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Thread started 07/25/21 4:27pm

Number23

Number 23's Welcome 2 America review thread

Now that the other W2A thread has been mysteriously deleted, I’ve changed the title of this one so we have somewhere to post about the record and add critics’ official reviews. Guessing there were too many requests for the leak on the other one and the powers that be have had a word … and if they’re reading this, mine is a review copy that I’ve been given permission to write about. My initial thoughts, for what they’re worth …





WELCOME 2 AMERICA

Others have said this is Prince’s mash up of Gil Scott Heron and P Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up) and they’re not wrong, but it’s actually more reminiscent of his own The War (which, of course, was directly inspired by Heron’s work) where he presents himself as not as an energised master of ceremonies, balladeer or partyman but a preacher/prophet of encroaching societal cataclysm.


Unlike The War however, P delivers no judgement and wastes no anger upon modern society’s ills – infact, it’s all delivered with a smirk. It seems he’s reached some kind of personal peace with himself, not quite nirvana but certainly approaching zen, living outside of the society he condemns, the master of his own kingdom. My guess is that this album is the journey of how he became, please pardon the terminology, ‘woke’ to what he perceives as the true nature of reality - and how we can also ‘look inside’, as he puts it, to follow suit and attain similar enlightenment. Even if it’s 1000 light years from here. (I know - it’s a measure of distance not time, I’ll get to that later).


P’s vocals, however, are certainly a 1000 light years away from modern hip-hop - but that’s not to say his ‘rhythmic vocalising’ lacks dynamism. The vibe is ‘foreboding’ - it’s clearly the intent of each musician’s projection here, trepidation is what each creative mind is attempting to aurally evoke, like they’ve each received one of Brian Eno’s ‘mood’ cards and they were all doublers. Even down to the deadpan flatness of the backing vocal choral hook. Yes, despite the succession of doom-laden proclamations, there’s humour and playfulness on offer, some sugar with our medicine. Like Dylan once said ‘Something is happening but you don’t know what it is, do you?’ - but this is more like: ‘Something is happening … but it’s going to get worse before it gets better.’


In this song, Prince reminds his fellow mortals that we all have freewill and that gives us the power to change the direction our lives - only God can save us, but P doesn’t mean it literally in an interventionist sense. He means we have the gift of freewill – and in Prince’s world, God is not a slave master, he has faith in us to make the world a better place ourselves. So it’s up to us, says P – and we need to ‘look inside’, as the chorus says, to find our own personal moral compass that points us in the right direction. Like he has, of course. Not that I share these beliefs, particularly not the existence of a Judeo-Christian skygod, but it’s just my assumption of what he’s trying to convey.


Sonically this a very sterile, wide-open production – not quite warm but not airless and icy like much of the material he was producing the same year. The eerie synths are chilly enough. Personally, I would have liked to hear a bit more dust crackle on the console - it’s very sparse in terms of environmental space but instrumentation has clearly been recorded with care and attention – everything is crystal clear in clarity, perhaps too so.


It’d be too simplistic to say this prelude piece sets a production tone for the rest of the record – there are far more lush and warm and…odder efforts to come – but it’s indicative of W2A as a whole in terms of tonal balance. And it’s certainly nice to have something that feels like a cohesive, inspired work (however, that’s not saying it’s as otherworldly and ridiculously imaginative and creative as his 80s output) as opposed to a rag-tag Naughties grab-bag raid from that year’s Vault like Planet Earth.


Tonally and thematically, however, it must be said that we are revisiting the same solidified, calcified mindset of TRC, yet not so severe in its rigid proclamations. I’ve made my peace with Prince’s piousness, but this isn’t inclusive music – he is undoubtedly preaching. Yet, he wants you to know he’s self-aware and has foreseen your criticism of his choice to be less permeable and open. ‘There is no arguing with the book’, he says, and you can almost hear the sly smile at his self-aware self-righteousness. But forget anyone on a ‘different page’, whom he calls out later on the record – it’s where Prince’s bookmark lies that is the only place that matters.


Also, the message here offers an interesting dichotomy against the lyrical theme of 1000 Light Years From Here, which presents the vision of an underwater utopia way in the future. Here, Prince says the answer to change lies inward, not hoping for change just to occur naturally ‘out there’. We must do the work. The innate selfishness of so-called ‘role models’ who gain fame and fortune on the foundation of sex tapes and shallow consumerism is indicative of a sick society, he insinuates.


There’s a clever, uplifting chord change that arrives like a welcome gasp of fresh air, with a future-flute synth and cosmically/comically funky guitar and fuzztone bass slinking together like some type of cold-blooded reptilian form that evolution hasn’t got round to evolving yet. ‘Keep playing – it gets worse’ he jokes. And the Sly/George humourous vocal intonation continues to juxtapose with the heaviness of the lyric, with the girls returning the joke with a genuinely goose-pimple inducing harmony: ‘Oops I mean, land of the free/ home of the slave!’’


He’s certainly learned from TRC’s sledgehammer approach to the same lyrical themes, for here it’s not suffocating in mysticism and personal mythology. Then, after five minutes of hypnotic groove, the song changes gear slightly in a very Prince-like way - with a Housequake-style single synth chord held over the outro that warps and twists until it ascends into an astral plane surfed by the souls of long-dead alien civilisations - going deep, deep then even deeper into the mix until only well-bred dogs and owls can hear it … a nice sonic secret for headphone aficionados.


‘On yo knees’ he concludes. He’s not telling us to do it, he’s saying we all already are. Again, this is an album about slavery – to societal oppressors, yes, but also historical falsehoods, technology, political hierarchies - even to friends and lovers. How very few of us are not in chains. Welcome 2 America? Welcome 2 The World. We got a long way to go, as P himself once extolled. But with W2A, it seems Prince is taking the opportunity to tell us all exactly how he managed to shed his own shackles to become a free man.



RUNNING GAME (SON OF A SLAVE MASTER)

A nice cylindrical, smoky, Goldnigga-reminiscent rootsy guitar lick welcomes us to a mature-sounding groove, joined by mellow yet dense, snap crackle n popping organic drums in the mix’s foreground - complimented and sweetened by a lovely little single bell buried deep in the mix at the end of each bar. The main synth hook is a nice future-retro Emancipation/NPS synth but warmer and works due to the juxtaposition with the natural sonic landscape. It arrives as a cool breeze sweeping though the organic cosiness of the live instrumentation.



I suspect that main synth hook started as a harmony vocal by Shelby, Elise and Liz - oo oooo ooooooh – then got replaced with the machines by P in post-production. Take that symbolism however you wish. Shelby enters – rapping the verses, a nice mellow swampy soil n’ sandpaper vibe. Lyrics seems to point an accusing finger towards the dark deeds of one particular record industry apparatchik, explaining how behaviour is inherited whether good or bad and that seeds don’t fall far from trees..



Shelby and P spell out why poor socio-economic backgrounds of underprivileged black musicians and lack of proper education – whether in school or parental - means they do not possess proper intellectual enlightenment on the difference between price and worth. Highlighted lyrically by one musician selling a ‘dope beat’ for $75,000 which he/she thinks is a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things is clearly not for a massive hit song.



Shelby offers more ‘rhythmic speaking’ than true hip hop MCing, clearly ghosting a Prince guide vocal. Similar to 90s outtakes Red Scarlet or Playtime, the synthline and groove increasingly evokes the NPG-era of bombastic yet increasingly airless, sterile production. Then, after the first verse, we’re suddenly emotionally embraced by a magnificent chord change into the bridge - and our cynical pre-conceptions dissipate. It’s wonderful, warming the entire song up – a genuinely soulful melody with P and Shelby harmonising (who I must say isn’t overpowering here, it’s a lovely controlled and complimentary tone to P). They’re joined by some, to my ears, unnecessary Black Album/Lovesexy-style background chatting - to add ambiance, I imagine. But it’s unnecessary and perhaps should have been faded out of the mix.



