This might be his quintessential work, the album he prayed he’d make before dying. After all, it’s a prayer that combines tonal elements of everything from “A-U-T-O-matic” to “Erotic City.” But that’s not what makes The Rainbow Children special.
Put this in perspective. Remember Dirty Mind? Controversy? 1999? Do you recall how the spiritual innuendo in all those albums sparked rumors of a religious-fanatic Prince, a gay Prince, even a devil-worshiping Prince? Even then, his spiritual curiosities were beyond the average listener’s comprehension. If the spiritual moments on those albums were questions, The Rainbow Children answers them.
The album sounds phenomenal, but that’s still not what makes it special. Do this. Read the liner notes before listening to it, Along the way, try to remember as much chu’ch rhetoric as possible. Then, listen as you read. Note how each song becomes a chapter in a larger, biblically familiar epic.
The Resister (the devil?) tempts woman, and through her, tempts the world. The Rainbow Children (people of God?) struggle to protect peace and love from the attacks of the Banished Ones, who live in the Digital Garden (the world?). Man and woman remarry after the Banished Ones are defeated. And as the Rainbow Children reclaim the world, they realize that temptation has led to greed, politics and racism. Finally, the album ends in a celebration of “The Everlasting Now,” with Prince asking, “If your ‘Last December’ came, what would you do?/Would anybody remember to remember you?”
In the end, all that matters is your connection to love beyond condition. Boom. This is some beautiful, Purple Rain (in its wiser years) shit. He dropped it in time to save music from its own formulaic blandness. It comes in time to pull your heart away from the spirit of war. And, aside from the irritating Darth Vader-like voice that plagues parts of the story, you’ll be musically enlightened.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.