Almost unbelievably, Prince is almost 51. We are rapidly nearing the 30th anniversary of his first #1 R&B single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” with the only hint of aging being the lack of the now commonly used UR instead of `your.’ Prince has been one of my all-time absolute favorite artists over my lifetime. So sue me, I’m biased. I’m a forgiving person with my friends, and I’ve stuck with Prince during some strange times. I hung in there after seeing Graffiti Bridge in the theater. I actually liked Under the Cherry Moon, particularly the soundtrack. It didn’t faze me when he changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol.” I reveled in the 3-disc Emancipation and the 4-disc Crystal Ball, even with fan backlash tainting the affairs. I’ve even had to endure the bitter disappointments of some of the comments Prince has made recently in relation to religion and homosexuality. Of course, if I stopped listening to music based on idiotic things musicians have said, I’d have a very silent house. But, through all the ridiculousness, I hung in there. And why? Because Prince brings it every time. Sure, I’ve been waiting for a Prince album to give me the same chills as Purple Rain over the last twenty-five years, maybe in vain, but there’s finally an album that at least harnesses the same spirit as that hallmark record, LotusFlow3r.
The first thing that caught my attention upon listening to LotusFlow3r, only available as a download and at Target, by the way, was the return of Prince’s guitar prowess. Prince has long been one of the most underrated guitar heroes in the universe, and his Hendrix-style solos don’t go to waste here. “Boom” is the perfect example, showcasing blazing riffs amidst a steady slow number, proving that the Kid can still win with a ballad. Depending on whether you download the album or buy a hard copy, you will get either “The Morning After” or a cover of Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover.” The latter trumps the former, but the mildly charming “4Ever” and the odd mix of jazz-funk groove and politics in “Colonized Mind” follows either one. “Colonized Mind” is a particular standout for Prince’s guitar solo mastery and ability to hypnotize his fans into head-nodding ecstasy.
And although there ain’t no party like a Prince party, the party on this album doesn’t really start until the magnificent “Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful.” I knew as soon as this song began that the Prince I knew and loved had risen to the top once again. That feeling was fleeting as “Love Like Jazz” could either entrance or infuriate longtime fans, as it tends to be a bit self-indulgent, but the blend of styles is handled so deftly it’s hard to find too much fault in it. As always, Prince includes a song that inexplicably celebrates some building he owns (i.e., “Paisley Park,” “3121”), in this case, his new studio, “77 Beverly Park.” Rather than a natural bridge between fluctuating funk styles, the track is something you’d expect to hear while dining in a chi-chi Italian restaurant. Thankfully, Prince returns to the axe grinding with “Wall of Berlin,” featuring some of his best solos on the entire album. This is the Prince I’ve been waiting years for, the one who gave the insane face-melting solo at the close of “Purple Rain.”
It’s not quite the “Kid” voice from “U Got the Look,” but Prince’s high-pitched, helium inspired vocals in “$” are close enough to put a smile on those fans of Prince’s funk and dance-inspired numbers of the past. His Purple Badness makes an overt nod to Jimi with the intro to the immaculate track, “Dreamer.” It starts out just like “Voodoo Child,” and echoes the riff throughout the rest of the track, but the driving force of the song is pure Prince, reflecting on his journey and his identity as he did in the past on “Controversy.” Okay, maybe it’s a more PG-rated version, but it rocks like nothing else in Prince’s oeuvre. In fact, this is the song that finally made me believe that there was still something left in Prince that might be able to rival Purple Rain. And why? Listen to those screams and riffs at the end of “Dreamer.” If that song doesn’t convince you that Prince is better than ever, then u need a checkup 4 ur ears.
For some reason, Prince seems of two minds about his past. On one hand, he seems to be playing a lot of older tracks in concert. At his recent notorious Los Angeles show, one plagued with technical difficulties, he played a set almost entirely made up of older tracks, specifically stuff from his Purple Rain era. On the other hand, some symbols seem to distance himself from the comparisons to his older albums, such as having a broken TV set appear on his website with a still image from the movie, Purple Rain. So, which is it? Maybe as a religious man he is embarrassed by the sins of his past. After all, it’s his song “Darling Nikki” that started the whole “Parental Advisory” sticker trend. Maybe it’s both. It’s possible that Prince is going to avoid his more risqué numbers while embracing the radio-friendly hits. One thing’s for certain. The songs on this album, and the songs he’s choosing to play from his catalog, are guitar scorchers. This isn’t a fifty-year-old washout. This is the Kid, and the Kid wants to play.