Also notable that P deliberately repeats the line ‘Back on the street’. Perhaps literally referencing his childhood or giving an allegory for his career at the time: trying to hussle record deals etc. ‘How much u want for them beads?’ the harmonies then ask. ‘Keepin it going, going’. A comment on the dark arts of the jewellery industry drawing parallels on the exploitation within the record industry? Maybe.



The girls continue to harmonise on perceived societal ‘wrongs’ over a languid, laid-back but full-sounding 70s style street groove – quality control is firmly switched on. It’s a mature grown-up production, no N-P-G chants or Doug E Freah cameos to break the illusion. Yes, that synth hook is definitely strong despite those Emancipation/NPS vibes, anchoring the song with a distinctive hook as well as adding a layer of bittersweet icing on top of a organically-baked cake. ‘Son of a slave master/Keepin it going, going’ is the main vocal hook, no chorus here, but the bridge is strong enough to suffice – you’re left to fill the gaps mentally about what ‘going, going, goling’ means. Yet, the lyrics do become less abstract, maybe touching upon P’s loneliness at one point: ‘Don’t come 2 the party unless u bring somebody/Somebody that wants to dance/And make sweet romance.’ And then, in perhaps a shout-out to what was left of his fanbase at the time - ‘Ah still got mad love 4 u/ Even though I don’t know u’.



Just when you’re feeling the groove is indulging itself a little more than it might deserve, a truly great middle 8 then nukes the monotony – ‘Black on black cryin’/Able n Kane/Ah wouldn’t think high yellow would be a shade’ Mm. P is prominent in this delicious harmony – he clearly wants us to know this is a personal grievance, perhaps what he perceives his place in black culture being addressed. The girls stay silent. We’re clearly supposed to listen to him at this part: ‘21st century/And it’s still about a freedom thing/And I’m about 2 go insane with shame’.



P’s voice becomes more prominent once again and an exhilarating upbeat shimmery synth kicks in, sonic hazy sunshine after a hard rain – and a guitar line appears from nowhere for just one brazen, outrageously beautiful lick that sounds like new gold dreams forming over sulphuric acid oceans on Venus. Then it’s gone – it reminds me of the similarly all-too-brief instrumental section at the end of Bowie’s Miracle Goodnight, an astonishingly uplifting guitar break that performs a similar exhalatory, ecstasy-rush function - lifting the song well beyond its moorings for too short a time. I hear optimism now. Life’s a running game, he’s exhausted, but there’s hope. Even if he has to wait 1000 light years.



A lush, euphoric outro guides us out of the soundscape - taken gently by a warm hand to the finish line by the girls repeating ‘running game’ like they’re the house band for the cloud where Jesus lives. This groove could go on for another ten minutes and not get tired. I’ve seen some people commenting that P’s hardly on it, but I’m left scratching my head at that perception. He’s all over this, in voice, instrumentation and production. It’s quintessential Prince. Maybe lacks the shock of the new that makes a true P classic - but this is Prince. Sounding alive, well and playing the mature game with an elder statesman’s style, grace and savvy .


BORN 2 DIE

I suppose everyone reading will have already heard this. I like it more with each listen, reminds me of Shy lyrically in terms of its simple but concise concept of a sensitive ghetto girl ‘gone wrong’. Horns are more Issac than Curtis to me, but the groove is certainly Lil Chile Running Wild-era Mayfield. A huge yet tasteful, lush, summertime production fills the room with sunlight and glittering gold as it plays, but the heat it suggests is perhaps symbolic of the stifling pressure of the streets, an unbearably suffocating and highly pressured existence. As a producer, Morris Hayes certainly has some enviable ears.



There’s countless quirky ‘P’ touches weaved in throughout, many deep in the mix. A world after midnight when all the bad people come out to play might be a simplistic lyrical concept, but the exceptional harmonies make you excuse the self-righteousness of the ‘no hope, no way out if u aint livin right’ hectoring – living right here presumably means reading the Bible.



Bassline in the ‘Oakland’ line is great – actually, the bass on this entire record is exceptional - and very prominent in the mix too. Tal Wilkenfeld’s work is far from generic - it often takes you to the opposite point to where you think it’s going, clever, deeply funky with sneaky little runs that are somehow never indulgent and always serving the beat … he’s continually inventive and often surprising – and locked in like diamonds in coal with the highly adaptable and similarly creative drummer Chris Coleman.


Yes, it’s a homage to a particular sound and era of the 70s, very familiar but also fresh – initially I was thinking this tune could have done with some real horns, yet on reflection the synthetic nature is obviously Prince’s artistic choice – drugs being synthetic joy, not the warm ‘real thing’ that only true gratification – in work or relationships – can bring to the endorphin machine that is your brain.



Lot of people saying the end is missing a top layer instrument like a guitar solo or something but this song is fine as it is – to me anything additional to the outro arrangement would be deeply cluttered and a solo would be tasteless, it’s not hitting that vibe – for me anyway. A solo in this would insinuate release, and this is a song about slavery to street life and the hussle. You don’t get release except through death – ‘born 2 die’. It’s also a groove with remarkably inventive harmonies from Prince which I rarely see him get adequate credit for.


It’s not going to change the world, but it’s highly worthy late-period P and as a typically under-the-radar single with no promotional video, deserves more ears than it’s likely to get.

[Edited 7/27/21 8:48am]

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Reply #1 posted 07/25/21 4:28pm

Number23

1000 LIGHT YEARS FROM HERE

Prince referenced retreating from society and living underground in The War. And here he suggests something similar, only deep in the oceans. In what, I imagine, is the far, far future. This is a future soul song, but perhaps everyone was too polite to mention to P that light years is a measure of distance, not time. So unless he’s talking about a (very) distant planet we all eventually migrate to, it’s best not to dwell on the physics.



In this particular moment of what we measure as time, we are enveloped in an open, airy production – but one that’s more fragile and, dislike the terminology but ‘demo-like’, in a song that’s driven forward with spirited and inspired woozy near-psychedelic momentum by a playful yet deeply melancholy guitar hook, quirky major key runs and a joyous abundance of lush old school Prince harmonies – with a choral rush that’s like Carol-Anne’s spirit going through her mother’s body in Poltergeist. It utterly embodies the free-spirited, wide-eyed euphoria of Parade to these ears.



This is a less busy and much more skeletal version from what we know from Hit n Run 2 and brings the jittery spiralling tsunami of a groove more to the fore - with the harmonies projected as more typically ‘ethereal ’, aided by some sterling, spirited, soaring and genuinely joyful vocalising by Shelby, Liz and Elise.



‘We can live under the water/it’s not hard/when u’ve never been part of the country on dry land’ – Once again, Prince evokes the alienation and ‘otherness’ to which minorities are subjected. It’s crystal clear this is a record that highlights differing forms of slavery in each song – not just for so-called ‘minorities’, but the entire human race. How we are all bled to the machines of belief systems, false histories, technology, conspiracies, societal constraints, sexuality … Yet, there’s no denying some lines are undoubtedly specifically intended for the ears of black people. ’We used to be smarter/We taught ‘em what they know, and now we got the show ‘em/What it means to be American/A good life, liberty, innovation/And every child no matter what colour must get an education – when a life in the hood is nothing to fear … 1000 light years away from here’.



It’s a visionary song, a free man inside his head and heart, but yearning for an eternal escape from not only calcified human thought processes and societal constraints but the imprisonment of all physical and mental limitations. Prince prophesies societal change of an unimaginable scale here - but no blood will be spilled in achieving this utopia. ‘Talkin bout a peaceful revolution’ he says. And a sneaky old Come reference for the hardcore – ‘A spiritual revolution’ is mentioned.



Some lovely old-school Prince harmonies in the background fill the blazing soundscape, simultaneously sounding volcanically disruptive while also gentle as a breeze, no easy production trick. ‘Maybe you’re thinking about a New World Order – but it’s still a nightmare if we got borders’ . We previously knew this on Hit n Run 2 as a song where the title was illustrative of a troubled relationship that’s reached a state of true harmony way in the future - an Andy/P love song – and it’s incredible he has changed the context so completely from this original cut. ‘Why did God make Heaven so far away?’ he ponders, either as a metaphor for this future utopia or I suppose it could also be taken as a literal interpretation of the song’s title.



