We’ve reached an important landmark on the Daily Prince blog. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to announce that today is the 69th day in a row for the Daily Prince. What an accomplishment! I feel an obligation to make today’s post sexier than any other before. I was hoping for something like “Head” or “Do Me, Baby” today, but I don’t cheat. I take what the randomizer gives me. Today’s song may not be one of Prince’s sexiest, but it’s a damned good one.
Instead of “Do Me, Baby,” I got a different track from Prince’s 1981 underrated gem, Controversy. Prince was a master at blending different genres to make something that sounds completely new and fresh even today. I listen to many Prince songs and think to myself, “Is this rock? R&B? Funk? Punk? Pop? Does it matter?” No, it really doesn’t, but we like to put labels on music. The answer with Prince is almost always that it’s a combination of some or all of the above and it gets a labeled as Minneapolis Sound. I could argue that it should be called the Prince Sound, but that would be taking credit away from pioneers who influenced him and friends and rivals who pushed him to be better. Andre Cymone, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, Alexander O’Neal, etc. Prince was the master, but he wasn’t alone.
You don’t have to think much about today’s song. If you can’t tell within the first ten seconds of listening to “Let’s Work” that it’s pure 100% funk then you’re not listening. That bass line gives it away immediately. An early version of this song called “Let’s Rock” was recorded in 1979 with Andre Cymone on bass, but the 1981 re-recording that made the Controversy album featured Prince on bass…and Prince was a motherfucker on bass. There are moments in “Let’s Work” where the bass is so good it gives me goosebumps. Prince also flexes on keyboard with some crazy precise riffs scattered throughout the track. My only complaint about “Let’s Work” is that it’s too short. Funk that good needs room to breathe. At 3:52 it’s just getting warmed up. That’s where the extended version comes in.
“Let’s Work” can only be properly appreciated on the 8:02 version, appropriately referred to simply as the “Long Version” on the 12″ single, which includes an electric guitar solo as well. I love Prince’s choice to use falsetto on this track. I have no research to back this up, funk this nasty usually features someone with a deeper voice. Prince’s high-pitched vocals on “Let’s Work” combined with his unmatched skills on every instrument give it a unique sound you can’t get from any other artist. It should be mentioned that the long version features Morris Day on drums which leads me to believe that was a fun recording session. I imagine anytime Prince and Morris were in the studio together at that time was a lot of jamming and a lot of laughs.
I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of the 12″ single at one of my favorite record stores, Strictly Discs in Madison, Wisconsin, a few years back. The sleeve is beat to hell, but the vinyl sounds amazing. The cover art has a cool shot of The Revolution pre-Wendy Melvoin. Everyone else is there, plus Dez Dickerson. If I could find this in a poster I would frame it.
My final thought today is more about the album Controversy as a whole. Side 1 is the brilliant trio of “Controversy,” “Sexuality,” and “Do Me, Baby.” Amazing music from start to finish. Side 2 is where it gets eclectic. It opens with the pop disco of “Private Joy” which blends immediately in to the political punk of “Ronnie, Talk to Russia.” Next we get the straightforward funk of “Let’s Work,” but then things get deep with the new wave “Annie Christian.” The album closes with the rockabilly filth of “Jack U Off.” Side 2 of Controversy is a strange and enjoyable ride. For all the talk about how meticulously Prince would choose the sequence of the songs on his albums, he really outdid himself here. I challenge anyone to find five songs this different and unique on one side of an album. “Let’s Work” is the song that keeps Side 2 of Controversy grounded.
I love “Let’s Work,” especially the long version. Regardless of the runtime, I have it on every uptempo playlist I have in Apple Music because that shit gets me fired up.