2 October 2014
Prince - Art Official Age
His Purple Highness, his Royal Bad-ass, The Purple One, , The Artist Formerly Known As, Jamie Starr, Christopher, Alexander Nevermind, Prince Rogers Nelson, AKA Prince - This man is both a source of amazement and frustration for me. I love some of his work and sometimes it seems like self indulgent pap. When Prince is on fire, he is one of the best modern funk artists in the world; but sometimes he just seems to be playing for himself and not releasing it on the world. The legends about him can sometimes reach Michael Jackson levels - the achieved albums, the films produced but never released, the need to purchase a camel at 4am in the morning - but he has always released some music to back up his eccentricity. Well, after four years and many world tours just for the joy of it and an appearance on the TV show 'New Girl', we have not one but TWO albums to be released in the same day. The first of which we will be dealing with on this blog - the strangely titled 'Art Official Age'. These albums also both represent the reunion of Prince and Warner Brothers, a label which Prince had previously left as he felt he was a slave. Well, with hell freezing over, it is time for the music to speak for itself.
Starting with a guitar riff that is reminiscent of 'Batman' era Prince (cleverly linked), the title track starts the album and it has a very European influence on top of his funk and soul opening. The bass is heavy, the keyboards are lively and the flamboyant side of Prince is back to the forefront. It took a few tries to get into the song, but once you get it then it will be on heavy rotation for any Prince fan. Even the heavy dubstep section in the bridge doesn't distract from the fun opening of this album. "CLOUDS" is the next track, the funk is the driving force behind this song, it has some debatable effects on the bass sounds, but overall the song is a decent number, with a fantastic solo towards the end showing that prince has not lost any of his charisma on the guitar. Next is the O.T.T. affair that is "BREAKDOWN" (why are all the titles on this albums in capitals.....), a bit like 'Diamonds & Pearls' it is one of those songs you will either love or hate; for me, I love it so much! It is just so tacky that it is wonderful. Next the party is brought back with "THE GOLD STANDARD", it is a standard funk/soul affair that does exactly what it says on the tin and after the glorious splender of "BREAKDOWN", and it was a good choice to change the mood back to funky party.
"U KNOW" is next and a more mixed and sexed up affair, with Prince heading back to his old ways with a little bit of a modern twist. As a song it does not do that much for me, but a bad Prince song is like the allege of a bad pizza from the Big Bang Theory - even the bad ones are still pretty good. "BREAKFAST CAN WAIT" is another sexed up song, but this is in the classic soul/funk way and it does a lot more style and class than "U KNOW", even if it has the same amount of cheesy lyrics; but that is the same sort of level that some of Prince's better numbers have been composed at. Whilst he is his Royal Bad-ass, he is also known for his level of cheese and sexual lyrics. This tale of early morning sexual activity does make me smile, but it is a cheese number all the same. Next is another love number called "THIS COULD BE US", it is about a relationship on its last legs, coming to a cross roads in the time together. It is totally heterosexual, male perspective of a man who says he is done wrong. This is the first number on the album which makes me shake my head; musically it is impressive; lyrically it might as well be dressed like a Flintstone. Some of the words just come from the wrong era and they do not make for good listening, such a shame as it could have been a great moment on the album. "WHAT IT FEELS LIKE" is much better in the lyrical department, it is another love song but it is about rejection and it comes from both sides with the lady telling the boy to stop being (for want of a better word) a douche.
Next it is the 40 second interlude which is "affirmation i & ii", which merges with "WAY BACK HOME" which is a reflective song in nature, with Prince looking back over his life and pondering his future as well to return to his sanctuary. It is a truly amazing track that will hopefully be held as a modern Prince classic in years to come. There might be a soaring guitar solo of funky jam, but when Prince nails his heart on his sleeve (and does not ham it up lyrically) there are very few who can better him in both song writing and delivery. "FUNKNROLL" is the complete coin flip to "WAY BACK HOME" musically; the funk is back to the centre of the stage and let the good times roll. Whilst it is very funky, at times it is very minimal as well in the background. It is an interest number, but I am still trying to figure out if it is genius or emperor’s new clothes. I am leaning towards genius, but I am a self-confessed Prince fan. When it eventually breaks towards the end, the rest of the number makes sense; but it is strange hearing Prince with an almost dub-step ending. Mind you, that guitar sound is still towering. "TIME" is another contrast to the last number, much more slow burning and bass heavy in nature and delivery, this is again is almost the song of the album; if the album have had ended here it would have been a brilliant ending. Yet it is not the ending track, merely the penultimate song. Ending the album is "affirmation iii" which expands on the original musical theme of "affirmation i & ii" and "WAY BACK HOME", taking it to a much more dramatic level. You have layers of strings, keyboards, guitars and vocals draped over the original themes. This is the heart stirring Prince which I like the best and this sugar coated ending is worth it.
In the long line of Prince records, this is one of his more complete records for me. It has more constancy that some of his middle 90's period (and even some of his 80's records if I am honest). It is not the high water mark that some might have been expecting, but it is still a very good record. Some of the lyrical content in the middle dent the album a little bit, but it would not be a Prince album without something that throws the listener. When Prince is on fire, as I had previously said there are few who can match him and in places on this album we can see that; but there are also places which do not reach the upper reaches of his talent. But this is still a good Prince album, make no mistake about that. I will give a comparison to the other Prince release 'PLECTRUM/ELECTRUM' (cleverly linked here) on the next blog, but I would say that this album does not disappoint at all and it is good to see his Purple-ness back on the scene with a proper record. Hopefully he will not take as long next time.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth a check
Top track - BREAKDOWN
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
Here is the official page for the album as he no longer has a website
Here is a link to the un-official Prince web community if you want more news on Prince
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Alternatively if you listen to Deezer, here is a link for you
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