Eavesdropping on Prince

The raid on Prince’s long-sealed vault officially begins today, with Piano and a Microphone 1983, a collection of songs recorded at the artist’s Kiowa Trail home studio a year before Purple Rain. It is, inevitably, a slightly uncomfortable listen. Whether you’re a casual listener or dedicated collector of Prince bootlegs, the nine raw, unadorned songs on Piano and a Microphone throw up a dicey ethical question: How should we listen to the intentionally unreleased demos of a now-departed musician who so painstakingly controlled his image when he was alive?

Plenty of people did the hard work of trying to answer that before I wholeheartedly agreed to preview “Why The Butterflies,” the final track on the record, last week. But it’s only harder to grapple with now, after listening to the full record a half-dozen times. This session finds Prince alone in a room, with only Don Batts, his engineer, next door for company. He recorded seven songs uninterrupted in one long session and added two more at the end. The microphone crackles; when Prince’s voice, piano, and thumping feet come to a rest, all that’s left is thick white noise. This is intimate—often painfully so.

Continue reading at Noisey.