This is utterly its own thing, beyond homogenisation and classifications of genre – and when that euphoric middle 8 that was so great on Hit n Run 2 appears here, it doesn’t disappoint in its new form – a steep, mountainous yet massively loose groove and then genius follows in its wake – a funky guitar fed through Christ knows what effects pedal enthralls – it’s nothing showy, just splendid cartoon funk with stunning heavenly harmonies building in the background – then we hear P’s voice come in spontaneously on the back of the final vocal line in a moment of unbridled compulsion. He had to join in the joy.



‘Close your eyes/Open yo ears/Listen to the song/Listen to your heart – is that so wrong? Stop looking in the mirror/Your salvation is near – 1000 light years from here…’ He now starts singing more forcefully, which juxtaposes nicely with the increasing mellowness of the backing singers – who are now extoling ‘I don’t want to stay’, mixed ever deeper. Mm. A breathless crescendo builds, a sky-scraping Prince falsetto rings out and is followed by a lovely, heavenly guitar run on its tail like a comet, the entire groove once again spinning skyward from the soil like crystalline wheels on like a celestial train chugging round the rings of somewhere like Saturn (deliberate Stevie reference there) – then… a whisper… ‘So far away’ … 1000 light years … its so far away’



That rush, that unbridled joy, that societal cohesion, that complete harmony ... will have to wait it seems. But here, Prince gifts us a tantalising glimpse of the future.



HOT SUMMER

Well. To me, within the context of the album’s overriding thematic premise, he’s talking about riots. I doubt he’s going to throw a song in the middle of a record like this about it being a bit sunny in July when every other track is about problematic societal issues.



I might be wrong, but it makes sense to me - the music, then, is quite wilfully perverse with a Saturday morning cartoon/radio jingle melody. It’s the album’s pressure valve. And also don’t forget Chris Moon once got P to write jingles for local radio, it’s likely an artistic itch he needed to scratch from time to time. It’s weird – I really disliked this song back in 2010 but I’m perhaps only beginning to see its artistic intent now. Like I say, its perverse, trolling almost - ‘Just wait and see’. He’s fucking with us, it’s a sonic middle finger. ‘Shooby do wee’ indeed.



‘It’s ok as long as you’re my company’. Again, it’s salvation found in the safety of true love - much like the theme of Crystal Ball. A couple making love at the end of the world. Abrasive guitarwork and imaginative, inventive blusey riffs work well against that big abrasive synth chord that only moves down the scale when re-introducing Shelby’s vocal. ‘Got yo back right til the end’.



The middle 8 ‘Why is life such a mystery’ is great too – reminiscent of the original version of Guitar - quite tart, camp, sulky, then a deep, playful, sly/Sly leading smoothly into the ‘I think it’s gonna be …’ of the chorus. This is obviously Shake! redone – only shaking with trepidation perhaps. ‘These are the days my people told me to fear’. It’s coming. A hot summer. Temperatures will rise. To me, Hot Summer is the coffee Revel - you think you could do without it but without the coffee Revel in the pack the whole Revels experience lacks a slight off-note that’s necessary for the full Revels Russian roulette vibe.



You can’t fill an album with nine When Doves Crys – if there are nine When Doves Crys it means there are no When Doves Crys. Prince understood you need filler songs, you just need to be sure it plays its part in the overarching vision and I think Hot Summer does. It makes sense here - out of context you could see it as a pointless and lightweight but its juxtaposition proves Prince always enjoyed the dichotomy of making music that made you assume one thing on an initial listen but revealed layers over time, usually with a lyric that initially seems superficial and throwaway, but is designed that way deliberately.



Yes, the lyrics can be viewed as similarly lightweight and airy as the music, but that’s the beautiful thing about art, meaning is in the eye of the beholder. You can read anything into the words here. They’re deliberately non-specific. Few artists explain their work, even when the audience is completely wrong - as they understand the art is nothing to do with them once it is out there. Musically, Hot Summer serves as a palette cleanser after the rich offerings before it, like a fizzy sorbet, one that prepares the palette for something more challenging and substantial. Also, it’s P trolling us but in a nice way. As it always was. I’m saying it: I’m ok with Hot Summer.



STAND UP AND B STRONG

When I was young and even more naive I would have said this had a ‘Christian rock’ production. Safe with rounded edges, a bit too fluffy and smooth on the ears. If this is the warm organic studio sound we were after from Prince then maybe we should have been careful what we wished for.


But these days, when it comes to Prince, I think along the lines of: well this artist clearly doesn’t create this bland sonic soundscape for every one of his songs – so this is deliberate. Then I ask myself – why did Prince create such a safe, enveloping, blankety production for this particular song? What, as an artist, was he trying to say with that? And when I ask myself these questions, the answers become obvious – it’s a song, a cover version of course, where the lyrics have brought him similar sweet comfort to what he is projecting sonically. And now it makes sense to me, where as its initial saccharine production was a bit disheartening after some of the seriously strong material that preceded it.




Now, upon repeated listens, I can hear that a hell of a lot of work has gone into the mix. I believe it’s Liv who sings ‘You might be right. You might be wrong/U might think ur life has gone on too long’? Whoever it is, it’s clear why P didn’t open this track himself – it’s too personal, it’s a ‘state of mind’ song, despite not being his words. He’s deflecting. However, the next lyric he does choose to sing – and then emphasises how important it is by repeating it – is ‘your knees get weak’ – then – ‘yes they do’. I think he’s telling us he’s crumbling – imagine your body physically falling apart yet having to still having to be ‘Prince’ for the world?


It’s true he didn’t have to go down the path of smoke, mirrors and opiates – he could have been honest. But he made the conscious decision not to confront his issues and keep up appearances.
And that’s what matters. And that’s why this song exists. And perhaps why it was never released.

‘Your heart gets cold – ur tired of doing everything ur told’ Then a genuinely lovingly sung heavenly bridge – that also really serves as the song’s chorus and main hook – ‘Lalalalala ….’



So. ‘Stand up and b strong/Find a brand new song/Before they’re gone/Stand up and be strong’.
It’s a mantra to himself – and deflecting from how personal this choice of song is by having the backing singers do the heavy lifting. ‘Ur taking too many pills/Cus u lost the thrill/Against your own will’ Then that heavenly vocal bridge, like balm, temporarily numbing his pain.



Then the tempo shifts and the song soars into the stratosphere - charging ahead into a communal, gospely, churchy gear change as the girls harmonise on the chorus without P. In terms of song structure I’m reminded of I Will/Into The Light - but more mellow and tasteful. ‘Sing a brand new song/before they’re gone’ - taking solace in his art, perhaps, and again, numbing the pain for at least a little while.



The darkness descends again. P almost spits the words, near snarling: ‘When they lie to ur face/Put them in their place/Stand up and B Strong/In times of unrest/And you’re all depressed/Ur life’s a mess/Remember ur the best/Stand up and be strong’ Echoes of Cream’s arrogance here, yet the ego’s now fading. He has to be his own hype man now.



And thus, the sun breaks out once again from behind the clouds with a double-tracked Morning After-style guitar solo blazing through the gloom and it’s truly exhilarating, like Thin Lizzy produced by Abba, it take you higher. A synth is layered on top – perhaps, maybe I’m stretching, to evoke the rush of pills kicking in, due to the synthetic nature of the sonic uplift.



It’s a truly unexpected, exhilarating middle eight that introduces a nice new guitar tone and sneakily rearranges the backing vocals on the quiet, and as the light of this brief solo fades over the horizon.



