Deep Cuts: The Time, "Cool" (1981)

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I think it was about a year ago since there was last a discussion of 80s funk at our little corner of the blogosphere. But really, you can’t have a conversation about that topic without putting Prince into the equation.

This ain’t about the once-nameless Purple One, though (for all things Prince, I’d recommend visiting our friends at Ickmusic). Naw, today’s topic is the first nationwide taste of that funky, synth-based “Minneapolis Sound” outside of Prince himself.

It’s pretty well known by now that the little guy shepherded several acts, each having varying degrees of success: Sheila E, Vanity 6, Appolonia 6, Maserati, Madhouse, etc. But the most successful of these was The Time. Originally called Flyte TIme, the pre-Prince band was fronted by another future star in Alexander O’Neal. But when Prince took the band under his wing and got them a Warners contract, O’Neal was replaced by Morris Day. Day played drums in Prince’s high school band and didn’t have O’Neal golden croon. But Day was (and probably still is) a prime entertainer, portraying himself into a comedic self-styled suave, high class ladies man.

For The Time’s debut album, Prince didn’t even bother bringing in the band to play on the record, it’s for all intents and purposes a Prince album written and performed by him, but with Day on lead vocals. The album credits list a “Jamie Starr” as a producer and the band members with the instrumentation and background vocals, but Prince’s unmistakable vocals are so obvious they occasionally nearly overtake Day for the spotlight. As an album, The Time is virtually sides three and four to Controversy.

Which brings us, finally, to the standout track. “Cool” introduces Day as the man whose debonair demeanor and extravagant lifestyle can fulfill any woman’s dreams. On top of all that, he can front a badass band, even if the band didn’t really come around until after the song was taped.

“Cool” was built from one of those killer, sweaty synth-driven riffs that Prince was just beginning to master at the time. After bragging about a “penthouse in Manhattan” and dancing “all night in Rome,” Day explains that his secret is simply that he’s so cool, natch. It’s even spelled out in the chorus, drawn out in half time of the beat so you don’t forget it:

“Ceeeeeeee, Oh-Oh, Elllllllllll…” That spells “cool,” people.

The album version is a long ‘un, alright, with a running time going past ten minutes. It was built just for those loud, never-ending college parties. Day and Prince keep it moving along with a few tricks, like a vocal call and response and a particularly funky interlude at the six minute mark.

Morris Day and The Time, like Prince, went on to scale greater heights. They’re of course better known for their 1984 hits “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.” But the great tunes started three years earlier in a studio with just two childhood friends.

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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