A new Prince album, which is 35 minutes long, has nine songs and includes a bare-bones, melancholy early version of the hit song Purple Rain. The entire album is an elegantly uncluttered recording of the pop artist, alone in his studio 35 years ago. The album also features a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and “Cold Coffee & Cocaine.” In some songs, Prince incorporates improvised riffs and gospel-style grandeur.
The song that will likely interest casual listeners the most is “Mary Don’t You Weep,” which is a classic, pre-civil war African-American spiritual song that was used in the end credits of Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman.
According to NBC News, the album comes straight from Prince’s storied personal vault. It’s the first official album release since his death at the age of 57. The singer was found unresponsive in an elevator at his estate in Minneapolis on April 21, 2016. According to officials, he died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, an opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin.
But the release of Piano & A Microphone 1983 offers Prince’s fans a look back in time. A year after the album was recorded and put away in storage, his fame skyrocketed with the success of Purple Rain.
Billboard reports that the album was released by Warner Bros. Records. Before its release, fans were able to pre-order it on CD, LP, deluxe CD+ LP, digital release, and streaming. According to Prince estate entertainment adviser Troy Carter, the album is similar in format to the Piano & A Microphone Tour that Prince 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,” Carter said before the album’s release.
The album’s cover has a rare image of the singer backstage during his 1999 Tour. The photograph was taken by Allen Beaulieu, who worked with Prince between 1979 and 1984 for the covers of Dirty Mind and Controversy, and the promo shots for 1999.
The Deluxe version of the album will also include a 12-inch booklet with liner notes from Don Batts, who was Prince’s engineer. Revolution keyboardist Lisa Coleman also wrote some liner notes for the album and told Billboard the following.
“Listening to this tape is kind of like watching a soccer player warm up with a soccer ball — they just kick it around and bounce it off all the different parts of their body. They’re focusing. They’re alone, even though it’s a team sport. In his mind, he was always creating for huge audiences and playing to the world, but at this moment it’s just him and the songs and it feels like just you that he’s talking to. It’s so intimate. It’s really just him and a piano.”