Deep Album Cuts Vol. 63: The Time

I made a playlist of Prince deep album cuts last year, and then after his death last month, I made a list of my 100 favorite Prince songs. And on the latter I threw in a handful of songs he wrote and produced for other artists, including The Time's "Jungle Love." But really, there's a whole fascinating shadow discography of work Prince did with other acts, and The Time have a pretty estimable discography in and of themselves.

Calling them 'Prince proteges' doesn't seem quite right -- Prince plucked a lot of singers and groups out of relatively obscurity, wrote a few songs or an album or two for them, and then moved on. But The Time were his friends and peers, guys from his hometown. They were also one of the few opening acts Prince ever had that he seemed to have to ever compete with, and for a time they were even commercially on his level. The Time had 9 songs on the R&B charts from 1981 to 1985, during a period in which Prince had about 12 songs on the chart. Of course, they didn't have any crossover hits on the scale of "Little Red Corvette," but for certain audiences, they were right at his heels.

The Time Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist / Tidal playlist): 

1. Wild And Loose
2. My Drawers
3. Oh, Baby
4. Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody
5. After Hi School
6. I Don't Wanna Leave You
7. Chili Sauce
8. If The Kid Can't Make You Come
9. My Summertime Thang
10. Release It
11. Love Machine
12. Condensate
13. Shake
14. Donald Trump (Black Version)
15. Faithful
16. It's Your World

Tracks 3 and 5 from The Time (1981)
Tracks 1, 4 and 6 from What Time Is It? (1982)
Tracks 2, 7 and 8 from Ice Cream Castle (1984)
Tracks 9, 14 and 16 from Pandemonium (1990)
Tracks 10, 11 and 13 from Prince's Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Tracks 12 and 15 from The Original 7ven's Condensate (2011)

Since Prince's albums are only on Tidal, the complete playlist is only available there. But I also put the rest of the playlist on Spotify, since The Time's first four albums represent easily the majority of the Prince music currently available on Spotify (a lot of other Prince protege albums are long out of print, and before he died, he even took a lot of the most famous Prince covers and Prince-penned hits, by The Bangles and Sinead O'Connor and others, off of Spotify).

The list is divided roughly into two halves -- the group's original early '80s run, and the sporadic reunions that followed. Ironically, though the band is largely remembered for Purple Rain, they'd already split up by the time the movie came out. But they reunited a few years later, earning their first top 10 pop hit, "Jerk Out," in 1990, before going their separate ways again. R&B radio changed so much in the early '90s that it's hard to imagine they would've continued having that kind of success, though. Though they reunited in 2008 and toured as The Time, but for some manner of legal reasons (perhaps Prince-related, I'm not sure), they changed their name to The Original 7ven to release an album.

There was a weird tension between Prince and The Time -- a lot of acts were happy to have Prince hand them fully completed albums to add vocal tracks to, but The Time were talented guys who were great onstage and could've made records without his help. And when Prince didn't give them the chance to prove it, the group eventually disbanded, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis going off to become the primary producers for another superstar's discography. And as I mentioned in my Janet Jackson deep cuts post, it wasn't just Jimmy and Terry -- a total of 5 members of The Time have produced Janet records (Jesse Johnson worked on her first album, Jellybean Johnson produced "Black Cat," and Monte Moir did "Pleasure Principal"). In a 2014 interview that Rolling Stone just published after Prince's death, however, he did speak about the truth of his work with The Time and other atists ("It was all collaborative. It's not just my vision."). But since Prince had a habit of not giving people writing credits for some songs they helped create, and even weirdly gave people credits on songs they didn't work on at times, it's hard to really know what was what.

To some degree, Prince kind of used The Time as instruments to sell the world on 'the Minneapolis sound' and the First Avenue scene as it was mythologized in Purple Rain. That's not to say that there wasn't a unique R&B community in the city, but Prince was able to kind of exaggerate it, with him at the center, by giving The Time songs that sounded like Prince tracks instead of maybe letting them have their own vision that didn't trace the Minneapolis sound so directly back to him.

Prince, Morris Day, and Jerome Benton recorded a new The Time album in 1989, Corporate World, that was shelved. Instead, the whole band came back together to work on Pandemonium, this time with more creative control of their own album, and various Corporate World tracks were reworked for either Pandemonium or the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack. As a sequel to Purple Rain, obviously Graffiti Bridge is a lousy movie, but as '90s Prince albums go it's pretty good, and I enjoy that it has songs by The Time and other artists threaded through it. It's hard to find any fault with the Purple Rain album, but sometimes I kinda wish it had been a double LP with songs by all the other artists in the movie.

If we were going to look at The Time's records as part of Prince's discography, What Time Is It? would be one of my favorite Prince albums, but it's also just great on its own terms. There's a simplified narrative that The Time got some of Prince's more 'black' material while he was off doing the psychedelic pop stuff with Wendy & Lisa, but The Time have a pretty nice diverse soup of hard rock and new wave and weirdness in the mix. Morris Day isn't as good a vocalist as Prince, but he has an electric, hammy on-record presence, something like an R&B version of David Lee Roth. And there are great deep cuts all over their brief discography, particularly "My Summertime Thang," which has worked its way into D'Angelo's arsenal of Prince covers. And "Donald Trump (Black Version)," which was a pretty weird concept for a song even when Prince wrote it in 1989, is even more surreal in 2016.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
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