Saturday, December 19, 2015

Report to the Dance Floor : Prince's "HITNRUN Phase Two"

Once upon a time the only artists I listened to who were not metal were the Violent Femmes , David Bowie and Prince. I got "Purple Rain" X-mas of 1984 and hung tough with him despite changing his name to a symbol and the Bat Dance not parting ways with him until fifteen years later with  s"Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic", though the last I saw him live was on the "3121" tour. The opener might have the social commentary similar to his "Sign O the Times' album,  so it no surprise the upbeat opening remind me of a slower paced "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man". His guitar  has a jazzy Frank Zappa like cadence  following the chant of "if there ain't no justice there ain't no peace" . His voice sounds like he hasn't aged a day. The only sign of age is in his mellowed approach to rock, which finds his guitar using a cleaner jazz tone and forsaking the wild man Hendrix wail of feedback. Even his take on funk on funk is more James Brown with a wall of horns and less down and dirty George Clinton. This fact is highlighted on "2Y. 2D." or too young to dare.

Prince is still very aware where he came from and what works best for him. Granted we had to live through his ill fated attempts at rapping to get to this place where he is more self aware . If you have not seen him live, he is not all hype and glamour, his legend is well deserved, their are plenty multi-instrumentalists in the studio , but he plays every instrument on stage including the drums at some point during his shows.  He steers dangerously close to a jazz inflected adult contemporary on " Look at Me, Look At U", the bass line keeps it thumping while the keys trickle along a flowing stream of more improvisational jazz. The song does feel like something they are just jamming on in the studio, despite Prince's well known streak of being a control freak.

The bass continues to play the ground work for the heavy horns of funk  accent  on "Stare' which even gives a wink to the "Kiss" riff. The trend of coming across more like jam continues here. His vocals are more rhythmic and sing song, yet never cross over into rap. The first taste of dancey funk with a strong taste of the 80s in it's mouth is "Xtraloveable" that finds Prince back in the throne at his most classic. This touches on his more disco laced pre-Purple Rain sounds. This is also the first song where he really injects the in your face sexuality his music oozed with in his glory days. "Groovy Potential " takes the classic Prince sound they just touches upon and run it through a filter of disco fused with jazz.

The album slows down and indulges in the ballad "When She Comes" the strings caress it like a Burt Bacharach slow jam. He can still glide up into his falsetto, though never goes for the kind of notes he hit in "Do Me Baby". The first real attempt at rocking out comes on "Screwdriver'. The synth section in the middle makes this weird , put it's a pretty straight forward fist pumper for Prince. Then at the opposite end of the spectrum they go in a funkier almost jazz fusion take on pop with "Black Muse".  In his lower midrange, this one covers familiar ground with him borrowing from himself. It bears to mention that this is not pop that would sit next to even "Raspberry Beret" on the radio. It's to jammy and requires too much thought , but Prince doesn't need the radio at this point. The syncopation can get adventurous at a drop of his paisley scarf.

"Revelation" slows things back down to a more soulful r&b pace. The sax drips the kind of steamy quality that will have all kinds of forty year old white folks getting freaky after dark in no tell hotels. His vocals might sound their best here, though his pipes have aged like fine wine. This song also has the guitar solo that those of you who recognize Prince as the most under rated guitarist ever have been waiting for. The album closes with the upbeat "Big City" that touches on his more light hearted side. Prince really has his own shoes to fill. I'll give this a 9 because it has to measure up to at least
"Around the World in Day" which is a place in time that he can never get back to but where he is finds the Purple One at a much better place than I expected and makes me want to back back and listen to the albums I missed out on , because if they are as good as this one it will be time well invested.

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