Saturday, July 14, 2007

Exclusive: first review of Prince's new album

Planet Earth is too good to be so lightly sold, so why is it being given away with a tabloid?

His contemporaries from the Class of 1958 no longer lead the way. Michael Jackson is now widely derided. Head girl Madonna becomes less interesting with every public pronouncement.

So the decision of Prince, still one of the planet’s biggest live draws, to sacrifice his miraculously preserved credibility by giving away this new album with a Sunday tabloid looks mystifying (in every other territory it will be distributed conventionally).

Although The Artist Now Known As Prince Again has long used the internet to distribute surplus material to loyal fanatics, this ten-track set, recorded earlier this year, is not mere filler. Fondly remembered former collaborators Wendy and Lisa even appear on the incongruous though wildly catchy funky-country of The One U Wanna C and the melancholic Lion of Judah, despite its title closer to Fleetwood Mac than anything spiritual.

Now clearly reconciled to a career in stadia, Prince smears bombastic lead guitar over several tracks, notably the crass eco-ballad of the title track (which unexpectedly resembles Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic at one point). Single Guitar borrows from U2’s early fumblings, yet possesses a bouncy charm while the short, sweet All the Midnights In The World is as elegant as Stevie Wonder.

Less effective is the run of the mill R & B of the interminable Future Baby Mama, surely testament that talking women of child-bearing age into bed takes Prince much longer these days. The blatant funk of Chelsea Rodgers certainly moves, though to nowhere in particular, while the supposedly seductive Somewhere Here On Earth returns us to the era that produced the water bed.

This probably won’t persuade anyone to change their newspaper buying habits permanently (only a new set from Sly Stone would ensure that). But nonetheless Planet Earth is too good to be so lightly sold. And, ironically, many copies of Planet Earth will end up right there - in landfill.



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