HIS NAME IS PRINCE, and he is funky -- funkier, in fact, than he's been in ages. Through the first dozen or so songs on , Prince and the N.P.G. offer a balance between rhythmic insistence and instrumental showmanship that at its best recalls the glory days of James Brown and the JB's.
Granted, it doesn't hurt that most of the songs concern Prince's favorite subject -- sex. But what makes the material kick isn't the way "The Continental" climaxes with his female lead's lubricious reply to the musical question "How U wanna be done?" No, what puts the album over is that Prince and his crew back those words with music that's just as physical as the lyrics are suggestive. "Sexy M.F.," for example, is a wonderfully hyped-up take on Seventies funk, all jabbing brass and jangling guitar, while "My Name Is Prince" boasts a drum-driven pulse so potent it makes moving to the beat involuntary.
Even better, Prince maintains the music's intensity no matter how he changes the beat. He effortlessly shifts from the jovial reggae of "Blue Light" to the techno thump of "I Wanna Melt With U" and slides from the semi-industrial grind of "The Continental" into the lithe, string-cushioned balladry of "Damn U"; rarely has his protean musicality been more pleasurable.
Had he stopped there, would have been an uncomplicated delight -- even with its indecipherable title. But Prince, apparently convinced that he's as great a moralist as he is a musician, spends the last seven songs wrestling with sex, stardom, sacrifice and salvation -- the same hodgepodge that made Sign o' the Times so incomprehensible.
A pity, because the music on these songs -- like "The Flow," with its jazzy trombone break, or the richly textured ensemble work on "3 Chains o' Gold" -- ranks among the album's finest. But as usual, ambition gets the better of him, and Prince ends up turning what might have been simple fun into a high-concept muddle.
-- J.D. CONSIDINE
ROLLING STONE, NOVEMBER 26TH, 1992
Prince Album Is A Royal Disappointment
Musically this soap features regal references to a King (as in Nat Cole), a Queen (as in the British rock group led by the late Freddie Mercury) and a Duke (as in Ellington). But mostly it's Prince trying to establish himself as the king of hip-hop.
The "libretto" of this long-winded, 16-song, nearly 80-minute album, due in stores Tuesday, is about as flimsy as the plots of Prince's films "Graffiti Bridge" and "Under the Cherry Moon." The opera chronicles Prince courting a 16-year-old princess from Cairo, Egypt.
The album - the only title given is a stylized insignia merging the symbols for man and woman - is, in a word, uneventful.
The Minneapolis rock star reportedly will reveal the name of the title symbol in the 16th and final music video he'll make for this project. In the meantime, let's call the album "Love."
"Love" lacks the made-for-radio savoir faire of last year's best-selling "Diamonds and Pearls," the ambition of 1987's "Sign o' the Times" and 1984's "Purple Rain" (the latter arguably his best two albums), the focus of the double-disc soundtrack to 1990's "Graffiti Bridge" and the inventiveness of Prince's early albums. Above all, "Love" sounds like a PG-13, hip-hop-oriented sequel to "The Black Album," Prince's boldly sexual album from 1987, which was never released but was widely bootlegged.
"Love" is the prolific Prince's most derivative-sounding album. The opening "My Name Is Prince, " his current single, is teeming with the hip-hop attitude of self-importance spouted by rappers for the past 10 years. Raps - some by Prince, others by Tony M. of the New Power Generation - crop up unexpectedly in several songs. Prince used to be hip; now he's just another hip-hopper.
In the past, Prince was one of popular music's most tantalizing impressionists, assimilating musical ideas from various sources and putting his own stamp on new material. But here, he blatantly borrows from Queen on the silly, bombastic "3 Chains o' Gold"; he does a bad Billy Joel impression on "The Morning Papers," and he explores the beat-jazz pop of Rickie Lee Jones on "Love 2 the 9's" before getting carried away with a rap.
Admirably, Prince evokes Ellington at the end of "And God Created Woman" and in the varied orchestration of "Sexy MF," the controversial, insinuating, jazz-funk track that reportedly will appear in X- and PG-rated versions in two different editions of this album.
Other derivative numbers provide some of the most satisfying moments on "Love." "Damn U," a classic sophisticated jazz-pop ballad, is pure Nat King Cole. "I Wanna Melt with You," a nasty dance-groove workout, sounds as if it was done by an updated Time, the group Prince started around Morris Day.
"Love" has the potential to be a funky R&B party album with "Melt," "My Name Is Prince, " "Sexy MF" and "The Max" certain to keep people dancing. It also includes some of Prince's typically remarkable ballads, including the pretty "Sweet Baby" and "Damn U."
