My life has followed a distinct pattern since 1985. I hit a point where I know something is missing from my life. Then something happens. Prince releases a new album and suddenly I realize what was missing: Prince!
Lotus Flow3r, the first of Prince’s new triple album release, is a return to the kind of Prince album that I loved in the 80s and 90s. To be honest, I wouldn’t put his last three releases – Planet Earth, 3121 and Musicology – on my list of his best albums though all three of them have a handful of amazing tunes. The second 45 minute disc is called MPLSound and the third CD is a Prince-penned and produced album entitled Elixer for a new artist named Bria Valente.
I read a blasphemous blog review of this new album and I felt compelled to put my 2 cents in. Although the blogger was well informed about Prince’s music they followed the ignoramus view held by the general public, which is they think he has never topped Purple Rain. Message to these people—> Prince doesn’t care!
This ignorant point of view is frustrating to someone like me who has almost 40 Prince albums, each with songs as good as anything on Purple Rain. Once you hit gold with something like Purple Rain you can do whatever the hell you want with the rest of your albums, and thankfully Prince has followed that path and remained enormously successful in the business. This album is no different.
Remember that Purple Rain only had 9 songs. This release has 30 songs. So all he needs is 9 good songs to be at least in the running against Purple Rain.
The best of the three albums is this 12 song electric guitar journey. The cover of the album immediately made me think of Jimi Hendrix, one of Prince’s major influences. This album is a return to the hard rock guitar that people seem to miss so much from his early music. It is closest in style to 2001’s The Rainbow Children, his last truly great album.
His guitar playing genius is all over this surprisingly cohesive album. The album is bookended by two songs, From the Lotus… and …Back 2 the Lotus that can only be described as jazz-fused soundscapes of electric guitar feedback. The opening instrumental leads into the interstellar musings of the song Boom. Alternating between a jazzy cosmic poetry and a heavy blues riff that had me air-guitaring while driving. This is followed by a cover of Crimson and Clover. At first I didn’t understand why he did this, but it fits into the album quite well, showing off once again his heavy guitar playing.
Colonized Mind is laid-back and bluesy and reflects Prince’s evolving and sobering political point of view, which attacks the two-party political system in America and the “illusion of choice”. But once again, it is the guitar playing which raises this song to a breathtaking climax. Same with the Hendrix influenced Dreamer, which may be the hardest rockin’ song he has ever done. A great guitar-playing friend of mine once described Prince as essentially a blues man, if you strip away the image. You can really hear that on this album.
There are a few songs where he drifts away from the guitar concept. Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful is some good old-fashioned Prince party funk. $ is Prince’s Brian Setzer style big-band swing and 77 Beverly Park is a Greek influenced instrumental number. In my humble opinion there are 8 great songs on this disc. We’re almost at the Purple Rain mark of 9 songs.
I would have been happy with just one disc. This disc is the funkier part of the equation and contains some of the best Prince songs I’ve ever heard. Chocolate Box is a piece of pop candy that is dangerous to drive to because I started driving to the beat.
Ol’ Skool Company should be put on the list of funkiest songs EVER! It contains one of the funkiest guitar solos that has ever been recorded to my knowledge. I know I sound over-enthusiastic but that is only because this guitar solo is so freakin’ CRAZZEEEE to listen to. This is also one of his more political songs, taking shots at the U.S. government bailouts; “Fat cats on Wall Street get a bailout, while somebody else got to wait. 700 billion but in my old neighborhood, nothing changed but the date.” His nod to Obama’s victory is contained in the line “If the White House is now black, we got to take the radio back.” Rock on, Prince!
Valentina is a dance-pop love song to Mexican actress Salma Hayek who has directed videos for Prince. This catchy synth-pop song sounds like it would be a sure-fire hit if Prince cared about such things anymore. The guitar solo is an homage to Prince’s other guitar hero, Carlos Santana. Better With Time proves Prince can still write a soul ballad like no one else’s business. Dance 4 Me mixes gospel, dance and funk music bringing together God and sex in a way only Prince can. There are a few bizarre points on the album, like the Jerry Lee Lewis-on-meth number that ends the album called No More Candy 4 U. But it wouldn’t be a Prince album if you didn’t once in a while think “Huh?” It’s part of his persona to be odd and unpredictable.
So there are at least five real winners on this disc. That makes 13 great songs so far.
Some reviewers just skip over this one, which I think is a mistake. This is still a Prince album. You wouldn’t skip over Sheila E and The Time if you were telling the story of Prince. His side projects often contain some real gems, that for some reason or another he has decided would sound better coming out of someone else’s (usually a woman’s) voice. Personally, I even have the Carmen Elektra-Prince collaboration album.
This isn’t in the Carmen Elektra category. Overall this album has a latin/jazz/pop feel and I really wanted to listen to it while sitting in a fancy lounge in Miami. Also it would make a great make-out album. Actually, to hell with the making out, just bring it into the bedroom with you. Valente’s voice is silky smooth and very sexy to listen to.
Everytime is a sweeter-than-sweet classic Prince ballad using the exceptional talents of jazz orchestrator Clare Fischer. I have a crush on Fischer’s lush orchestrations. Some of Prince’s greatest music uses Fischer’s talents and you know that he wouldn’t use this guy unless he felt very strongly about the quality of this album. The title song Elixer (pun intended), a duet with Prince, also utillizes the Fischer orchestra.
2nite is an energetic and appealing disco dance song rivaling anything I’ve heard in this category of music in a long time. Another Boy is reminiscent rhythmically to Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets and has the coolest 70s soul groove. Elton John, incidentally, has been performing a lot with Prince lately. John is in awe of Prince’s talent and stated on Larry King Live that Prince is probably the greatest performer alive. No arguments here Sir Elton.
The rest of the songs are great too but those are the stand outs. In total there are 17 really great songs on this album. That is almost twice the amount of songs on Purple Rain.
My Prince Myth-Busting continues…