Happy Prince’s birthday! On what would have been his 60th, Prince’s estate has announced the September 21 release of Piano & A Microphone, a 9-song, 35-minute home recording of Prince noodling around at a piano. Recorded in 1983, the release will feature early takes on future classics like “Purple Rain” and “Strange Relationship” (which underwent a number of incarnations before officially landing on 1987's Sign ‘o’ the Times in full Camille drag).
While instructive in terms of Prince’s process, this is hardly the type of legacy-expanding posthumous release that Prince diehards were hoping for when Troy Carter, who’s currently in charge of Prince’s vault, announced to Variety in April that a “full-length album” was on the way. For one thing, this session has been circulating on bootlegs for years. It also seems particularly odd to focus on solo piano material from 1983—at the time, Prince’s sonic palate was expanding by kaleidoscopic proportions. He sounds naked without his LinnDrum.
If those in charge of Prince’s estate are going to ever do the artist’s legendary vault justice, they’re certainly taking their time. That said, the first “single” from this release, Prince’s take on the pre-Civil War spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep” is nice (if still laden with tape hiss):
“Mary Don’t You Weep” will play over the credits of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.
In a press release, Troy Carter said of Piano & a Microphone:
This raw, intimate recording, which took place at the start of Prince’s career right before he achieved international stardom, is similar in format to the Piano & A Microphone Tour that he ended his career with in 2016. The Estate is excited to be able to give fans a glimpse of his evolution and show how his career ultimately came full circle with just him and his piano.
Piano & a Microphone will be released via Prince’s estate and Warner Bros Records. Full tracklist is below:
“A Case Of You”
“Mary Don’t You Weep”
“Cold Coffee & Cocaine”