The song then becomes a bit of a low-key gospel rave up with church organ elevated in the mix and P soloing over ‘staaaaaaaaaaaaaand up!”’ backing vocals – musically in structure it’s very reminiscent of the instrumental outro of The Holy River. Perhaps too similar to be a coincidence, tone on the guitar is almost identical. Then the addition of handclaps suggest we’re meant to be participating now - a personal song gone universal - and Shelby starts giving it full throttle: it’s full-blown gospel now, and I surprise myself by finding it truly uplifting yet unmistakably melancholy. Bittersweet. ‘It’s almost gone/Stand up and b Strong’. Then a female voice whispers: ‘Stand up.’ The voice of God? Maybe it’s simply his chemist.



I personally found Stand Up & Be Strong very moving, although there are better songs on the record, musically-speaking. To my perception, Prince generally only covers songs - on his albums - where there’s an underlying lyrical theme he either can’t quite capture or prefers how another person put it. ‘Sometimes the words of another seem to work out fine’. Live covers, it’s more about the music and the vibe it projects.


SU&BS’s references to ‘You’re taking too many pills/Because you lost the thrill’ and ‘your life has gone on too long’ ‘your knees get weak’ etc would be far too literal and revealing if he had written them himself - I think he’s wanting to be honest but also able to deflect if challenged on it. But it’s clear to me that many lyrics in this struck a chord with him and in retrospect after his death, it’s pretty obvious why.

[Edited 7/29/21 9:46am]

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Reply #2 posted 07/25/21 4:30pm

Number23

CHECK THE RECORD

Now for something … interesting. A heavy funk groove is the hook which teases the listener with a repeated, circular unresolved ending at the end of the bar where you genuinely hold your breath waiting for the note you think is coming … until it gives you the middle finger and the bass comes round again behind you and puts you flat on your arse. It’s accompanied by complex, syncopated, staccato drums - a big spacy languid splashy rolling groove – played wonderfully but would loved to have heard Sonny and Michael B kill it.



Its playful growling funk aggression is suggestive of Interactive or What’s My Name with W2A production values, - it’s high energy music and exactly the jolt of attitude and fizz and piss the album needs at this spot. Bass in the chorus is genuinely exciting.



The song starts with a Raspberry Beret-style ‘One, two, one two three four’ countdown – then a colossal Exodus Has Begun-style guitar crashes the party with a Digital Garden ‘sha!’ ending each bar deep in the mix and then … boom. A fucking monster groove is suddenly assaulting your eardrums. Great synth sound too, not out the box generic choice for quickness, seems a bit of time has been spent on it in post-production.



I also hear ‘Rebirth’-style synths, – then… sparseness envelops the soundscape, like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the room, creating an aural vaccum. Now, a bitchy, brittle, jumpy, jerky middle 8 enters, snidely sung. ‘This sounds like drama – what u gonna do?’ There really is a serious What’s My Name? vibe about this to me – love the synths in the chorus, outrageous production really. Shouldn’t work, but it does. So Prince. Bass is killing it – not showing off, just a huge heavy groove so deeply in the pocket it’s touching the drummer’s willy.



P even mouths a whammy bar solo, funny as fuck – maybe a guide for a future re-dub but I actually doubt it, it sounds great then that Digital Garden ‘SHA!’ is spat out, heavily sarcastic and hateful: ‘Take her places/She needs new faces/ Ah love the choirs/ She plays with firrrrre’ And the harmony ascends into the heavens.



It’s fire this tune, there’s a cool shuffly guitar deep in the mix too. Until he jumps on the effects pedal and moves it higher in the mix as it becomes more atonal and abrasive. Could have done without the Sheryl Crow shout out though.


Bass distorts more heavily the further into the song we get, suggesting everything is getting out of control – the groove gets more intricate and complex too … that mouthed whammy bar guitar solo enters … a ‘dum dum dum dum dummmmm’ playful vocal outro with a new spacy production element to conclude. Industrial alien funk, that if you’re hearing it, should leave you breathless, sweaty and confused like being felt up by God at the bins round the back of Glam Slam.



SAME PAGE, DIFFERENT BOOK

Like Hot Summer, this song makes much more sense here as part of a cohesive theme and sound than it did as an individual download. It’s a playful – if slightly claustrophobic - rolling funk groove with a great bassline and woozy see-saw synths. It must be said however that I detest that digital percussion effect he used to death around this time and it’s present with a vengeance here. It’s like knives down my spine, but there’s no denying the rest of this tune this is candy to the ears sonically. It’s never going to be anyone’s favourite song, except Shelby’s apparently, but it has some nice low key synths carrying the hook.



Also like it when P vocally harmonises along with the bassline in verses. This is definitely an album that should be listened to with headphones at least once, so many little sonic easter eggs littering the mix.



Theological subject matter is not really my thing, unless it’s Dylan or Cohen, and we’re in deeply troublesome intellectual territory when we’re writing: ‘What are we fighting for?’ but overall it’s a slightly more mature version of ‘United States of Division’ which was pretty bombastically ridiculous. A surprisingly enjoyable ‘rap’ from Shelby at the end gets bonus points, sounds sassy and bouncy while reiterating one of the album’s repeat themes that there’s no answers to be found on TV.



‘If you’re all alone/But throwing stones/ Who do you think’s gonna lose’ is a nice lyric though in terms of the earlier ‘glass house’ analogy P is using. Lyrically, Armageddeon is near - but so is God, which in P’s head means ‘Better off chilling til the world ends’. Pious Prince doesn’t really do it for me though, even when it’s funky.


With a different lyrical theme this could have been a true highlight and possibly will be for some. It adds nothing new to the Prince oeuvre however – but despite being the kind of thing asinine, clueless critics claim ‘he could do in his sleep’ like it takes no effort at all to create funk pop gems like this – it’s still a funky segue between the masterworks and it could be a grower.



WHEN SHE COMES

What time is it? Prince sex ballad time. And speaking of masterworks, this just might actually be seen by musical historians of the future as one of his very best efforts within that idiom. Which is a league of one, obviously, but even competing with himself he can produce something that sounds at once familiar, yet fresh. Like this work of sensuous wonder.



That sounds like hyperbole, but bloody hell – this is heavily sexual without much in the way of metaphor like its Hit n Run 2 reinvention. And not in a cartoon, technicolour, glossy way many P ballads have been left drowning in syrupy gloop since the mid-90s. This is naked - very sparsely but intricately produced – the bluesy rawness wonderfully juxtaposed with huge, majestic and beautifully jarring gospel backing vocals thrown high in the mix.



Piano and acoustic guitar fill out the minimalist instrumentation, each clear as a bell, driven by a completely different vocal arrangement to the version we’re familiar with being the cherry on top. And lyrically, only the title remains from the version we’re familiar with – this is Prince fully engaged in what he’s capable of, with every quark of soul that made up his being fired up and proclaiming its existence to the universe.



This is far removed from the ‘Al Green’ or Parisian-influenced version we knew (and loved, personally) from Hit n Run 2. This feels much classically ‘Princely’ but not generically-so. More one of those ‘only Prince could have done it’ songs. Some lovely little bluesy guitar fills throughout play off the rolling, quietly dramatic but playful piano melody. This is a truly stunning vocal performance – we’ve grown too used to P’s voice perhaps, but let’s remind ourselves it’s a thing of wonder when he unleashes its full power. Playful, sensual, soulful, all over the place range-wise – each tantalising possibility ever suggested by that crystalline falsetto and chocolate baritone is explored and exposed here.



Huge multi-layered backing vocals stun and surprise, but somehow they’re not overpowering – a deft and intelligent production trick – this is not the blundering Thunder. Which I actually like (particularly the ballet version) but that’s another story. This production effect on the multi-layered vocals here is actually similar to the crescendo of Sea of Everything which he recorded that same year – but only on the vocals, not the overall sound which was quite deliberately synthetic on 2010.


Beautiful low tones wrap around some delicious old-school suggestive coy filth: ‘I want to hear the sounds…you know what sounds’. Stunning. And lol at the ‘up and down/up and down’ part, he’s sung it so many times that it’s deliberate tongue in cheek at this point and another Easter Egg for the devoted. He’s on funny as fuck form here, almost like the Prince we all knew and loved before Larry entered the frame.



