Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas gift from Prince

Prince demanded the presence of Los Angeles radio station Indie 103 at his miniature purple house earlier this week, because he wanted to play them his new album.

One thing led to another, and the tiny tyke decided to let them premiere four of the tracks on Steve "Sex Pistols" Jones' show. And, if you missed it going out live, you can still catch the programme the station's website (scroll almost to the bottom of the page and select the ultra-low-quality audio stream for 18th December).

The first track is a cover of Tommy James & the Shondells’ Crimson & Clover which, for no good reason, incorporates the "Baby, I think I love you - but I want to know for sure" bit of The Troggs' Wild Thing. It uses a very similar guitar sound to Purple Rain, and ends with one of Prince's best solos since 1995's Gold Experience. In other words, it's really good.

Second track, Colonized Mind, is a lugubrious bluesy jam with Prince bitching about "The Man" "stealing" from "artists". We get the message - he's not a big fan of record companies. According to Steve Jones, Prince is looking for a way to release this record without the help of a major multinational corporation. Would it be churlish to suggest he offered it as a download - a bit like he used to before he threw all his toys out of the internet pram?? Probably, yes.

Track three, Wall Of Berlin, kicks off with a slamming drum beat and Prince asking "where am I?" It's more upbeat and playful than the previous two tracks - with the chorus punning "she gets down like the wall of Berlin". But the verses are stupidly verbose - with phrases like "galaxy of monumental delight" and "parallel hologram copyright". In the final analysis, it’s all a bit awkward and cheesy.

Finally comes 4ever, a lush, piano-led ballad with a big old choir on the chorus. Like the other tracks, it sees Prince unleash an impassioned guitar solo towards the end - but it doesn't save the song from being one of those by-numbers pop/gospel numbers he's been turning out for the last decade.

It'd be great if Prince could stick to the rockier template of the first two songs and turn out a late-period classic. But I think even his biggest fans are resigned to the fact that every future Prince album will feature two barnstorming rock-outs alongside a tonnage of mediocre nonense.

Still, Steve Jones' co-host Mr Shovel suggested the finished album would be released in conjunction with a "coupla shows" - and if there's one area in which Prince still excels, it's in concert.

Maybe we'll finally get to see him at Glasto in 2009? Because that would be totally awesome.

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