After the hard rock of Purple Rain and the 60s psychedelica of Around The World In A Day, Parade returned to the robotic funk of his roots but with a palette of exotic orchestrations and a new skinny, honking horn sound on tracks like ‘Girls & Boys’ and ‘New Position’ that seemed to hark back to the 1930s as much as the black and white movie he directed, Under The Cherry Moon, that these songs were ostensibly a ‘soundtrack’ to. Like Hemingway, Prince’s great secret was his discovery that taking things out made what you left in all the more powerful, and tracks like ‘I Wonder U’ are barely there at all, and all the better for it.
It’s easy to forget but Parade is essentially Prince’s only great ‘concept’ album, in that it begins with a parade for ‘Christopher Tracy’ - his character in the movie - and ends with a song mourning that fictional character's death. And every song along the way is perfectly formed and seamlessly slides into the one beside it like threads in a Persian tapestry, most triumphantly at the point ‘Life Can Be So Nice’ kicks in. The great songs for me are, obviously, Kiss, but equally Girls & Boys, the soaring, immortal ‘Mountains’ and his most paradoxically heartfelt ballad, ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’. But, probably more than any other of his albums, this one needs to be heard in its entirety every time.
As an afterword, I really have to add a youtube video isn’t the best way to hear any of these records, and should be used only as an low-res sampler for you to get a hard copy of the real thing, ideally on vinyl, at least until a decent remaster comes along.