Review Summary: A pleasant and underrated listen with a unique sound.
As an album, "One Nite Alone" sounds like it should rank among one of Prince's most interesting - a stripped down, mostly 'piano and voice' affair, unlike any other one in his category. And yet, even in comparison to some of his other 'lost years' records, it still remains one of the easiest to overlook in his catalog, if not the easiest.
It's not hard to understand why at first: with its bland cover and stunning lack of any song that made it into Prince's live repertoire on any sort of basis, it's like child's play to think the album offers nothing special. As with most of Prince's more obscure works, however, there are several hidden gems that make it a real sleeper and a very pleasant listen.
The opening title track is remarkably eerie, with its stabbing chords and Prince's carnal baritone reciting passages such as:
"The undulating acrobat ready to do your bidding says
"Come, you must let me dress you
But first I must do a fitting
Do you like fast? Or do you like it slow?""
...with a sort of menacing quality he rarely displayed. The second song, "U're Gonna C Me," is even quieter but also even more sinister, the longing presented in its lyrics bordering on obsessive or even stalkerish. Sandwiched between the title song and "Here On Earth" (which contains lyrics about a "young woman running for her very life, trying to get away from the one who loves her," this makes up arguably the creepiest three song arc of any Prince record.
The rest of the record is a bit more light thematically, with Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of U" (a song that had been in his live repertoire on and off throughout his career) being a real highlight, a truly tender and sincere rendition with one of Prince's best vocals. There's also the sarcasting spurn "Pearls Before Swine," and the lovely instrumental "Arboretum," which closes the record.
The best song, however, is "Avalance," which veers thematically from the rest of the album by being the most politically charged song Prince had written since maybe "Sign O' The Times," taking direct aim at America's whitewashing of Abraham Lincoln and other intellectual injustices that still plague the African American community even today. Prince's falsetto has never sounded more phantasmal, giving it a snake like sound that works for the sting carried for the lyrics. It's one of his best deep cuts and one that reads as profoundly relevant in today's climate.
The piano playing on the record isn't outstanding, serving to forward the melody of the songs rather than show off Prince's chops as if his keyboard work was on the same level as his guitar playing. Still, Prince's playing is lovely, tasteful and serves each song perfectly.
"One Nite Alone" isn't a masterpiece. It's likely not an even an album Prince himself cared much for, since only "Avalanche" was ever performed live; he didn't even revisit it for his final 'Piano And A Microphone' tour, which would have maybe gave the album a chance to be revisited and reassessed. That said, it's an enjoyable listen, and it's perfect background music for a candlelit dinner or any intimate interaction of your choosing.