The album showcases the self-indulgent side of Prince, who even essays reggae for the first time on record with "Blue Light," a soulful vocal number. Prince's most indulgent selection, the closing "Sacrifice of Victor," may be the album's quintessential piece. It begins with Kirstie Alley, playing a journalist, on the telephone trying to interview Prince about his widely reported affair with a young princess of Cairo. Alley wants him to the tell the truth, but he confounds her with mysticism and then churns out a furious funk (George Clinton meets James Brown at Paisley Park) that finds Prince singing about school integration, brotherhood and the importance of education, as preached to him by his real-life surrogate mother, longtime Minneapolis activist and social worker Bernadette Anderson.
When all is said and done, Prince's new album is a king-sized disappointment.
-- Jon Bream
Review by Greg Sandow
My name is Prince and I am funky." Over a roiling beat, that's what the man sings at the start of his new record-the unpronounceable -- and even dedicated fans may shake their puzzled heads. After 13 years of stardom, could Prince really think we've forgotten?
But no. is a "rock soap opera," whose narrative -- unclear from the record itself -- will unfold in an upcoming comic book, and in videos to be filmed for each of the 18 tracks on the album. So it's not Prince the auteur singing those words, but Prince the ultrahip hero of the story, who rescues an Egyptian princess and dodges interviews with Cheers' Kirstie Alley (her voice is heard on the record in the role of a reporter).
And Prince is funky, funkier than ever before, maybe even the funkiest musician around right now. Listen to the churning, unstoppable bass: This is Prince's blackest (meaning most African-American) record since the never released but widely bootlegged Black Album of 1988. Even patches of rap, less than world-class on their own, make sense as part of Prince the character's musical ambience; they also show that Prince the auteur's dazzling current band, the New Power Generation, can deliver styles far removed from rock and funk (though it's far more impressive playing jazz, with rambunctious solo snippets on trombone and baritone sax).
Just about all the music on the album is irrepressibly catchy, and also impressively complicated: Prince brings a whole musical city to life, with new sounds roaring and twittering down every street. Even melting ballads, such as the drop-dead-tender "Sweet Baby" and the ironic, lounge-flavored "Damn U," glimmer with a strange, furtive light.
However, all those fabulous, four-dimensional textures get tiring; the record lasts 70 minutes, and not even a Mahler symphony could sustain such complexity that long. And his lyrics, which enigmatically rattle on about "3 chains o' gold" and the mysterious evil "seven" who have to die, hardly exemplify his fairy-tale story, in which he seeks the clarity of redemption by battling evil. So what conclusion can we draw? In the end, the fabulous I retreats into obscurity, just as Prince (who never gives interviews) does in real life. But his songs are still pretty great. And, God, is he funky. A-
Sunday, October 11, 1992
PRINCE'S LATEST SETS A NEW STANDARD
Prince and the New Power Generation
This is an album Michael Jackson can only hope to make.
From the first emphetic declaration of "My Name Is Prince" to the haunting gospel "Amen" at the end of "Sacrifice of Victor," Prince's latest album is quite easily one of the most exciting to be released this year - an excellent funk collection, a dance-floor stomper and an essential disc in any self-respecting music lover's collection.
As is typical with Prince, the lyrics are sexy, even naughty, if you listen close enough to the rap segments. Also typical is the recurring imagery of love, sex and God, not exactly in that order and not always in your face, but present nonetheless.
The songs are funk numbers cut loose with wild guitars and the occasional "OW!" in just the right places.
A couple singles stand out as songs to put on a loop: "7" has biblical connotations, a touch of the apocalyptic on a backing beat that pumps, and with a chorus that hooks. "3 Chains of Gold" is reminiscent of Queen's "Bohemian Rapsody." Quite possibly the best song on the album, this has a classical piano bridge that leads into a grand segment of operatic proportions. As with the best of Queen's songs, it is the sheer magnitude of this number and the swings in style that impress the most. "Arrogance" and "The Flow" have Prince with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. "What do you belive in? Who is your God? Is this reality or just another facade?"
It is only in the slow songs that things go a bit awry. Songs such as "Blue Light," "Love 2 the 9's," "And God Created Woman" and "Sweet Baby" are generic at best, sounding too much like leftover Boyz II Men material. The exceptions are "The Morning Papers" and to a lesser extent, "Damn U," the former being not just beautifully simple, but lyrically touching as well.
It's my guess that after the explosive introduction of "My Name Is Prince," "The Morning Papers" will be the ballad, followed by "The Max," "Arrogance/The Flow" (as a B-side) "Damn U" (the obligatory second ballad,) "3 Chains of Gold" (the climax) and (to end it all) "The Continental."
As the song goes, "Alright cut. Fade to black." It's a wrap, folks. And a damn good one at that.
