by: Adam Glass
His Purple Majesty is back in a big way. On September 30th, Prince released two albums – Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum – simultaneously. Both are a return to his roots on different sides of the spectrum. Prince has strayed all over the map in his 30 plus year career from soul and funk to R&B and dance but one this has remained at the backbone of all his albums. The guy knows how to rock.
He’s been on a roll too even showing us his sense of humor with his guest starring appearance on last season’s New Girl and the cover to his single “Breakfast Can Wait” (Dave Chappelle dressed as Prince serving a breakfast plate). Prince will hopefully let us see more of this side when he turns up as the musical guest on the November 1st episode of SNL. Since this is a two album review, I’ll break it up.
ART OFFICIAL AGE
This is definitely an R&B concept album. With its futuristic funk it tells a story of a guy whose has woken up after being in a frozen state for forty years. Is Prince trying to tell us something? Whatever the intent of the story underneath, this album works. Taking all that Prince has done with his 90’s New Power Generation and infusing it with more modern beats he shows the younger artists of today how it’s supposed to be done. The album starts off with the funky “Art Official Cage” and moves into a steady stream of soul with the albums stand out tracks “Clouds” and “Breakdown”. On “Clouds” Prince tells us how to turn a woman on and then does an about face on “Breakdown” where he contemplates his life and all his missed opportunities. I used to throw the party every the New Year’s Eve/ First one intoxicated, last one to leave/Waking up in places that you would never believe/Give me back the time, you can keep the memories. Another standout track is “The Gold Standard” harkening back to his days with NPG. Songs like this make me wonder why pop radio no longer plays his newer stuff. Even the slower love songs like “What It Feels Like” and “This Could Be Us” should be staples of top 40 radio. In any case Prince doesn’t really need that type of push since he can sell records in his sleep. As an aside, I was listening to “Clouds” in the car the other day and my daughter so eloquently stated “This guy ripped off Justin Timberlake’s sound!” Oh my dear, if you only knew. Prince was doing this WAY before JT was a stain in his daddy’s underpants. There would be no JT or a handful of others if Prince never happened.
If “Art Official Age” shows that Prince still has the funk then “PlectrumElectrum” shows he definitely knows how to rock. This is a straight forward, unapologetic rock album with the help of his recent live band 3rdEyeGirl. This stand-alone band of women are made up of drummer Hannah Ford, guitarist Donna Grantis and bassist Ida Nielsen. They know how to play and play well while they spar with the Purple One himself. Not only do they play on the album but they also co-wrote all the songs as well as lend lead vocals to a bunch of tracks. This album has me hooked, even more in some ways than “Art”. Here guitars take center stage with songs like “Wow”, “Ain’t Turnin Round” and the title track where Prince unleashes his inner Jimi Hendrix. Prince has always been an underrated guitarist while people focus on his sometimes strange persona. On “Plectrum” he’s able to show us an unabashed love for all that is Rock n’ Roll. Even the tracks with 3rdEyeGirl stepping to the front are fun and catchy and some of the best songs on the album like the aforementioned “Ain’t Turned Around’ and the absolutely stunning “WhiteCaps” which is probably the best track on the album. Prince comes back with a vengeance with songs that will make you stomp your feet such as “Fix Ur Life Up” and “Another Love”. I cannot say enough good things about “Plectrum”. As someone who has followed Prince since the hit “1999”, these are arguably his best offerings since that same year. I for one am hoping he takes the show on the road with a full-fledged tour very soon. The world needs more Prince.