Sunday, July 15, 2007

Free Prince album in 'not at all bad' shock

Cripes, who'd have thought that the free Prince CD mounted on the front of the Daily Mail would be any good? Not anyone who's listened to, let's say, Chaos & Disorder or Old Friends 4 Sale - two of his contractual obligation albums from the end of the 1990s - that's for sure.

But Planet Earth, while not a return to form (he's been perfectly on form since 2001's Rainbow Children) is a genuinely great slab of late-period Minneapolis midget.

Eyebrows were raised when he chose to give the album away with the apallingly reactionary, right-wing middle-class, essentially racist Mail On Sunday but actually, it's not a bad fit. This is one of Prince's safest, whitest, records in a long time. As a point of reference, it's more like the pretty melodies of Diamonds and Pearls than the extended funk jams of 1999.

Opener Planet Earth sounds like it's going to be awfully twee until the chorus kicks in, drills its way into your brain and then kicks up a gear. In a sign that Prince is enjoying himself, he does a guitar solo and that scream he's been perfecting since the end of Let's Go Crazy in 1984.

Guitar and The One You Wanna See see him return to the hillbilly country-rock of early tracks like Delirious and When U Were Mine, and Mr Goodnight features one of the great man's less terrifying attempts at rap.

The only real mis-steps are the pseudo-funk of Chelsea Rodgers, which calls to mind Leo Sayer's buttock-clenching attempts at disco, and All The Midnights In The World -a jazzy little ballad that the phrase "noodling away at the piano" was invented to describe. By me. Just then.

If you bought the CD and are thinking "hey, this Prince guy can hold a tune, I wonder what else he's done" then a) Purple Rain, Kiss, Raspberry Beret, Gett Off, Little Red Corvette and 1999, and b) where in the name of the sweet baby Jesus and all that is pure and good in this world have you been?

You can get hold of Prince's back-catalogue so easily it would be insulting (and, hey, illegal) to put any of it up here. But if you're interested in investigating further, here are a couple of his forgotten gems - songs he wrote for other bands that are of equal brilliance to his solo work, but which have been unfairly sidelined by the sort of people who write "The 100 greatest songs you need to have on your iPod or generic MP3 player" lists for Rolling Stone and Q. Enjoy!

Download "Prince wrote this" (zip file with six MP3s)

The Time - Jungle Love
Sheila E - The Glamorous Life (club edit)
Martika - Love... Thy Will Be Done
Bangles - Manic Monday (nb: this has exactly the same melody as 1999 in the verses)
Sheena Easton - 101
Chaka Khan - I Feel For You

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