This song is truly a lesson and masterclass in arrangement and vocals, a blueprint to credible sonic erotica. And yes, here they are, some shagging sounds in the background. The girl here isn’t Vanity and I don’t have the credits to hand but it’s pretty explicit moaning and groaning for late-period Prince.



‘Where am I’ he also asks – perhaps not surprising this was recorded around the same time as Cause and Effect. Perhaps both were intended for another album at one point. Also curious that he uses the phrase in much the same manner on the much-earlier Wall Of Berlin from Lotus Flower.



And those drums – particularly the snare – are incredibly well produced. D’Angelo will give this one a few plays I imagine. Stunning vocal harmonies elevate a rapturous middle 8, then it all builds to P’s glorious hold of the consonant sound mmmmmmmmmmmm for what seems a lifetime – and then he releases it into the stars and it’s gone. If you could see the future would you try?

[Edited 7/29/21 5:30am]

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Reply #3 posted 07/25/21 4:31pm

Number23

1010 (RIN TIN TIN)

A song perhaps boasting Prince’s oddest song title in a catalogue spanning more than 2000 songs should be an ominous sign. Maybe Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in Summer has it pipped but it’s still a chin-stroker.


The hook is the foundation stone of the song and we are immediately greeted with it - enticed into a minimalist vibe with this deep, bluesy, funky The Max-style piano motif with some synth bubbling on top of it – then the electronica doubles down as an extra layer, solidifying the hook to our ears, and we welcome an organic piano to the mix that plays an ominous single ringing note at the end of each bar to warm this tangical angular, mathematical gas groove up. Handclaps now enter and bass notes take over the heavy lifting of the main motif – we’re now fully introduced to the oddest song on the album. And it also might be its best. It’s certainly the most experimental.



You could suggest it’s like an off-key, mid-tempo mash-up of Act of God and If I Was The Man In Ur life – but in a good way. Like a staccato spiritual melody, I suppose When Will We B Paid is very similar in terms of vibe and harmonic structure, yet there’s a playfulness here and a wilful obtuseness that piques our curiosity rather then pushes us away. Lyrically, again, he seems to be describing grace under pressure – ‘being like water’ as chaos reigns all around. He describes societal meltdown - as the world watches TV. Shows he watched as a kid with almost fairytale, too-good-to-be-true heroes are mentioned - ‘What could be stranger? Rin Tin Tin. Ask the Lone ranger/Rin Tin Tin’.



They can’t save us now it seems. Dogs, cowboys, whatever. No more heroes, as The Stranglers put it. The reality we’re force fed from birth is a lie. In the first (deeply funky) bridge (one of many twists and turns on that original motif) he exclaims: ‘Too much information/Just make you head curl’ – which links directly to album opener W2A. ‘Lookin’ at yo master’s clock’. Yet more swipes at the digital era - which I imagine the ‘1010’ of the title also evokes with binary code. Again, it’s a reminder that this actually might be his most cohesive album since TRC or Parade. It all fits together like a jigsaw – similar to this song actually – which takes many detours with its dramatic multi-tracked chants and vocalisations – but always returning to that original riff to anchor all the mad professor experimentation.



And I’m ok with P comparing himself to Bruce Lee in his self-aggrandising too – ‘It’s best to be like water/There’s no vibration in rock/Meet me in between the atoms/With Beethoven and Bach’. Clearly, the guy who wrote Cream is still very much in residence within the crumbling ‘Prince’ artifice. A little classical instrumentation that humourously plays up to the previous lyric apes the melody - then, with no foreshadowing, we are nailed to the ground by a truly stunning, thrilling, intensely strident multi-tracked vocal section that is a chant and exhalation to his own otherness and the non-existence of time itself – it’s similar to stranger harmonies in the middle 8 of U make My Sun Shine but more forceful, energetic and enthralling – no-one else in popular music could pull it off. It’s the best ten seconds of the album.



The drums then turn seriously intense and funky, with big vocal chants acting as glaciers eroding the groove to finish off this alien, mathematical gas emission – then that anchor motif reappears like a mirage – ‘U got 2 let the funk unwind’ P says, then you realise the guitar is becoming more abrasive and hard in the mix – must be said this is a great performance, whether it’s with the band or just P multi-tracking. My ears tell me it’s P on the drums but could be mistaken. If this is all Prince then wow.


Maybe it’s about P tearing through his memory palace, all recollections fragmented, non-tangible, left shattered in pieces after a life none of us could barely imagine – a genius coming to the conclusion that we are trapped in flesh within an infinite and cylindrical plane of spacetime, transitory beings stuck in a thick paste of ‘time’ and that this ‘time’ truly doesn’t exist in a universal sense. That childhood and adulthood are one and the same. The the child really is the father of the man. That everything that ever has and will ever happen in the multiverse actually exists all at the one pulsating everlasting ‘now’.



Endlessly fascinating song. Only Prince could do it – some of the distorted guitar playing reminiscent of Joint 2 Joint too, as well as the odd, experimental nature of the song. Likely the highlight of the album once the hype and initial excitement has died down, the one we’ll all talk about in years to come. About our own childhood hero. Who really did exist.




YES

Or Y-E-S, as Liz, Shelby and Elisa chant in unision to introduce us to this celebratory rave to the joy fantastic. It’s a hard stomping glittery whoosh of a sonic experience – relentlessly upbeat, a synth-gospel Family Stone electric shock with a hard rock underbelly and techno elements – in vibe it’s also quite similar to some of the driving, upbeat 3EG stuff like Mars.



Three-part harmonies in Sly/GCS style proclaim a ‘new dawn if you want to come’, a knowingly typical P theme – with the lyrics dismissing present rulers and mindsets – yet we’re buoyed by an exhilarating bouncy – yet slightly claustrophobic and airless – production that imprisons an infectiously optimistic declaration on how the world can be a better place. Very interesting production going on here, techno-lite in places but the main musical theme also reminiscent of the 1999 synth riff.



A floor-stomping choral outburst of ‘Yes, yes, yes yahooo!’ is somehow not as saccharine as it should be either. Perhaps due to the slight sinisterness of the lead synth riff souring the joy slightly in a wonderfully bittersweet brew.



A galloping bridge explodes with all the vocalists spelling out that word which will always be synonymous with Lovesexy - Y-E-S - repeatedly and hypnotically, and a butterfly-inducing descending motif enters that’s reminiscent of One U Wanna C. It’d make a skull smile. ‘Someone here gonna start a fire’ P sings, perhaps echoing the underlying lyrical menace in Hot Summer. However, the concluding ‘A transformation of every heart/Everybody got to play a part/ Oh YES - YES YES YES!’ is an exclamation of sheer evangelical joy in the hope that everyone can ‘look inside’ as the title track advised and be ‘saved’.



We are also treated to a genuinely funny, playfully deep counter bass vocal line P, with a descending ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ where he goes subsonic and only dolphins can join in.



It’s great – misanthropes or miserable swines will get nothing from it except frustration and queasiness. The rest? You will be moved. It’s too short perhaps, but it leaves us wanting more in true showbiz style. And in that spirit, there is a certainly more than a little ‘musical theatre’ such as Hair or Rocky Horror peppering this tune as well.



Bombastic, but tastefully and cleverly done, it’s not killed by over-zealous production – and will undoubtedly be great turned up loud. It’s like if Abba had a synth-gospel period. Not quite the Lovesexy vibe resurrected but evoking a similar euphoric giddiness, this is its own thing – and once again on this record, it’s something that’s not generic. You could genuinely only find something as fevered, manic and unique as this on a Prince album. YES.



