REVIEW: ‘Piano & a Microphone 1983’ highlights the brilliance of Prince’s artistry

Alex Novak

“Piano & a Microphone 1983” is an incredible new collection of Prince songs, and the album provides a refreshing twist from the iconic artist who died more than two years ago.

The album is just what it sounds like: Prince, a perfectly tuned piano that is blessed with his impeccable skill, and his well-known, wide-ranging voice that doesn’t seem to ever miss a note.

His first album to be released posthumously, it was discovered at his Paisley Park estate in his private vault on a single cassette tape, and it was recorded alone in one continuous take at his own home studio in 1983.

The album illustrates his skills as a musician, vocalist, songwriter, and showman. Prince uses every layer of his voice, paired with his fingers hitting the keys, to make each song as good as it can be.

The album is also completely unedited, so listeners can hear the hum of the recording device in the background as Prince sings effortlessly with soul and grace. Prince — whose voice epitomized smoothness throughout his memorable life and career — transitions between songs so seamlessly that it’s hard for listeners to catch.

He opens up the session with the six-minute-long “17 Days,” which is the B-side to his hit song “When Doves Cry” that flows so perfectly it could keep going even when it reaches its end, and it transitions right into his signature “Purple Rain.”

The song change is only noticeable because it starts off with the chilling opening section that is universally recognizable, and it powerfully proceeds to flow through a verse and chorus from the legendary song.

“Piano & a Microphone 1983” allows a glimpse into the life of one of the greatest artists of all time, and at his most vulnerable. It feels like a trip back in time with Prince and a behind-the-scenes look into his mind.

One of the many highlights Prince delivers exists in his cover of “A Case Of You,” a 1971 Joni Mitchell song that showcases him tickling the piano keys masterfully. He then jumps right into a soulful cover of spiritual classic “Mary Don’t You Weep.” He furthers his genius on “Strange Relationship” as he adds a self-echo technique to further bring the song to life.

Continuing his improvisation, he stops here and there on “International Lover” to allow the reverberation of his trademark falsetto to faintly return to listeners’ ears. In “Cold Coffee and Cocaine,” he successfully mimics drums and adds different impressions of backup vocalists to an impromptu song.

The album will especially hit home for his great number of fans following the sudden shock of his passing in April 2016.

“What’s this shaking in me?” he sings to close out the show with a beautiful rendition of “Why The Butterflies?” He is an artist who will be dearly missed — and undeniably one who many wish was still around to write more music for the world.

Alex Novak is an entertainment reviewer. Contact him at [email protected].