Prince: The Glory Years: Unauthorized (2007) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for sensuality and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Prince, Dez Dickerson, Anthony DeCurtis, Paul Gambaccini, David Z, Alan Leeds, Owen Husney, Gayle Chapman, Pepe WIllie
Director: Rob Johnstone
Review published December 30, 2013
Prince: the Glory Years is an unauthorized documentary from 2007 about the artist currently known again as Prince, covering the years coming up as an unsigned teenage artist to the release of the pop soundtrack to 1989's Batman, including some of the popular covers of his work by Sinead O'Connor and The Bangles. Scenes from music videos and some rare concert footage are interspersed with interview snippets from a handful of musicians who once played with Prince, as well as others who've collaborated with the artist over the years. Some of these interviews are insightful, and some are just speculative, but never uninteresting.
The Glory Years is reverential to Prince as a musician, noting whenever it can his prodigious talent and influence of the music and fashion sense of the 1980s. Prince is an enigmatic and very private figure who often signs nondisclosure agreements with people who work closely with him, controlling much of he information that gets out about him. This documentary isn't full of heavy hitters, grabbing just a few on the periphery during some of the more creative periods in Prince's career.
Perhaps the biggest score in terms of interviews comes from guitarist and vocalist Dez Dickerson, one of the original members of the Revolution, who was there as a contributor of one of Prince's most seminal albums, "1999", and appeared in the semi-autobiographical film, Purple Rain. Other Revolution contributors interviewed include "1999" keyboardist Gayle Chapman and "Purple Rain" engineer David 'Z' Rivikin. A smattering of talking heads rounding out the doc include Prince's first manager, Owen Husney, Prince's 1980's tour manager and Paisley Park record label president, Alan Leeds, and opinionated music historians such as Rolling Stone's Anthony DeCurtis and BBC presenter Paul "Professor of Pop" Gambaccini.
Much of the material that seeks to explore his life is usually incomplete and without much substance, which does impede this documentary somewhat in that we get an idea of what it must be like to have worked with him as a musician, and we come to appreciate his versatile range of musical talent, but it does barely scratch the surface of who Prince is and how he comes up with the great many ideas that are expressed in his songs. If anything, the documentary does succeed in showcasing the impact of Prince's music on the recording industry as a whole, as well as some of his enduring music he has created, and what it meant for a whole generation of music fans.
The rare photographs and concert footage might be enough to titillate Prince fans, though the content isn't particularly revelatory. The production is a bit on the cheap, as outside of the music video snippets, Prince's actual music does not appear, and we have an amateurish faux-Prince beat to give the documentary a score of sorts. Nevertheless, it is well-packaged and the selection of snippets from the interviews are interesting for non-fans of Prince as well in order to grasp what a musical talent he is and how much of an impact he made on popular music that is still felt today in the music of such artists as Lenny Kravitz and D'Angelo. It's not a bad crash course for those who are unaware of his early work, and a good nostalgic trip for those who were always there.
©2013 Vince Leo