The Catalog of Morris Day
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Flashback Friday Album Retrospective: The Catalog of Morris Day

In honor of his upcoming Unsung episode airing Sunday, March 21st at 9 pm EST on TV One, I wanted to take a look back at Morris Day’s solo career. There isn’t a review of It’s About Time Day’s 2004 album or any of his newer singles. Instead, I wanted to focus solely on his first three albums.

The Catalog of Morris Day

In honor of his upcoming Unsung episode airing Sunday, March 21st at 9 pm EST on TV One, I wanted to take a look back at Morris Day’s solo career. There isn’t a review of It’s About Time Day’s 2004 album or any of his newer singles. Instead, I wanted to focus solely on his first three albums.

Following a successful appearance in the classic film Purple Rain, The Time should’ve gone on to a superior level of success higher than they were already experiencing. For reasons that aren’t my business, the band’s front man Morris Day opted for a solo career beginning with the release of Color of Success. Hitting record stores on November 11th, 1985, Color of Success was led by the single “The Oak Tree.”

A funky song with a dance to match, I always felt that “The Oak Tree” had a similar vibe to The Time’s “The Bird.” It was the perfect song to highlight Day as a solo artist, and the video is still a hoot. Day’s next single was the album’s title track that serves as a response to his critics and those meddling in his business and personal affairs. I’ve always enjoyed the song. Almost thirty-six years later, it still serves as an anthem for anyone dealing with haters. 

“The Character” was the third single from the album and had the same musical aura as the preceding song. Here’s the thing though, Morris was singing some profound subliminal messages that anyone can relate to. “Love Sign” was the fourth and final single winner with an infectious groove and positive message. Before closing out his debut with the fun “Love/Addiction,” Morris gives us a ballad.

“Don’t Wait for Me” is an old-school playa’s anthem. Morris comes off so smooth in this slow dance classic; novice listeners may not even notice that he’s giving you a warning. The lyrics include, “Your love is forever, so you say…my love is reckless girl, and day to day…girl can you understand, baby don’t be blind… I’m just a drifter girl, don’t waste your time”. Today’s singers should take note of this track, particularly of the killer guitar riff that begins at 4:52.

From an argumentative standpoint, some may feel that Day just made another Time album without the band. However, while Day’s debut does have six songs as The Time’s did, those records were almost entirely produced by Prince. Color of Success is produced, arranged, and composed by Day, who also plays drums and keyboards throughout the album. Color of Success is a solid debut overall and a great kick-off to a promising solo career.

The Catalog of Morris Day

Day released his second solo outing, Daydreaming, on January 13th, 1987. Given his debut’s success, the label increased Day’s budget for his sophomore effort, which allowed him to reunite with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. As music historians know, Jam and Lewis were originally members of The Time before being fired. Jam & Lewis were now in-demand producers, having worked with the likes of SOS Band, Force MDs, Alexander O’Neal, and of course Janet Jackson. Thus their musical reunion with Day was highly anticipated by critics and fans alike.

Morris Day opens up his solo sophomore release with the album’s title track. “Daydreaming” begins with Morris letting listeners know he’s back while tapping into his ladies-man persona, promising to take ladies on a magic carpet ride. The funk continues with “Yo’Luv,” which Day co-composed with Freeze and his then-wife Judi. 

However, it’s the next track, “Fishnet,” that would become Day’s biggest solo hit. Not only did Day have a chance to work with his old buddies Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, but Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton & Jesse Johnson all provide backing vocals. An ode to women’s undergarments, the song is playful and never crosses into crass material.

You already know I’m a huge fan of Morris when he goes into ballads. Up first is the confessional “A Man’s Pride.” Orchestrated by Clare Fischer and arranged by Morris, the song also has a grand piano solo from Salvatore Macaluso. What I like about “A Man’s Pride” is the haunting atmosphere the music evokes. It’s almost as if Morris was tapping into Broadway or Gospel plays. I could easily see the song as part of the soundtrack to a theater play. One of the song’s critical lines is “Cause it takes a man, just to understand a man’s pride.

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis provide Day with the hit single “Love is a Game.” Listening to the lyrics, I could also see the song as a pseudo-sequel to The Time’s 1982 hit “Gigolos Get Lonely Too.” Naturally, before the song closes, Morris gives us one of his signature raps. The other songs on the project come off as a bit of filler, but the funk and groove are infectious. I particularly would’ve loved to hear “Are You Ready” in concert back in the day.

Top Songs: “Fishnet,” “A Man’s Pride,” and “Love’s A Game.”

The Catalog of Morris Day

Morris Day would wait five years to release his next solo album. Day appeared in an ill-received and perplexing sequel to Purple Rain titled Graffiti Bridge during his solo hiatus. He also found time to reunite with The Time for a new album titled Pandemonium, which I still feel is vastly underrated.

Day’s third solo album, Guaranteed, hit shelves in 1992. Day decided to dabble in New Jack Swing with sprinkles of his signature sound for his third album. Bernard Belle contributes his production skills to the opening song “Gimmie What You Got.” I do like the vibe of the song, and Day does appear to have fun. “Circle of Love” is decidedly New Jack as well, but here the production just doesn’t carry over as strong.

Day’s heart just doesn’t appear to be into the production on the first half of the CD. Things pick up for him with Track #5, “Everlasting,” a midtempo ballad. Guaranteed other ballad, Changes is the album’s second strongest song. Co-written with Michael Stokes, the vibe Day should’ve kept for the entire album. Although I did like “Meant To Be Together” and “Who’s That Girl.” 

It’s not that Guaranteed is a bad album; it’s just unfocused. I understand what the label was going for by possibly introducing Day to a younger fan base, but Day’s style just didn’t mesh with the New Jack swing sound of 1992. Perhaps a four-song EP combined with Day’s previous hits would’ve been the better route to go.

Top Songs: “Everlasting,” “Changes,” “Meant to Be Together,” and “Who’s That Girl

Final Grades: Color of Success (B+), Daydreaming (B), Guaranteed(C)

The first time I saw Purple Rain, it was all about Prince and still is. However, no one can just COOL Morris Day was and still is. If you’ve never heard his solo work, it’s worth checking out.

All three albums are available on all streaming platforms, as is Day’s new music.

Be sure to tune into TV One this Sunday as well for Unsung: Morris Day

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