independent and unofficial
Prince fan community
Welcome! Sign up or enter username and password to remember me
Forum jump
Forums > Prince: Music and More > Purple Drain: Is It Time To Give Up On The Prince We All Want?
« Previous topic  Next topic »
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)

Tweet     Share

Thread started 05/08/09 2:48pm



Purple Drain: Is It Time To Give Up On The Prince We All Want?

Paul Yamada on two more pointless chapters in the slow-death decline of a once-mighty talent.--Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages

On the final Sunday of March, Prince released a three-CD set. Two of the albums are his music with his band; the other is by a young female singer, Bria Valente. He appeared on Jay Leno's Tonight Show the preceding Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to promote the package, which at present is only available at Target.

The CD entitled lotusflow3r is a pastiche of slightly hard rock, proggy, Hendrix-influenced guitar playing, familiar pop-rock, and powerpop. It certainly does not herald any new or different aspirations, and though it has an up-to-date production and "finish" to the sound and production quality, this recording may very well remind his longtime fans of Purple Rain. Or at least Purple Rain without anything as exciting as "When Doves Cry," or the more surging, ecstatic moments of "Let's Go Crazy."

While the contents are polished and well-played, and for the most part easy to listen to, this music makes me wonder if there is a marketing and audience grab involved, and if so, how many fans or former fans will bite? I also wonder if other listeners will respond like I did, and think that Prince didn't have to work very hard to make this record.

Purple Rain was a hit a long time ago--25 years?--and the crossover audience and crowds he drew began to thin out by the time he released "Alphabet Street," or at least that is how I've perceived the trajectory of his career over the past 20-plus years.

The other CD, mplsound, is more disappointing. It does not impress either as (funky) dance music or as pleasant R&B. It is actually kind of boring, which seems quite a damning thing to ascribe to music by Prince. BORING.

Is there still an audience for Prince the rocker, the guitar hero who seems bound to remind us that he can ape Jimi Hendrix? What happened to the Prince who made riveting soul, funk, and jazz-tinged R&B records? What happened to the funky, slinky, jazzy Prince on guitar? He showed some of that stripped-down flash at the end of his third night on Leno: crisp, clean, funky, chicken-fried licks, delivered with an old-fashioned, lean-and-mean tone, a tone you might hear a "jazz guitarist" using in an organ (B3) and sax trio or quartet. Now, this is the Prince I'm always excited about: a guitarist who can not only evoke the best aspects of funk and soul from 1966 to 1976, but who could also be the axeman in that B3 group, and burn it down like maybe no one else could but Melvin Sparks, or Rodney Jones, having a particularly fine night. There are moments of this evocative guitar playing IN THE BACKGROUND of tracks on mplsound, but nothing more.

Most of the lead guitar Prince plays on both discs is the "over-the-top-Hendrix"-sounding stuff, with lots of boost and sustain, and very little old-fashioned dirt, like it all comes from a pedal or a computer setting. Where has the invention and the lean, probing, rhythmic drive gone?

Now that I've mentioned rhythmic drive, where has that gone? To assembly line "church," since the drums and bass playing on these discs often resembles what gets churned out on commercial, run-of-the-mill, jubilee gospel recordings: little or no variation, no substitutions, no drive, and certainly no playing that can push a guitarist, much less interact with the playing. In sustaining some energy level, the rhythm tracks relate to the hum-drum, same-ole same-ole you can hear jumping from Christian channel to Christian channel on Saturday night or early Sunday morning: NOW AIN'T THAT GOOD NEWS?!

No, because there's more going on between the bass pedals of the organ player and drummer on a Davis Sisters 45 on Savoy than there is on both of these Prince CDs, as far as bass and drums goes. If this is "give up the funk," I'd rather listen to Denise LaSalle file her nails, because that would be some scratchy rhythm!

Now that's enough with the complaints because they beg the question; as long as Prince isn't going to push the soul-funk envelope, embracing the tradition--now that he is 50--is not such a bad idea. Can you imagine what it would be like if he strapped on that sky-blue Stratocaster--or better still, a Gibson Super 400--and opened with 10 minutes of Johnnie Taylor's "Little Bluebird"? And then continued in that fashion with a workout of Taylor's "Jody," in different tempo? Yeah, and he's got a four-piece horn section along with B3, bass, and drums. After "Jody" he's really hot and slams into "Sexy MF." Then a souped-up version of "Chelsea Rodgers," a stunning version of "She Loves Me 4 Me," which showcases his "soul guitar" playing, and he wraps it up with a pumping, over-the-top rendition of "1+1+1 is 3."

Yeah, it wouldn't be an hour-long set, but it would be a great one. At present, I don't think anything like this will ever happen, as Prince has kind of become enigmatic and perhaps unconscious. He needs to realize that his old music is still great, especially the increasingly funky and soulful material he has laid down beginning with Sign O' The Times through the recent Planet Earth--though some of what he's done since Rave Un2 The Dawn is cliché and ballast--embrace it, and embrace not just the tradition he clearly understands and cares about, but use it to push the envelope in new and different ways, establishing him as a funk and soul man that could blow away most of the retro "revues" that are out there playing for kids who think you can get good chicken-fried steak at Boston Market, or worse, who think that the expression "bone fish" is really a Fishbone EP they've never heard.

It really isn't worth continuing to dream, or pick at these two Prince CDs. He's not going to do that amazing "Jody" workout. He's not going to give up doing lazy, goopy-sounding, '"quiet storm-like" tunes that even Donny Hathaway couldn't have re-arranged into anything worth listening to. If you have most, or all of Prince's recordings, like I do, go ahead and buy it. I think you will agree that Planet Earth is much, MUCH better, and much less confused, less familiar and trite, by the man's own "standards," so to speak. I'd say the same for a chunk of Rainbow Children. So buy it, if you will; and if you do like it, please go on to discover some of his better music from this decade.
[Edited 5/8/09 14:49pm]
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #1 posted 05/08/09 2:51pm


Wow! I guess the Rolling Stone article works, they have like dozens and dozens of replys:


Yahoo it's always taken advantage of the fan wars.
"I have so much love for Prince. But why don't they look at me that way"- MJ
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #2 posted 05/08/09 2:53pm



Dang I didn't know this was already a thread. Lock it on up mods. It's funny that this was on Yahoo's main page. :lol;
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)
« Previous topic  Next topic »
Forums > Prince: Music and More > Purple Drain: Is It Time To Give Up On The Prince We All Want?