Well, in most previous cases I wrote a full review of Prince albums when I had heard them in full detail. Now I thought it coud be a good idea to post my impressions as I go on with the listening sessions. This means I will be updating this entry during the next days, until I have made a clear opinion on the new songs.
Those of you following this blog probably have read my previous, mostly positive comments on the new 3CD set from Prince. Here I will focus on my most awaited album, Lotus flow3r, the "guitar-driven" CD which many fans have been expecting since a couple of years ago (at least!).
The very first idea coming to me when starting with From the lotus... is "look ma, I still know how to do this with my two old friends & no frills". Chaos & disorder vibe all around and one is ready for the best. Prince, Sonny T & Michael B are, I told it many times, my dream band as far as rhythm section is concerned, and they certainly do not disappoint here: a fine mixture of poppish melodies wrapped up in a powerful envelope: this is Prince at his finest skills when making artisan, old school, real songs. Prince crafting little pieces of music as only masters can. New ground? Forget it, the class in some of them makes new ground unnecessary (in my book, at least).
In fact, contrary to the first assumptions, the concept of Lotus flow3r is not a rock album, or only a guitar-driven album (as shown by the reported changes in final tracklist, with some songs being interchanged between Lotus flow3r and Mplsound). There is the usual mixture of styles, often in the very same song. But a clear feature is an organic sound, the sound of a band playing the good ol' drums, bass and guitar (with a few embellishments, of course: this is Prince after all!). It's not a raw recording (that many fans dream about and most possibly will never get), but it's not the multilayered ProTools music displayed in Mplsound.
Now, flavours, what flavours do we have here? Are there new flavours in this kitchen, or even new dishes? Is Adriá-Prince reinventing ways of mixing potatoes with ham and eggs, or did he stick to prepare an all classic eggs-and-ham but using extremely high quality material for it?
Well, I don't see new dishes in today's Prince kitchen, but I do perceive some new flavours, and also some old ones. Among the latter, the hard guitar (sometimes with a strong Hendrix spirit invading it) makes a very bold re-apperance in Prince's discography, and you can feel that many hardcore fans are warmly welcoming it. At the top in this category, you have Dreamer, a powerfull anthem in which Prince's guitar gives another lesson on how to sound inspired, coherent and classic. Many of us are already drooling by figuring out this song played live in forthcoming shows. However, even in less demonstrative tracks (From the lotus..., Wall of Berlin, Back to the lotus), one gets the feeling that Prince, Sonny and Michael are having great, great fun while playing together. And this is, to me, probably the clearest symptom of good music. I'd like to know whether these songs were actually put together at the same time, or if Prince using previous backbones from sessions with Sonny and Michael in order to create them. Whatever the case, I am truly delighted to see such a bulldozer machine going through rhythms while drawing intricate melodies.
Continuing with the good, old flavours, we have THE flavour, the funk: a song that appeared in a demo longtime ago, Feel better, feel good, feel wonderful, is released in this album in its fullly finished version, which is in my opinion one of the best from the album. Hard and effective, the song has been improved by the addition of horns and it retains the full force of a minimalistic melody subjected to the usual Prince masterdom in production.
Purple pop is served under the form of Boom, Crimson & Clover, The morning after, 4ever and $. None of them goes into new territoires just the same, but still Prince manages to make amazing songs, 4ever being my favourite among those. Yes I realize it's old Prince all the way, but sometimes, I just don't know why, all pieces fall into a perfect place, and 4ever sounds catalogue Prince but it gives me shivers everytime. It's just the way it is, I can't make anything against. Crimson & clover is flawlessly performed, and being written by someone else, Prince make it his own song by the passion and commitment put in it. Boom is remarkable because, once more, Prince displays his recovered love for hard guitars, although the interlude acoustic parts are less brilliant. The morning after is another nice effort, if not oustanding; although I appreciate and enjoy the tasty vocal melodies, this is average Prince. And closing this chapter, you have a Camille-like Prince singing $, rhythm exercice on Mrs. Hilton (I suppose) carried out with solvence by Prince. At the begining I doubted on the fitness of this kind of voice treatment here, but when you listen enough, I think Prince succeeded and I find myself taping and enjoying this (otherwise simplistic) song.
What about new flavours? Well, they are old flavours all the way, but they are somehow new in this kitchen: the latin vibe. It's being making point appearances in some recent albums from Prince (the never enough praised piano part from The Dance in 3121 was thus far the best example). And it seems he's still interested in this sound, as we have two controversial songs in Lotus flow3r whith a latin vibe again: Love like jazz, which is not a jewel but marks in my opinion the right direction: Prince is investigating this sound and he can write and play it in a fully credible manner (although some friends completely disagree with me on this), which probably means we will see further attempts in the future; I'm particularly happy this is the case, as I think Prince (with Sheila) could make brilliant works if they persist in this direction. And we have another latin surprise: 77 Beverly Park, a melody so round that I could believe it's been lifted from other album, or maybe directly inspired by ancient songs. In fact, after listening to it a few times I am really really astonished to see that this music (which could have been released in Italy or Spain by local musicians) has been written and played by Prince. My smell tells me we have further, amazing latin surprises in Prince music boutique.
And then... we have THE song in Lotus flow3r.
In my book, there is no doubt: it is Colonized mind.
I was blown away by Colonized mind since it was first released at Lotusflow3r.com. It is one of those Prince songs which get me on first listen. I have said before that the quality of this song has nothing to envy from the very best of past Prince catalogue, bar none. This is sonic perfection, nothing is out of place. The guitar puts you flying and it is one of the (few cases) of what I consider an orgasm when listening music. If you had to point out to songs which demonstrate that, musically speaking, Prince is out of this world, this would easily make the list, together with other classics as If I was your girlfriend, Purple rain, Anna Stesia, etc. Some people say I exagerate in my praises of Colonized mind; but the more I listen to it, the more convinced I am of its status as Instant Classic. A song like this in every album would justify a huge bunch of fillers (which is not the case in Lotus flow3r).
In conclusion, I think my smell was right and we have an excellent album from Prince, once again. There are, at least, two full classics (Colonized mind and Dreamer) and two other truly excellent songs in here (4ever and Feel better, feel good, feel wonderful). If a collection of songs like this does not convince some fans that Prince keeps on being musically relevant in 2009, then... I don't know what they need.
PS Attentive readers will notice that I said nothing on the lyrics. It's on purpose, as I prefer not to comment about colonized minds.