ONE DAY WE’LL ALL B FREE

So, to conclude this musical journey through 70’s R&B and Prince’s realisation that everyone achieving inner harmony – or saying ‘Yes’ to ourselves – can change the entire world, by simply becoming the change we want to see, we’re whisked off to the magical world of Stevieland for one last stop-off - for in terms of arrangement and vocal phrasing, this is very Innervisions/Talking Book - but with enough modern production twists in terms of the shimmering warmth, clarity and depth in the drums that’s captured, ensuring it’s not a total pastiche.



A beautiful, mellow double-tracked P harmony beds in the first verse. Lovely lyrics on longing for something else, more, bigger, better. This is the macro outlook of many other songs on this record inversed, the telescope turned round - he’s looking inside – exactly what he was telling us to do in the first song’s chorus. Urging us to find that personal inner joy that he’s found, that will then help bring light into the world naturally by societal osmosis and influencing other people who are still ‘enslaved’ by their own thought processes.



‘Day after day/We go to bed/To learn that this was just a dream’ he states, questioning the nature of reality itself. ‘Everything your mother said/Was just a waste of time’ is striking. ‘But one day/one day we’ll all be free’ It’s the same thematic message again – utopia is coming – but each of us individually must reach our own inner harmony and then allow that personal emancipation to inspire others to throw off the shackles of the material world. Again, he’s stressing no blood will be shed in this societal revolution of the mind.



It Be’s Like That Sometimes comes to mind in terms of the light airiness of the playful, deceptively complex groove. I prefer this though, the guitar is really playful and funky – a masterclass in lightness and good taste. The chorus itself is a freezeframe – the rolling vibe of the verses pauses, everything is held in the air, then: ‘One day – one day – We’ll all be free’. Now listen to the drum signal an imminent return to the verse … and breathe as an intimate-sounding, subtle, sensitive baritone delivery pulls us near for the final verse: ‘U go to school to learn/What never existed/But if ur history only burns/It’s better 2 resist it’ Again, underlining that the overarching theme that we’re born slaves and subjected to lies from birth that shape our negative perception of reality - here, he takes umbrage with the American education system and its shallow, selective, skewed grasp on history, written by the ‘victors’. But Prince maintains hope: ‘One day – one day – we’ll all be free’



The song’s foreboding, cynical verses are sweetened by the upbeat, sweltering summertime groove and optimistic ‘chorus’ - that’s more of a vocal hook– detoxifying the grim reality he’s describing with gentle euphoric grace. It also neatly ties up the overarching themes of W2A - and doesn’t leave us with a bad taste in our mouth like TRC may have done for some. It’s sugar with the medicine. And it tastes superfunkycalifrag … you know the rest. .



That groovy outro surely wants us to clap along and then … ha, the handclaps do appear in the mix … and now we’re elevated by a stylistic shift to gospel – the common thread stitched throughout the entire record. It’s a church album. Short and succinct, ODWWBF doesn’t outstay its welcome. It perhaps plays a similar ‘classic soul outro’ role as In Another Life does on D’Angelo’s Black Messiah – not deliberately though as this was recorded before that record was released, but it’s an interesting coincidence.



That achingly beautiful choral hook returns one final time, complemented magnificently with those P rollerskate rink guitar licks, with a bass as bubbly and tight as a drowning fly’s arse somehow finding room to shine too. Wow. Sci-Fi synths begin to stir and fizz in the background of the mix in what we’re being led to believe is the the final vocal coda sign-off before … a final burst of optimism obliterates the false ending with some joyous ‘one day’ harmonies from the girls as P scats and improvises. ‘Talkin bout u/Talkin bout me/One day we’ll all be free’. Inclusivity is the final word. This is no Rainbow Children. No more ‘chosen ones’. We can all be part of this new revolution. Our oppressors can be overthrown. But we must ‘look inside’ for the energy to discover what direction our own moral compass points towards - and then start walking and see who follows.



Yet – there’s a twist. The last chorus line leaves off ‘free’ at the end – ‘One Day We Will Be’ is now the message. We’re left with a foreboding synth – perhaps deliberately reminiscent of the conclusion of Lovesexy after Positivity. Yet, this synth is the same one that appears on the opening title track – a circular, infinite loop then, perhaps P attempting to suggest that we could be doomed to repeat all the mistakes of the past continually if we don’t all discover the inner enlightenment he continually refers to throughout the record – yet, I imagine it’ll still leave the average lister who doesn’t feel the urge to overanalyse everything with a satisfying cylindric vibe that reinforces the cohesive, focused feel of the album.



BRIEF CONCLUSION

Sorry it’s not a hidden song on track 77, it’s literally my brief conclusion.



For me, W2A is a highly enjoyable listen for its band approach, with an organic and sympathetic production from the gifted Morris Hayes – interesting it’s from 2010, same year as the album 2010, which to me was P saying this where whe was at ‘now’, but in retrospect was clearly a sarcastic title as it was almost entirely made up of recycled sounds. Hearing W2A solidifies this notion - P’s head was clearly in many places during 2010. As it always was.



And speaking comparatively to P’s past ‘warm’ albums, to my ears, TRC and Lotus are more interesting, fulfilling and gratifying artistic expressions. You’re going to get fans being highly critical of W2A due to their own expectations - and Prince himself warned us about the danger of such inclinations continually. His own fault for setting such a high bar in the 80s, of course, where he was clearly the greatest recording artist that ever existed.



I think the point he was perhaps making was that we’re never going to get the same intense joy and gratification we once did if we insist on drawing comparisons with the songs that soundtracked our respective youths – that’s where madness lies, despite being the natural thing for the brain to do. But this isn’t Parade. This isn’t Lovesexy. This isn’t The Gold Experience. This isn’t The Rainbow Children. It’s Welcome 2 America, and should be approached on that basis, and taken on its own terms. As difficult as that is to do with a back catalogue as rich and wondrous as Prince’s.

However it’s clear that this record is incredibly cohesive - both thematically and in production. I posted about this before but to me it’s a concept album about slavery - to inherited hierarchies, to false histories, to generational lies, to race, to patriotism, to technology, to sexuality, to gender, to religion … and to love and lust.


It’s about the end game of an astonishing biological miracle that flowered on a backwater rock floating in the middle of infinity who evolved to become self-aware then, in Prince’s eyes, somehow allowed themselves to be used as batteries by a tiny minority of oppressor slave-masters whom we bestow the illusion of power and control upon due to their multi-generational accumulation of paper with numbers on it.

It’s about how those in control of society divide and conquer to rule. It’s about how nearly all of us die drowning in chains - and the ones who don’t are the ones that should.


It’s also an album about what it means to be homosapien at the dawn of transhumanism. It’s an album about where we’ve been and where we’re going … even if it takes 1000 light years to get there. It’s damning in the darkness, lashing out from the shadows, yet keeps a light shining. It’s full of darkness and doubt, but also wonder and joy. Yes, it’s a concept album – but in the best possible sense of the term. It has laser focus - something many listeners wanted from Prince for a long time. It’s not a ragtag grab from that year’s Vault pile, however strewn with treasures it may have been. It’s a Jenga tower - take one piece out and it all falls apart under its own weight. It’s light/shade in perfect harmony. All the songs are necessary to make it ‘stand up and be strong’. Ugh.


At its root, W2A is Prince paying homage to 70s US black music while trying out a new band. It’s funky, playful, experimental in places and playfully ‘deep’ (as deep, lyrically, as Prince gets anyway) but is essentially a tribute to the influences of his youth. And seeing as he didn’t continue the creative relationship with musicians on it and ultimately shelved the album, it tells you something perhaps. But I don’t want to dampen excitement - many people here will absolutely love it. Personally, I like it a lot. And it could grow into love.

[Edited 7/29/21 10:01am]

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Reply #4 posted 07/25/21 9:27pm

luv4u

Moderator

avatar

moderator

stickified thumbs up!

