skip through a bubblegum meadow of bath-obsessed, lustful desire. Sweetly persistent but not as unhinged as Possessed or Delirious. Then six minutes in, with scant warning, a harsh synth chord poisons the atmosphere and the sexual monomania gets ramped up into sinister rape threats. It’s a truly shocking moment. This isn’t pop’s normal background-hum level of misogyny, it’s a sudden radiation blast and there’s no wonder it wasn’t unleashed on the paying public. Extraloveable was considered for the Vanity 6 project and a refined version committing the slightly more tolerable sin of misandry would certainly have been a better choice than He’s So Dull. Instead Prince sat on the song for three decades until it was pulled from the vault and cleaned in chlorine for it’s debut release in 2011. Rape reference redacted. The dark denouement now replaced by rapped pet-names, suds and giggles – a rose tattoo over an embarrassing scar. A version pumped full of horns and named Xtraloveable Reloaded was also released which eventually found its way onto his final album but if you listen closely to all these re-recordings you can still hear the blackened and bewitching heart of the original beating away.

494: Look at Me, Look at U

HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
A sturdy, jazz-funk ode to a sight-giving Nefertiti. Flute, sax and keys trace the outline of a late night seduction, played out amongst neon bar-signs rippling in midnight puddles while Prince fills in the outline with lyrical shades of honeyed confidence. Fun fact: The late night phone-in DJ talking over the end doesn’t actually exist – it’s all in your head.