The first royal jewel from Prince’s legendary vault was unveiled Thursday to mark the singer’s 60th birthday: Warner Bros. Records announced plans to release a collection of solo-piano recordings made in 1983, just before he broke big.
The nine-song album, “Piano & a Microphone 1983,” will arrive Sept. 21 on vinyl, CD and digital formats. It’s just one of three albums of unreleased recordings announced for the fall, but it’s likely to gain the most attention given its intimate nature and an already fabled reputation among diehard collectors.
Known to bootleggers as “Intimate Moments with Prince,” the collection was recorded at the now-bulldozed “Purple House” on Kiowa Trail in Chanhassen in late-October 1983, just a month before filming of “Purple Rain” began.
The tracklist includes raw versions of the song “Purple Rain,” the 1984 B-side “17 Days,” the “1999” LP deep cut “International Lover” and “Strange Relationship,” the latter of which would not be made public until 1987 on the “Sign o’ the Times” album. It also features a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which he performed on piano at First Avenue on Aug. 3, 1983, the night he recorded “Purple Rain” and two other tracks that would wind up on his landmark album. "A Case of You" did later wind up on his 2002 collection, "One Nite Alone" (posted here and below)
There are also three unreleased originals in the set, including one that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows, “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” which the exhaustive fan site PrinceVault.com says is sung in his frilly “Jamie Starr” voice and was probably intended as a song for the Time. The other two are “Wednesday” and “Why the Butterflies.”
Curiously, the collection also includes a performance of “Mary Don’t You Weep,” a 19th century spiritual song that has been plucked from the album to run over the closing credits of Spike Lee’s new movie, “BlacKkKlansman,” due out in August. Fans will receive a download of “Mary Don’t You Weep” if they pre-order “Piano & a Microphone 1983.”
The album’s cover features a rare backstage photo of Prince during the “1999” tour by Minneapolis photographer Allen Beaulieu, who is prepping a new book of photos from that era for release in November. More of Beaulieu's pictures are also featured in the LP's packaging.
Prince’s estate manager Troy Carter said in the announcement for the record, "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."
The Prince estate also asked fans to go to their site, Prince2Me.com, to leave their thoughts on what the late Minneapolis legend meant to him. Twin Cities fans have many other options to honor his birthday this weekend, including the Minnesota Twins' "Prince Night" at Target Field and the Jake Rudh-led "Let's Go Crazy" dance party at First Ave, both on Friday night.
Here’s the tracklist for “Piano & a Microphone 1983:”
1. 17 Days
2. Purple Rain
3. A Case Of You
4. Mary Don't You Weep
5. Strange Relationship
6. International Lover
8. Cold Coffee & Cocaine
9. Why The Butterflies