Edmonton, AB - canada
Mod Goddess of the SNIP & BAN Making Moves - OF4S
Ohh purple joy oh purple bliss oh purple rapture!
REAL MUSIC by REAL MUSICIANS - Prince
"I kind of wish there was a reason for Prince to make the site crash more" ~~ Ben
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Reply #5 posted 07/26/21 4:58am

jfenster

Wow....have u done this for all his albums??
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Reply #6 posted 07/26/21 5:50am

funkbabyandthe
babysitters

You should write a book on prince
Anyone who can write that much on the weaker songs should be published lol
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Reply #7 posted 07/26/21 6:42am

Romeoblu

Thanks.

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts


I was going to give the album a rest until Friday but I'm going to have to listen again now.
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Reply #8 posted 07/26/21 6:54am

Strive

Everybody mentions The War but I always think of Xenophobia when I hear Welcome 2 America. It has the same sort of off-kilter vibe.

Cool review.

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Reply #9 posted 07/26/21 7:22am

Musze

avatar

Wow. Remarkable review/take.

You put into words my feelings about "Stand Up..." perfectly.

Bravo. Thank you!

I Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore...
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Reply #10 posted 07/26/21 3:20pm

DarkOK

Thank you so much - I really appreciated reading your observations. You sure have a way with words!

I'm now really excited to hear Check The Record.
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Reply #11 posted 07/27/21 6:50am

simon1969

Would be intersting to find out what the tracklist was for the configuration that Morris produced

Anyone have any ideas what other tracks were floating around at this time ?

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Reply #12 posted 07/27/21 7:49am

JoeyCococo

I don't know what Number23 eats for breakfast, but he/she has absolutely FANTASTIC observations. I'm always impressed with those with such an ability to convey their thoughts so effectively. When their thoughts sync with my own, I am even more impressed as he/she is literally putting on paper the thoughts floating in MY mind. I looked forward to Number23's review after reading his wonderful SOTT Deluxe reviews.

My thoughts are, this is a cohesive album. Yes, have heard this word used in many reviews. It does make me wonder if this is Prince's doing or something Morris Hayes decided to do. I feel if it were Prince, he'd have thrown a 'screw driver' in the middle just to ruin the flow:) Not really kidding.

Anyway, on first full listen...it was the last song 'One Day We Will Be Free' that caught my attention immediately. With his effortless guitar playing throughout, made me miss him again. Did he ever play that thing well. So so melodic....so easy for him The song, like the rest of the album, sounded SO clean. I can see putting this on some of my 'audiophile' medleys. Sounds great.

1000 Lights Years...I absolutely loved the section on part 2 of the Black Muse track. So, I was looking forward to this. TO my surprise, it did not grip me right away. The pace is much slower but, rawer which I know I'm going to love. As I said to a friend, it's these ones that don't catch me right away that I end up loving most later. Again, that guitar part in the middle...wow. He just had a special touch. As always, even the most throwaway cut (and this is not one) could have redeeming charachtaristics like this.

The bass playing is so interesting. As I heard Tal say herself on that offical podcast, she was putting in fills everywhere...not realizing they'd make the final version. I just love all the interesting bits and pieces in Check the Record. So so good. There is some part of it that sounds very simple....something simple that drives the song but again, its growing on me and as with many of this songs, some things are just sinking into my sub concious. I'll appreciate them more as they come to the fore.

I am not a big fan of the title track but as Num23 has said, it's better as part of the album as is Hot Summer. I like the subject matter, and I do think some observations are clever. I just don't care for the song...its not even a song as much as it's a long intro.

When She Comes - I always loved the delicate version on Phase 2. Loved it. I can't believe there is a more delicate version now smile I have long loved his more organic music and this is it. From the vocals, the sparse instrumentation.....it has every ingredient that I love but I must admit, i'm not yet actually into the song. I know I will be but it has not hit me yet. This is probably b/c the version i know well is still firmly lodged in my mind It will take some more time for it to dislodge and allow this version to creep in.

His opening line in 'Stand Up' startled me. It reminded me of how unique a voice he had. I am not sure what I think of the whole song, but I loved his singing.

As for the rest, I need more time with it. I have high hopes for 1010 b/c of what Number23 has said about it.

Overall, this is a fantastic album. I too don't believe it to be a Rainbow Children or LOtus Flower but even mentioning Welcome 2 America alongside those are high praise. Another excellent release by the Estate!

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Reply #13 posted 07/27/21 7:52am

JoeyCococo

JoeyCococo said:

I don't know what Number23 eats for breakfast, but he/she has absolutely FANTASTIC observations. I'm always impressed with those with such an ability to convey their thoughts so effectively. When their thoughts sync with my own, I am even more impressed as he/she is literally putting on paper the thoughts floating in MY mind. I looked forward to Number23's review after reading his wonderful SOTT Deluxe reviews.

My thoughts are, this is a cohesive album. Yes, have heard this word used in many reviews. It does make me wonder if this is Prince's doing or something Morris Hayes decided to do. I feel if it were Prince, he'd have thrown a 'screw driver' in the middle just to ruin the flow:) Not really kidding.

Anyway, on first full listen...it was the last song 'One Day We Will Be Free' that caught my attention immediately. With his effortless guitar playing throughout, made me miss him again. Did he ever play that thing well. So so melodic....so easy for him The song, like the rest of the album, sounded SO clean. I can see putting this on some of my 'audiophile' medleys. Sounds great.

1000 Lights Years...I absolutely loved the section on part 2 of the Black Muse track. So, I was looking forward to this. TO my surprise, it did not grip me right away. The pace is much slower but, rawer which I know I'm going to love. As I said to a friend, it's these ones that don't catch me right away that I end up loving most later. Again, that guitar part in the middle...wow. He just had a special touch. As always, even the most throwaway cut (and this is not one) could have redeeming charachtaristics like this.

The bass playing is so interesting. As I heard Tal say herself on that offical podcast, she was putting in fills everywhere...not realizing they'd make the final version. I just love all the interesting bits and pieces in Check the Record. So so good. There is some part of it that sounds very simple....something simple that drives the song but again, its growing on me and as with many of this songs, some things are just sinking into my sub concious. I'll appreciate them more as they come to the fore.

I am not a big fan of the title track but as Num23 has said, it's better as part of the album as is Hot Summer. I like the subject matter, and I do think some observations are clever. I just don't care for the song...its not even a song as much as it's a long intro.

When She Comes - I always loved the delicate version on Phase 2. Loved it. I can't believe there is a more delicate version now smile I have long loved his more organic music and this is it. From the vocals, the sparse instrumentation.....it has every ingredient that I love but I must admit, i'm not yet actually into the song. I know I will be but it has not hit me yet. This is probably b/c the version i know well is still firmly lodged in my mind It will take some more time for it to dislodge and allow this version to creep in.

His opening line in 'Stand Up' startled me. It reminded me of how unique a voice he had. I am not sure what I think of the whole song, but I loved his singing.

As for the rest, I need more time with it. I have high hopes for 1010 b/c of what Number23 has said about it.

Overall, this is a fantastic album. I too don't believe it to be a Rainbow Children or LOtus Flower but even mentioning Welcome 2 America alongside those are high praise. Another excellent release by the Estate!

Check the Record has that one run that has that Rebirth of the Flesh rhythm/melody...

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Reply #14 posted 07/28/21 7:10pm

jdcxc

Wow...just started reading this great deep review. Wud love to hear your theory of why he shelved it.

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Reply #15 posted 07/29/21 2:13am

funkbabyandthe
babysitters

could it be that the review is better than the actual music?

biggrin

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Reply #16 posted 07/29/21 8:01am

JoeyCococo

Come on! smile

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Reply #17 posted 07/29/21 9:09am

ThePersian

His own fault for setting such a high bar in the 80s, of course, where he was clearly the greatest recording artist that ever existed.

yeahthat

So we know who to blame... lol... bless him, wherever he may be...

The Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.
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Reply #18 posted 07/29/21 11:22am

Number23

funkbabyandthebabysitters said:

You should write a book on prince
Anyone who can write that much on the weaker songs should be published lol
Appreciate that, but it's not really what I could classify as 'writing' - it's not sober nor sculpted, just thoughts quickly rattled out with countless references that would only make sense to a rabid fanbase - very messy, insular and indulgent. Any decent editor would tell me to tone down the hyperbole and count to ten before typing.

