To the extent that I know Prince, I know him as the dynamic performer who effortlessly combines aspects of R&B (funk, soul, etc.) with elements of rock (psychedelia, art rock, hard rock) and pop. Well, he’s dialed down the ambition at this point in his career and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
But before I get to the songs I want to discuss the bizarre decision to blend all this music together. Prince has created 9 songs here – they are distinct songs – but on the original LP and now on digital streaming, they are combined as one 45-minute track. I’m not sure what the original intent was behind this decision. Was it supposed to be harder to pick out your favourite, to encourage to listen to the record as a whole? But for me it just makes it harder for me to see which song it is when I’m listening to it. It’s a quirky thing to do but I’m not sure why he did it or what end it serves. I do know that if I wanted to tell you what I thought the best songs were, it would be harder than normal.
About those songs: as usual, Prince is a dynamic performer who makes even weak material compelling. And he hasn’t lost his sense of melody or his knack for provocative lyrics (despite this album being about “God” or something). And, as usual, he combines songs that you would think have been made for dancing or sex or both with impeccable, sometimes out-there and interesting musicianship.
But this is an R&B record – there’s just a hint of the gospel he claimed this record was about, which makes sense given it’s Prince – and what I miss most from those earlier records was the feeling that he could do literally anything he set his mind to. As a result, this record feels less ambitious but also more of a specific time and place (despite being arguably better produced than some of his earlier albums) and it just isn’t my thing.
But it’s still Prince, and it’s hard to say it’s anything less than good, it’s just not my thing.