The next installment of our purple memorial day finds writer Ben Greenman delving into Prince‘s best non-Prince projects and their respective standout cuts. Greenman’s new book ‘Dig If U Will The Picture’ is out now.
1. Jill Jones, Jill Jones (1987)
Jill Jones sang backup for Prince and appeared in Purple Rain, as the cocktail waitress who let Apollonia into the club. Her solo album is one of the best things to emerge from the Paisley Park label—it has slinky funk (“Mia Bocca”), moving ballads (“With You”), and a tour-de-force closer (“Baby, You’re a Trip”).
2. The Time, The Time (1981)
Morris Day and company were Prince’s unleashed id—a vain ladies’ man who could cop a pose of vulnerability if it got him closer to getting girls. Many Time albums are good, and Ice Cream Castles contains the two biggest Purple Rain-era hits (“Jungle Love” and “The Bird”) but the debut is the purest articulation of the Time’s philosophy.
3. Vanity 6, Vanity 6 (1982)
A sexy girl group was always in Prince’s plans, and Vanity fit the bill perfectly. Songs are sexy-robotic, sexy-sentimental, sexy-punky, but always sexy. Prince would try to recapture the formula with Apollonia 6, with diminishing returns.
4. Sheila E., Romance 1600 (1985)
Some people prefer her debut, The Glamorous Life, because of its title song, but it’s hard to vote against the follow-up because of “A Love Bizarre,” an endless (and endlessly satisfying) anthem.
5. The Family, The Family (1985)
Prince wanted a jazzier side band and ended up with the Family, which recorded one album. It’s a solid record, consistently pleasing, but it’s known mainly for being the original home of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which became a huge hit for Sinead O’Connor.