Thing is, I couldn’t write about something like When Doves Cry - maybe about its impact on pop culture or something, but the song itself? I’d be looking at a blank page/screen for days. You almost feel you don’t have the right to write about something so artistically devastating as you’d have to match it somehow - if you also view writing as an artform. It casts such a shadow. Anyone with the balls to write about When Doves Cry is fearless and has my admiration.

Prince’s ‘new’ stuff has no such cultural baggage so it’s easy to get into a creative zone analysing it due to excitement at its freshness. It’s energising - I don’t have the energy to write about When Doves Cry. Not that my writing here is particularly creative, like I said it’s just thoughts written down.

However, I could possibly write a book on Purple & Gold. Seriously - such a unique, one-off sonic experiment in the Prince catalogue? I mean, why? How? Who engineered it? Did they have a stroke trying to keep a straight face in front of Prince? I could easy get a book out of Purple & Gold. It’s fascinating.
[Edited 7/30/21 2:13am]
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Reply #19 posted 07/29/21 5:13pm

jdcxc

Strong NYTimes Review with similar insights...

https://www.nytimes.com/2...e=Homepage

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Reply #20 posted 07/29/21 9:42pm

gandorb

https://www.metacritic.co...ica/prince

Here are 9 of the first reviews of the album, 8 of them postive.

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Reply #21 posted 07/30/21 7:18am

KoolEaze

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You´re being very, very humble here. I immensely enjoy reading almost anything you write here, you have such a way with words and you obviously seem to be able to put people´s thoughts into words. I´m glad you´re back on the org after a long hiatus (or several hiatuses?) , and you are one of the main reasons I still log in to the org every now and then, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with your posts. I haven´t really made up my mind about Welcome 2 America yet, but reading your opinion on the new album was a real pleasure.

Number23 said:

funkbabyandthebabysitters said:
You should write a book on prince Anyone who can write that much on the weaker songs should be published lol
Appreciate that, but it's not really what I could classify as 'writing' - it's not sober nor sculpted, just thoughts quickly rattled out with countless references that would only make sense to a rabid fanbase - very messy, insular and indulgent. Any decent editor would tell me to tone down the hyperbole and count to ten before typing. Thing is, I couldn’t write about something like When Doves Cry - maybe about its impact on pop culture or something, but the song itself? I’d be looking at a blank page/screen for days. You almost feel you don’t have the right to write about something so artistically devastating as you’d have to match it somehow - if you also view writing as an artform. It casts such a shadow. Anyone with the balls to write about When Doves Cry is fearless and has my admiration. Prince’s ‘new’ stuff has no such cultural baggage so it’s easy to get into a creative zone analysing it due to excitement at its freshness. It’s energising - I don’t have the energy to write about When Doves Cry. Not that my writing here is particularly creative, like I said it’s just thoughts written down. However, I could possibly write a book on Purple & Gold. Seriously - such a unique, one-off sonic experiment in the Prince catalogue? I mean, why? How? Who engineered it? Did they have a stroke trying to keep a straight face in front of Prince? I could easy get a book out of Purple & Gold. It’s fascinating. [Edited 7/30/21 2:13am]

" I´d rather be a stank ass hoe because I´m not stupid. Oh my goodness! I got more drugs! I´m always funny dude...I´m hilarious! Are we gonna smoke?"
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Reply #22 posted 07/30/21 7:01pm

jillybean

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Love your review. So damn thoughtful and deep. Thank you for all the effort you put into it. And for sharing it.

(Can I put in a plug for Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance as another contender for oddest song title?)
"She made me glad to be a man"
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Reply #23 posted 07/31/21 12:26pm

v10letblues

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I just quickly sampled the album, but the ones that stood out for me on first listen are the tittle track and Rin Tin Tin

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Reply #24 posted 07/31/21 1:21pm

Hyperborea

Fantastic write-up! Love the coffee revels analogy of Hot Summer.
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Reply #25 posted 07/31/21 5:34pm

Buttox

When future generations ask why TL;DR became a thing, this multipost review will be one of the explanatory exhibits.
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Reply #26 posted 08/01/21 2:34am

wasitgood4u

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Thanks for the great review (a little long?).

I think Dear Mr Man is a better comparison than The War.

Did you refer to Tal as “he”????

My take’s still out on the album - nothing really excites me,but I liked the vibe of the title track and Born to Die when they came out and agree that Hot Summer and SPDB sound better as part of the whole
package. I like the sound and the lyrical theme and the fact that there’s depth - actually, that does link this, in a way no one’s mentioning, with 20ten. The themes are similar, this just puts the lyrics more in your face, because there’s less focus on the music - they’re mainly just grooves.

I find Check the Record Intriguing, which probably means it will be a fave. Rin Tin Tin puzzling which means I may like it but I may not. The last track at this stage sounds like a fizzler to me (a la Planet Earth in general and its closers, or Phase One..), which is a bummer.

Overall though a good album and nice to hear. I’m guessing I’d have been a lot more critical and disappointed if it was released back then. Now, it’s great to hear new music and an interesting direction. The influences on this are all among my favorite artists - GSH, Curtis, Sly, Stevie, GC - so I definitely enjoy it. I’ve also been dying to hear what he recorded with Tal and CC ever since the rumours emerged back then that they had played with him so I’m happy to finally hear it and the only disappointment is that they didn’t continue with him and tour. The last five years could have taken a completely different turn...
[Edited 8/1/21 2:38am]
"We've never been able to pull off a funk number"

"That's becuase we're soulless auttomatons"
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Reply #27 posted 08/01/21 3:20am

Number23

wasitgood4u said:

Thanks for the great review (a little long?).

I think Dear Mr Man is a better comparison than The War.

Did you refer to Tal as “he”????

My take’s still out on the album - nothing really excites me,but I liked the vibe of the title track and Born to Die when they came out and agree that Hot Summer and SPDB sound better as part of the whole
package. I like the sound and the lyrical theme and the fact that there’s depth - actually, that does link this, in a way no one’s mentioning, with 20ten. The themes are similar, this just puts the lyrics more in your face, because there’s less focus on the music - they’re mainly just grooves.

I find Check the Record Intriguing, which probably means it will be a fave. Rin Tin Tin puzzling which means I may like it but I may not. The last track at this stage sounds like a fizzler to me (a la Planet Earth in general and its closers, or Phase One..), which is a bummer.

Overall though a good album and nice to hear. I’m guessing I’d have been a lot more critical and disappointed if it was released back then. Now, it’s great to hear new music and an interesting direction. The influences on this are all among my favorite artists - GSH, Curtis, Sly, Stevie, GC - so I definitely enjoy it. I’ve also been dying to hear what he recorded with Tal and CC ever since the rumours emerged back then that they had played with him so I’m happy to finally hear it and the only disappointment is that they didn’t continue with him and tour. The last five years could have taken a completely different turn...
[Edited 8/1/21 2:38am]

You still hung up with the whole he/she thing? This is a woke review MF. wink
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Reply #28 posted 08/01/21 6:15pm

leadline

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As good as W2A is, it is not a melodic album. I would have loved a song or two on there with a real melody. I do love it though, and it is a tremendously cohesive offering, with Hot Summer diverging just a little bit from the overall feel of the album.

"You always get the dream that you deserve, from what you value the most" -Prince 2013
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Reply #29 posted 08/02/21 6:42am

jdcxc

Keep coming back to this great review...thanks 23.

1010 is a brilliant jam...One Man Band Studio Genius Prince. It also brings me back to this interview quote...“I personally can’t stand digital music,” he says. “You’re getting sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. When you play it back, you can’t feel anything. We’re analogue people, not digital.” He’s warming to his theme. “Ringtones!” he exclaims. “Have you ever been in a room where there’s 17 ringtones going off at once?”

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