Friday, July 29, 2016

The Time - The Time

Today (July 29th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of The Time, the self-titled debut from the famed Minneapolis band. While the cover showed the roster of the original group line-up who toured, the main people in the recording studio were Morris Day (on vocals) and Prince (on all other instruments and some vocals).

Through the early Time albums, Prince was able to release more studio content without violating the restrictions of his own contract with his label Warner Brothers. This 1981 album went to number 50 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a thirty-two week run on the chart) and number 7 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one begins with "Get It Up", a funky good adventure in sexual pursuits. An abbreviated version was released at the first single; it peaked at number 6 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 16 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The album cut clocks in at over nine minutes with a number of instrumental jams which includes un-credited synth solos by Dr. Fink. In 1993, the R&B girl-group TLC covered the song for the soundtrack of movie Poetic Justice.

"Girl", the third single, stalled at number 49 on the US Billboard R&B chart. This straight-up R&B ballad has a clean and crisp piano accompaniment. It very much fits sound-wise to songs that appeared on Prince's first two albums.

Dez Dickerson penned the next track "After Hi School"; it was selected as the B-side to the first single. The track, whose theme was thinking about one's future after high school, has a decidedly new-wave vibe to it.

Side two starts off with a Prince and Dez collaboration "Cool". As the second single, the edited version went to number 90 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 16 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 7 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Keyboardist Lisa Coleman provides to the background vocals on this one. The album cut is over ten minutes long and features another highly danceable groove. Morris clearly felt the most comfortable on this one as evidenced by his stronger vocals here and the emergence of elements of his stage persona. This easily is my favorite track on the record. In 2008, rapper Snoop Dogg covered the tune for his album Ego Trippin'.

Keeping with the formula from side one, it is time for another ballad "Oh Baby". I feel Morris' vocals are much stronger on this one than "Girl"; it could be because the lyrics here are a bit more forward and fitting of his playboy image. It reminds me quite a bit of Prince's "Do Me, Baby" from the same year.

The closing track "The Stick" was written by Prince and Lisa Coleman who also provides backing vocals. An edited version was used as the B-side for the third single while the album version is eight and a half minutes long. The very thinly veiled lyrics to this funky dance groove pays a phallic tribute while bemoaning those lovers who cannot keep pace in the bedroom.

I first heard a few of these tracks around the same time I discovered Prince (late 1981 when I was still in high school) thanks to a local college radio station. Tracks from The Time along with those from Prince's Controversy and Vanity 6 debut firmly entrenched me into the Prince family, a place I've proudly held for three and a half decades. I never owned a copy on vinyl; I did pick up a copy on cassette around 1985 or so when I was living in New Jersey for a co-op. Jump to the last decade when I added a copy of the album to my digital music library. It all came full circle last month when my wife and I got to see Morris Day and the current line-up of the Time perform here in Detroit; half of these tunes were on the set list.

For more from the Time, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

As I came into the wonderful world of Prince's music in 1982 upon hearing "Little Red Corvette", I had to work backward to this album, one of the half-dozen jewels I uncovered in his back catalog.

While we didn't know it at the time, it amazes me to this day that Prince had the talent to make an album allegedly by a pop-funk band all by himself. Excuse me, with help from Morris, Dez, Lisa and Dr. Fink. Then he assembled an actual band and took them on the road with him. Who does that?

It wasn't the first time a studio recording preceded the formation of an actual performing touring group - the Village People, Steam, and Milli Vanilli all come to mind - but The Time exceeded all expectations, reportedly upstaging Prince on tour and eventually spinning off the unique second-generation Minneapolis sound of members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as hitmakers on their own.

What I like about the first three Time albums is they are fat-free, no filler and all killer. I'll never tire of listening to them. Thanks for the reminder how so very "Cool" that first album was.