Purple Rain (the motion picture soundtrack to the movie Purple Rain) is the sixth full-length studio album by Prince, and the first to be credited to Prince And The Revolution. It was released worldwide in June, 1984, a month before the movie, Purple Rain opened in theaters. Released a year and eight months after Prince's previous album 1999, it marked the longest period between albums to date.
The album was mostly recorded between August, 1983, and March, 1984, although „Baby I'm A Star“ had first been recorded in 1981. The last three songs on the album, „I Would Die 4 U“, „Baby I'm A Star and Purple Rain“, were recorded live at the 3 August, 1983, First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, USA show, although overdubs and edits took place later. This marked the first time Prince had included live recordings on an album or on any release.
In keeping with previous albums, all tracks were primarily written by Prince. „Computer Blue“ features songwriting input by Dr. Fink, Lisa Coleman, and Wendy Melvoin. Dr. Fink also wrote a keyboard bass line for the track. Prince’s father John L. Nelson was also credited for the „Father's Song“ component of the track, which had been worked on during rehearsals on the 1983 leg of the 1999 Tour.
While Prince's previous albums were primarily solo recordings by Prince, Purple Rain contained the credits “produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince And The Revolution.”
The full band appears on four tracks: „Let's Go Crazy“, „I Would Die 4 U“, „Baby I'm A Star“ and „Purple Rain“. Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman also appear on „Computer Blue“, while the remainder of the tracks are essentially solo performances. Apollonia sings co-lead on „Take Me With U“. Three of the tracks include a string section arranged by Lisa Coleman and Prince, conducted by Coleman and Melvoin: „Take Me With U“, „Baby I'm A Star“, and „Purple Rain“. The string players are Novi Novog (violin and viola), David Coleman (cello), and Suzie Katayama (cello).
The album produced five commercially-released singles, „When Doves Cry“ (which preceded the album), „Let's Go Crazy“, „Purple Rain“, „I Would Die 4 U“ and „Take Me With U“. Both „When Doves Cry“ and „Let's Go Crazy“ reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Prince supported the album with the Purple Rain Tour, his most extensive to date, and the first billed as Prince And The Revolution. Every song on the album was played regularly on the tour, which comprised of 100 shows throughout the United States, also including two shows in Canada.
Purple Rain reached number 1 on the US Billboard Top Lps And Tape chart, where it remained for 12 weeks (the album remained almost a year in the US charts). It also reached number 1 on the US Billboard Black LPs chart, remaining at top position for 19 weeks.
In Canada the albums topped the RPM Top 100 Albums chart for 17 weeks, and the "The Record Top 40 Albums" chart where it remained 13 weeks. The albums fared also well in Europe, reaching number 1 position in the Netherlands (for 3 weeks), top 5 positions in Germany, Sweden and Norway, and top ten positions in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria and France.
Boosted by the success of the Purple Rain movie, the album catapulted Prince to international stardom as the album outsold all of his previous (and subsequent) albums, selling 13 million copies in the US and 5 million in the rest of the world.
A stone cold masterpiece by any reckoning, Purple Rain is one of those rare albums that managed to be as commercially successful as it was artistically innovative. Released in the wake of the breakthrough success of 1999, Prince designed Purple Rain as a commercial blockbuster, but he didn't let his attempts to woo mainstream pop listeners interfere with his unbridled musical dynamism and irrepressible lyrical eccentricity. Prince’s prodigious talents as a producer, musician and arranger are hardly unique in pop music – Leon Ware, Sly Stone, and Todd Rundgren were similarly inclined jacks of all trades – but unlike those artists Prince was able to express his musical vision while maintaining an uncanny understanding of the demands of the music buying public. He opens Purple Rain with the deliriously cathartic electric gospel roar of “Let’s Go Crazy” only to segue into the impeccably arranged psychedelic pop of “Take Me With You”, flaunting his talents to be sure, but also applying lessons learned from the success of the eclectic 1999 and catering to every imaginable musical demographic. From the innovative ballad “When Doves Cry” to the stately swan song of the title track Purple Rain is a machine-tooled triumph that deserves to be ranked amongst the finest pop albums of the twentieth century.