The Time: Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam, Morris Day, Monte Moir, Jellybean Johnson, Jesse Johnson.
Essentially a side project for Prince in the wake of his tour with Rick James in support of Dirty Mind (1980), the Time made their self-titled album debut in 1981, a few months before the release of Controversy. The band's lineup is listed as Morris Day (vocals), Jesse Johnson (guitar), Terry Lewis (bass), Jimmy Jam (keyboards), Monte Moir (keyboards), and Jellybean Johnson (drums) -- all from the same Minneapolis music scene as Prince -- though reportedly all the music heard on The Time was performed by Prince with the exception of the vocals and a couple synthesizer solos. Moreover, Prince wrote all but one of the songs. None of this information is evident in the liner notes, however (at least not on the initial edition), as the only sign of Prince's involvement is a production credit for Jamie Starr, one of his pseudonyms. The origin of the Time -- and subsequently Vanity 6 -- came about because Prince was a prolific artist and his record label, Warner Brothers, recognizing this, gave him its contractual blessing to create side projects. This worked out well for Prince since he was able to release music in addition to his proper solo recordings, and he would have himself an opening band for his tours. The Time may have not written or performed the music on their self-titled debut, but they were fully capable of performing it live on-stage as Prince's opening act. Far from a bunch of stage actors, the Time was actually a talented bunch: Morris Day would prove himself a charismatic frontman and had previously co-written "Partyup" for Dirty Mind; Jesse Johnson would develop as a virtuosic guitarist; and most accomplished of all, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam would become a first-rate production duo, helming Janet Jackson's Control in 1986, among many other projects. As for the album itself, The Time is short on material, featuring only six songs, a couple of them quite slight, but there are a few truly fantastic songs here on a par with Prince's best work of the era, namely "Get It Up," "Cool," and "The Stick," all extended synth-funk jams in the eight-to-ten-minute range. Successive albums by the Time would be more typical of the band itself, yet The Time is no less noteworthy for the lack of the band's involvement; in fact, this debut release is especially noteworthy for Prince fans enamored of his Dirty Mind-era output, for the music here feels like a session of outtakes as sung by Morris Day. ~ Jason Birchmeier