- MELISSA HENG
Published: Monday, October 12, 1992
Pop: Prince opera makes it on music
Prince & the New Power Generation (Paisley Park/Warner Bros.): Pop auteurs -- as opposed to plain ol' pop stars -- often seem to feel they have an opera in them, some conceptual masterwork that's more ambitious than just the next batch of songs. This is Prince's, symbol-only title and all. And ironically, for a self-proclaimed "rock soap opera," it's good, if inconsistent. The album's fantastical plot finds Prince, as his cocksure self, wooing the princess of a fictional Middle Eastern country -- a character reportedly inspired by Mayte, an 18-year-old belly dancer who's part of the New Power Generation. Clearly the video-oriented concept is so thin (and silly) that it blows away early on, leaving a collection of music that's formidable in its stylistic synthesis. In his most graphic come-on posture since 1980's "Dirty Mind," Prince shimmies, slithers and pelvically thrusts his way through spare funk rhythms that borrow from James Brown and George Clinton, raps and other hip-hop touches, jazzy horn charts, the gospel choruses of "7," the reggae-tinged "Blue Light," the Euro-groove of "I Wanna Melt with U," a Motown-influenced "Sweet Baby" and a Philly soul crooner called "And God Created Woman." "The Continental" is the album's swaggering nod to rock, though the melodramatic, Queen-like opus "3 Chains O' Gold" is forgettable. It won't invade the pop charts like "1999," "Purple Rain" or even last year's "Diamonds and Pearls," but Prince's latest still rides the crest of a creative and engaging trip.
-- GARY GRAFF
Prince and The New Power Generation
Apparently unaffected by his elevation to executive status at Warner Brothers Records, Prince bounces back with yet another 75 minutes' worth of music celebrating his irrepressible libido. Forget all the mumbo jumbo about this album being some sort of fantasy soap opera. True, it has a mysterious gender-blending hieroglyph instead of a title. Yes, there is a climax near the end of almost Bohemian Rhapsodic proportions (on 3 Chains O' Gold). And some of the numbers are indeed artfully linked by a series of telephone conversations between Prince and a journalist played by Kirstie Alley (Why are you so arrogant? she yells in exasperation, which might not be the best way of getting him to open up).
Basically this is a collection of stud songs, skilfully arranged into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and energetically despatched with all the salacious charm at Prince's command. As a humping, pumping cauldron of desire, for whom sex is the answer irrespective of the question, he shows absolutely no sign of burnout.
The New Power Generation, who were still finding their feet on last year's Diamonds And Pearls, have developed into a formidable unit. Prince's muse may be stuck up his boudoir, but their presence has anchored his music firmly in street and clubland. Long gone are those intriguing skimpy, studio-bound arrangement which used to sound like demos; in their place comes a barrage of full-blooded funk workouts, several lush, string-laden soul ballads a la Luther Vandross, and even a top-notch reggae groove called Blue Light, which explores the vexed question of whether it's preferable to do it in the dark or with the aid of discreet lighting (guess which our man prefers).
As well as all his other talents, Prince has now come to terms with rap and hip-hop-witness Sexy M.F. and the piledriving strut of My Name Is Prince, a self-congratulatory ode of orgasmic proportions, underpinned by a seismic bass rumble which will test performance limits of stereo systems everywhere.
Musically, then, this collection is as robust as any in Prince's illustrious career. But perhaps he should consider investing in one or two new themes for the future.
Tuesday, October 13, 1992
PRINCE IS STILL KING
by Jonathan Takiff, Daily News Staff Writer
PRINCE AND THE NEW POWER GENERATION
Let the glam slam begin!
His purple majesty Prince has re-entered the kingdom of rock with a powerhouse new album hitting stores today. Titled only via an androgynous graphic that combines male and female sex symbols, the 18-track, 80-minute session sets out to prove anew that nobody's got a handle on this guy, not even self-acclaimed "King of Pop" Michael Jackson.
Prince shows he can handle any contemporary style he touches. Brassy funk, layered rap, a capella gospel, even rock opera and light reggae fall under his regal province this time around, in addition to a richer-than-normal helping of Prince's patented slow-jam ballads that ooze romance oh-sooooo-bad (and that's good).
Loaded with single possibilities like "The Max" - a dance popster so catchy it could be a commercial jingle - Prince and the New Power Generations's new album should handily outperform last year's "Diamonds and Pearls" (which sold 5 million units worldwide).
The whole shebang supposedly fits together as a "fantasy rock soap opera" inspired by Prince's newest discovery, Mayte (pronounced My-Tay) Garcia. The artist has lost me on this grand conceit, though. Only "3 Chains of Gold," a bombastic mini-suite echoing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," reveals something of the saga of a rock star and a Middle Eastern princess.
The slammin' lead track and first single "My Name Is Prince" sets out in pointed pursuit of "King" Jackson's hide, as rapper Tony M. warns, "U must become a Prince before you're a king." And Prince raps, "Big cars and women and fancy clothes/Will save your face but it won't save your soul" - perhaps a knock at Jackson's surgically altered mug?
