|Piano & A Microphone 1983 is the first stand-alone album of previously unreleased material by Prince and the fourth posthumous release overall. The album is a solo piano rehearsal recorded between Spring and Autumn 1983 by Prince, at his Kiowa Trail Home Studio, Chanhassen, MN, USA. The album was announced on 7 June 2018 (which would have been Prince’s 60th birthday) with the release of the track Mary Don’t You Weep as a preview, and was released in September 2018, a month after the Anthology: 1995-2010 digital compilation.
The album was released on CD, and digital download, as well as deluxe CD+LP format, packaged in a hardback 12” gatefold book, containing the album on CD and 180g LP. The announcement also states that the package will include a 12” booklet featuring brand new liner notes written by Prince’s engineer Don Batts, who worked for Prince until July 1983 as well as candid shots of Prince including never before seen photos.
The album’s title is an intentional reference to Prince’s final tour in 2016, Piano & A Microphone. The announcement of the release stated:
- “This raw, intimate recording, which took place at the start of Prince’s career right before he achieved international stardom, is similar in format to the Piano & A Microphone Tour that he ended his career with in 2016,” said Prince Estate entertainment adviser Troy Carter. “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.”
Sessions and compiling
The album documents a home studio cassette recording by Prince. It was likely recorded by Prince to document works-in-progress and as a rehearsal only, rather than with the intention of using these recordings as a basis for overdubs or additional work.
Of the nine songs included on the album, four had not been previously released in any form by Prince: Mary Don’t You Weep (a cover version of an old negro spiritual from the American Civil War), Wednesday, Cold Coffee & Cocaine, and Why The Butterflies. A studio version of Wednesday was recorded on 24 October 1983, and was included as the fifth track on a 7 November 1983, configuration of Purple Rain, but was removed from the album and the movie as the project progressed. It is not known if, but seems unlikely that full studio versions of Mary Don’t You Weep, Cold Coffee & Cocaine, and Why The Butterflies were ever recorded.
The remaining five tracks on the album have been released in other versions previously, although on disparate projects. International Lover was recorded in the studio on 14 January 1982 and released on Prince’s fifth album 1999 later in 1982. Strange Relationship was initially recorded on 14 March 1983, but was worked on heavily over the next four years before it was released on Prince’s ninth album Sign O’ The Times in 1987. 17 Days, was re-recorded by Prince in January 1984 and released as the b-side of When Doves Cry. Purple Rain had been recorded live on 3 August 1983 and was released on Prince’s sixth album Purple Rain, the first album to be credited to Prince and the Revolution, in 1984. A Case Of You was recorded by Prince in the studio almost 18 years after the session documented here, in Spring 2001, and released on his 25th album One Nite Alone... (which was similarly subtitled "Solo piano and voice by Prince") in 2002.
Although no true singles were issued, Mary Don’t You Weep was released as a preview ahead of the album on 7 June 2018. The song was also included in Spike Lee’s movie BlacKkKlansman (premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2018 and released in August, a month before the album). 17 Days was available as a pre-release download on 6 September 2018, and a 17 Days (Piano Version) 7" vinyl single was released in September 2018 as a cover mount with the German edition of Rolling Stone magazine. Why The Butterflies was released as the final pre-release download on 13 September 2018.
The album reached number 7 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart and number 11 on the The Billboard 200.