The Time – What Time Is It? (1982)

The Time’s second album, What Time Is It? aka their best album, was created during Prince’s most prolific year. In late 1981 and into early 1982, Prince was writing and creating music at a rate that most musicians can only dream of. A song for Vanity 6, a song he’ll keep for himself, a song for The Time. Rinse, Repeat. As a creator of music, Prince was on a roll. Also, by this period, The Time was rivaling Prince and his band in terms of stage performance and “bringing down the house”, colloquially speaking. So I guess you could say that in their own way, they were on a roll as well.

By album number two, The Time was a well-oiled live-performing machine. They still needed the main music man, Prince (credited as The Starr Company), to give them the jams and then show them how to play them, but The Time were exceptionally capable musicians in their own right. They proved through hard work and practice that they could get the crowd moving with superior showmanship and tight performances.

Morris Day, Jesse Johnson, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam, Monte Moir, Jerome Benton, and Jellybean Johnson, make up The Time’s “Original 7”. This was the core version of The Time that graced the album art for the first two records (with the exception of Benton, who was instead incorporated into The Time’s live shows) and this is the version of The Time that most fans recall fondly. This, in spite of this version not being the one that was featured in Purple Rain or on The Time’s biggest hit, “Jungle Love”.

Prince and Morris Day on tour in 1982.

Why is this version of The Time so beloved? Largely because of this album and the triple threat tour, I would have to guess. I wasn’t there. I was much too young to attend any of the triple threat (Vanity 6, The Time, Prince) concerts that were performed in 1982, but from what I’ve seen online and read in a number of books written about this era, they were impressive and frankly, a blast. Sadly, my local pop-music radio station never played any songs from this album. This isn’t a surprise as the music Prince was making for The Time wasn’t necessarily meant for pop crossover radio, which is all I had access to. I came to What Time Is It? much later, long after I began listening to Prince and long after its original ’82 release. Thankfully, the music is timeless, no pun intended.

Similar to their self-titled debut, What Time Is It? is a mere 6 tracks and a tight 39 minutes in length. Four of the six tracks exceed 6 minutes in length, which allows for the songs to extend the grooves and create a dance-able, party atmosphere. This also allowed for patented Morris Day ad-libs, calls and responses, and overall ridiculousness. This lengthy and loose song structure is something Prince was toying with while creating his 1999 album, released the same year. Long track lengths & vocal vamping must have been something in the water at Prince’s Kiowa Trail home studio in 1982 and we’re all the benefits of it.

Wild & Loose (4.5/5) – Morris and the gang explain their mission statement for the album in this banger of an album opener. The lifestyles of the young, rich, cool, and a bit rude to the ladies, is spelled out at great length. The 7 & a half minute track length is warranted thanks to the woozy synth line and memorable chorus.

“Wild and loose, the only life I know. Just havin’ one big party from show to show.”

777-9311 (5/5) – The album’s stand-out track and biggest hit should rival “Jungle Love” for supremacy in The Time’s discography, but likely never will as it wasn’t featured in one of the biggest movies of 1984. Not to be confused with “867-5309”, this song title’s phone number isn’t that of an embarrassed object of affection, but of an object of Day’s desire. The main reason this song hits hard is the drum programming, the bass, and the electrifying guitar solo. In short, the music is what really dominates the experience of this song. That doesn’t mean the chorus won’t get stuck in your brain the minute you hear it.

“Baby, what’s your phone number?”

Onedayi’mgonnabesomebody (3/5) – Prince uses the rockabilly new wave template from “Delirious”, “Horny Toad” and apparently a number of other songs unearthed for the 1999 Super Deluxe released in 2019, for this short (2:26) burst of a track that ends side A. Considering the song is more memorable for the sound effect of the record player needle being ripped off the vinyl, abruptly ending the song in order to allow The Time, and Prince is a distinctive fake cackle, to announce “We don’t like new wave!” before erupting into maniacal laughter.

“The only way I’d work at a car wash is if I owned the whole damn place.”

The Walk (3.5/5) – At 9 and a half minutes, this track is the longest on the album, but in my opinion, it’s the only one that eventually wears out its welcome. “The Walk” is designed to create a new dance sensation ala “The Twist”, or more appropriately, “The Bird”. Despite it being released as a single, it was never able to capture the zeitgeist as intended. The song’s groove is certainly funky and it has that distinctive Minneapolis Sound that Prince was the mastermind behind. Unfortunately, it devolves a bit into a mildly misogynistic, grating skit where Day attempts to get a woman he calls Grace, who is not named Grace, to take off her jeans so she can wear a camisole to go dancing. The whole shtick lasts too long and Day comes off less charming and more smarmy. Maybe that was the design but it gets old quickly.

“Damn, I’m ’bout to walk a hole in my Stacy Adams.”

Gigolos Get Lonely Too (5/5) – The only “ballad” or slow jam on the album, “Gigolos” has recently been remembered as one of The Time tracks featured on the Prince Originals released in the summer of ’19. On this track, Day puts aside his player persona to sing a song about the loneliness and emptiness of, well, basically being a sex worker. Man-sluts need love and affection too and maybe Prince, through Day, is expressing a desire to settle down to find “the one” instead of hopping from bed to bed. A theme that Prince would revisit for 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon. Considering how young these two men were at the time of this recording, one can only imagine that this feeling was likely fleeting.

“I’ve got more money than you could imagine in your wildest dreams.”

I Don’t Wanna Leave You (5/5) – A rollicking piano riff highlights the album’s final song. For the second consecutive track, Day exhibits vulnerability to superb effect. He goes from expressing a desire to end the playboy life on “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” to singing about longing & yearning for a woman that is either playing hard to get or isn’t looking at all. The album’s themes of youthful kicks, women, music, and lavish parties come with a price. Day, The Time, and Prince were eager to show all sides of this lifestyle

“Let me try to love you. I know I could.”

My vinyl copy of What Time Is It?

Overall: 4.5/5

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