Equally audacious is "Sexy M.F.," a jazzy horns (a la Tower of Power) cut-up that's been heating dance floors since early summer. The song's so rude that Warner Bros./Paisley Park Records is also issuing a "clean" version of the album with Prince vocalizing wordlessly in lieu of the "f" word. (Otherwise, chains like K-Mart and Wal-Mart simply wouldn't carry the record.)
While Prince has never been a prude, he does seem to be pushing the cause of sexual fantasy (as opposed to realization) a little more. In the electric house-styled "I Wanna Melt with U," he waxes ecstatic about some dry-humpin' moves and cheers, "This is safe sex, New Generation style." There's lots of looking but no touching in "The Morning Papers," a lovely, wailing-guitar ballad 'bout the unrequited love a young guy feels for an older woman.
But then in the horny hip-hop seducer "Continental" (copping its title from an elegant old pop dance ditty), he comically throws caution to the wind - "C'mon kiss me. That's right, I want all your germs." And in his first- ever dalliance with reggae, "Blue Light," he waxes gleefully about exhibitionism - "I'll be standing naked with nothing but a smile on."
It's anyone's guess who the object of Prince's scorn is in the intriguing psychedelic-rocker "7." "They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all," he warns.
Prince ballad fans will go ga-ga over his choice new slow-beat creations - "Sweet Baby," with its lilting, Smokey Robinson-style vocal and uplifting message, and the waltz-time, string-laden "Damn U."
Tipping his hat to another sex icon, "And God Created Woman" takes its title from a vintage Brigitte Bardot movie vehicle, and its jazz-trumpet lilt from vintage Chuck Mangione.
Final verdict: Prince rules!
Date: Tuesday, October 13, 1992
POP'S PRINCE EXTENDS HIS PURPLE REIGN
HARRY SUMRALL, Mercury News Music Writer
WITH Prince, U never know quite what 2 expect.
On his new album, due in the stores today, the Purple One has concocted what he calls "a rock soap opera," about a rock idol who falls in love with a Middle Eastern princess. The title is a combination of the biological symbols for male and female.
R U getting all this?
If not, don't get upset. Put the gimmicks and the story aside and just listen. Prince's latest work comes with the most provocative and enjoyable music he has created since his 1983 masterpiece "1999."
"Untitled" for want of a better word -- or any words -- is a bold lunge forward for Prince: He pushes himself out of the funky rut he has been in on recent albums such as "Lovesexy."
The funk is still there, to be sure, but Prince is now drawing from a vast range of genres and sounds. The result is an album that bristles with creative energy and songs that linger in the mind as well as the solar plexus.
It opens with the strutting hyperbole of "My Name Is Prince" with Prince boasting "In the beginning God made the sea/But on the 7th day He made me." That is typical Prince, but what comes with it is a whole new slant on his sound. The funky bass gives way to rapper Tony M., whose staccato rhymes are supplemented by Beatles-esque vocal drones.
"Sexy M.F." comes next, with blues horns and a swing jazz punch and traces of the boiling funk of George Clinton. And just as the listener is settling into this new feel along comes "Love 2 the 9's" which Prince begins with falsetto Motown vocals that give way to a swing vamp at the end.
As the album progresses, Prince soaks up genres like a sponge. There is "Blue Light" with its reggae beats and soulful vocals reminiscent of Sam Cooke. On the ballad "Damn U," Prince invokes a sleek '60s pop sound. "7" comes with gospel-tinged harmonies that roll along to strumming acoustic guitars. And the tuneful "And God Created Woman" is a pastiche of the slick soul of the '70s with Prince providing lusciously breathy vocals.
But these songs and others are more than just a musical shopping list of sound. In their various ways, each is a coherent and self-contained effort with memorable hooks and spry instrumental flourishes that constantly surprise and delight. They prove that there is more on Prince's mind than his loins.
Not that there isn't plenty of that as well. Most of the lyrics are from the Prince sex-as-transfiguration school of writing complete with numbers and vowels and symbols -- an "eye" drawing for an "I" and the rest.
And the vapid, faceless funk of his recent past also puts in an appearance on such songs as "I Wanna Melt With U" and "Sacrifice of Victor."
The usual gimmicks are also there. On "Arrogance," actress Kirstie Alley of "Cheers" portrays a reporter who asks Prince such questions as "Who is your God?" to which Prince responds in an echoing, robotic voice.
But when Prince cuts the cuteness, as he does on most of the album, he is a magnetic musical presence.
As for the "rock soap opera," its story is obscure at best. Supposedly inspired by a meeting between Prince and ballet-belly dancer Mayte (who is now a member of Prince's group, the New Power Generation), it is neither episodic nor decipherable. Maybe the videos -- which have been filmed for each of the songs -- will tell the tale. Not that it matters.
With this album, Prince transcends gimmicks and purple prose and finally makes music as regal as his name.