Prince looms large over this 32-track history of an overlooked scene
The combination of America’s vast size and the relative insularity of its cities has long helped to create highly individual local music scenes: New Orleans funk, Detroit techno, Houston’s chopped and screwed hip-hop, Baltimore’s Bmore breakbeats.
Minneapolis, America’s 48th largest city, is an exception to this rule, and its wider musical history is something of an unknown quantity despite once being home to both Prince and the famous R&B production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. ‘Purple Snow…’, an excellent 32-track compilation that comes with a comprehensive hardback book, is an attempt to redress this, rounding up tracks from 22 of the key artists who would help to create the Minneapolis sound of the late ’70s and early ’80s, producing what the accompanying book calls “radical manipulations of American dance music, coating their futuristic funk with the glamorous sheen of guitar rock”.
As a solo artist Prince doesn’t feature. However, his shadow hangs over the compilation from its name downwards. He appears with 94 East, lending his distinctive guitar sound to 1975’s If You See Me’; he supplies guitar and background vocals to The Lewis Connection’s silky smooth ‘Got To Be Something Here’ from 1976; and he plays guitar on Music, Love & Funk’s awesome funk throwback ‘Stone Lover’.
While it’s not quite all gold – over two CDs the listener’s resistance to slap bass and super-smooth vocals may be tested – the standard as a whole is incredibly high: 13 of the 32 tracks are unreleased and you have to wonder how the world-beating electro funk of Sue Ann Carwell’s ‘Should I Or Should I Not?’ has never previously seen the light of day. This is a compelling insight into an unjustly overlooked story. It may just be the funkiest history lesson you’ll ever enjoy.