Prince eases into a funky piano groove, asks for the lights to be turned down, lets loose a James Brown–styled “Good Gawd,” beat-boxes a little and then delivers a passionate rendition of “17 Days,” the B-side to “When Doves Cry,” on the latest recording to emerge from his upcoming Piano & a Microphone 1983 archival release. It’s a naturally sparser arrangement than the one he recorded with the Revolution — he sings the synthesizer part in falsetto — as the musician yowls lyrics about a breakup between jazzy piano fills.
The song is the opening number on Piano & a Microphone, due out September 21st, which comprises nine tunes — including “Purple Rain,” “Strange Relationship” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” — that he just felt moved to play and record onto a cassette one day at his pre–Paisley Park home studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
At the time, he’d recently put out his fifth album, 1999, and with the exception of “International Lover,” had not released any of the songs commercially. It wouldn’t be until the spring of 1985 that people would hear “17 Days,” a tune he’d originally written for the girl group he was producing, Vanity 6. After Vanity separated herself form Prince’s orbit, he decided to keep it for himself. He played it live intermittently over the decades that followed, adding it back onto his set lists in 1997 and the mid 2000s.
The late artist’s estate previously released a recording of the spiritual, “Mary Don’t You Weep,” off the Piano & a Microphone recording. The song was also featured at the end of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.
Prince’s estate also made his recordings from 1995 until 2010 available for streaming and released an anthology for comprised of music spanning 23 releases after his commercial peak. Rolling Stone also compiled a list of essential songs from this period.