In celebration of Prince’s 56th birthday today,the artist in on the threshold of a huge comeback on Warner Bros. At the same time,this is not the first time he has been in such a position since the turn of the 21st century. Since Prince is now securely in the position of being the type of legacy artist in his field that he once musically admired? I am going to be presenting two reviews of the albums that symbolized Prince’s last major comeback about a decade ago. Enjoy!
First off THE best thing on this CD is the title track-an as pure-as-funk-can-be distillation of all of Prince’s musical influences-a trip back to funk 101.When I first heard the CD a couple years back I was slightly disappointed,expecting an album of songs just as funky.For one critical moment I forgot what Prince was all about-musical eclecticism.This album is free of is the heavy rap/hip-hip type funk of some of his symbol era recordings.Luckily a new wave of pop artists have taken Prince’s classic sound as a base for their own and ‘Musicology’ finds him taking back that sound,representing Prince getting back to home plate in terms of his music-that means his freewheeling mixture of funk,soul and rock styles and everything in between.
“Illusion,Coma,Pimp & Circumstance” and “Life Of The Party” are both catchy,upbeat dance songs with a lot of programming and synthesizers,but they are used in a fairly organic fashion. Both.Both are about what is new and progressive in funk rather then the old school retro style of the title cut.The main styles used on this album are a series of sexy ballads based in classic 60’s soul,”Call My Name”,On The Couch” and “Dear Mr.Man” all put a great Princely spin on an old style.One of the most impressive songs here is the eerie “What Do U Want Me 2 Do”-another great example of a well crafted song with no musical boundaries that Prince does so well,with a very complicated rhythm pattern.Most of the rest of the album explores Prince’s patented pop-rock sound on such hard edged tunes as “A Million Days” and “If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life”,both showcasing Prince’s multifarious ability on the electric guitar and his great rock n roll shouting.And he delivers one of the very best pop records of his career with the peppy “Cinnamon Girl”,on my top ten list of favorite Prince songs actually and sounds very timeless.
The final cut “Reflection” is just beautiful-a pleasant,radio friendly pop/soul/folk ballad that’s very gentle and attention grabbing.Having been released twenty years after his “Purple Rain” album this shows the music world that Prince has actually taught the mainstream audience of his generation some important musical lessons-that despite radio categorizing and such the barriers between funk,soul,rock,folk and jazz are not as big as they seem to be-even though each tend to have their own audience and are usually referred to apart Prince has found a way to bring them all together into one style AND get people to enjoy them over the years.And despite whatever angry,political rock-hip hop/funk that TAFKAP tended to specialize in Prince was always there bubbling under the surface.’Musicology’ is a new beginning for Prince,a journey he started at the beginning of the millennium by taking his name back and (finally) his music.
Originally Written On May 26th,2006
To me as a Prince fan of twenty years I was glad to see in Rolling Stone that ‘3121’ got to Number 1-it’s been awhile.But Prince’s latest CD’s since his post TAFKAP days have been a bit of a mixed bag.So I got this for my birthday and just slapped and on and BOY I must say I am impressed.But you have to put this CD on good stereo headphones-it burns.My opinion?Prince still has the nack for genre bending.And yes-‘3121’ has certain elements of his 80’s sound,namely the synthisized hooks and the heavy pop hooks.But Prince has changed his mind about the musical styles he uses for the now patened ‘Prince’ sound (he really just deserves a genre of his now)-classic funk is still the base but the rock blends in more and the jazz and new Brazillian elements are actually put into play,and (thankfully) the hip hop stuff is dead.As always variety continues to be the spice of Prince.
The title song is very deep, bassy and mysterious but “Lolita” burns with a harder,sexier funk and has a great tune attached to it.”Te Amo Corazon” is lovely,gentle latin pop jazz and very sudtle.”Black Sweat” is the big hit-it’s a fairly contemporary variation of the 1986 era Prince sound that produced “Kiss” and “Girls And Boys” but is much darkly sexier in tone.”Incence and Candles” as well as the more uptempo “Love” and “The Word” take a more contemporary taste on funk but it’s no in Prince’s orbit it’s barely noticable.”Satisfied” is terrific-one of Prince most passionate forays into classic 60’s soul with some great belting and Hammond Organ and very cleverly written.”Fury” is the one tune that harkens all the way back to 80’s Prince music with it’s funk-rock pop mixture.The final three songs here are actually some of the best here-“Beautiful,Loved And Blessed” is very bouncy and hummable-Tamar takes lead and raps (a little) and does a good job.
“The Dance” has a latin feel too but tries at a type of music Prince hasn’t really done before-the kind of Brazilian funk-jazz fusion Sheila E,George Duke.Airto and Flora Purim were doing in the 70’s.”Get On The Boat” is a terrific way to cap off-Maceo rips a solo through a cut totally worthy of James Brown-Prince himself even takes some grace notes from The Godfather himself.After all these years of hits and misses Prince is still THE MAN when it comes to his craft and at the very least ‘3121’ finds him at the top of his game.I do not know if it is marriage or his new religion that have inspired him and besides these could all be songs that existed in his vaults since the 80’s.But not likely-Prince is someone who seems to revel in letting the public here his latest material rather then relaying on his legendary vaults,which he only did briefly in the late 90’s during his post Warner Brothers slump.’3121′ merges the old with the new-it reaches out to young listeners with it’s bassy sonics,dancibility and use of technology as well as reaching out to more (shall I say) adult contemporary listeners looking to hear music from someone they grew up with-hard to believe Prince is lumped in with that age group now.And for those who just want to get funky?This like ANY Prince album is just the ticket.But it more then lives up to the hype and if he keeps moving on from this direction this could be the beginning of a new commercial comeback for his music.
Original Review From May 25th,2006
*Here are links to the original reviews.
For ‘Musicology’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1N3RE80DZWGUA/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0001XTRCI
For ‘3121’- http://www.amazon.com/review/R1HDH29CYRI5VJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B000E97HIA