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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Prince

Musicology

Review by Gary Hill

Prince was on top of the world for a long time, but then he made a lot of bad decisions that caused him to fall from grace. It all started when he changed his name to a symbol (it turned out later this was a ploy to get out of his contract with Warner). He released several awesome albums after this point, but had lost the respect of a lot of the press and fan base, coming across as "weird". After a time on his own label he was releasing huge sets, three and four CD's at a time of material that didn't get airplay. It seemed unlikely that anyone but the hardcore believers were likely to put down 30 or 40 dollars for set with no music they had heard. Then he decided to release his material on the Internet through a pay site. This one was probably a great decision, but just a bunch of years to early. Most likely five or ten years from now that will be a very common thing, but truth is, again, only the true fans will subscribe to your site to download your music. So, Prince's star really fell a long way.

2004 sees him launching a serious comeback, and Musicology is the first salvo in the battle. As such it is a powerful shot. This disc is truly one of the best he has ever done, and will prove to those of us who had somewhat forgotten him, just what it was that we really liked about him. The man has always been one of the greatest songwriters of our time, and he hasn't lost it. This disc is a killer groove that works from one end to the other without any filler or weak material. Prince is back in the new millennium, and I for one am glad to see the return.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Musicology
This one comes in funky with a killer groove. It's obvious from the first beat dropping that Prince is back with style. This cut has a wonderful texture, and is a great way to start the party. Prince recounts by name a lot of old-school music makers, and shows his roots. He throws enough curves and left fielders into the composition to be sure it's Prince. No one can pull of quirky with the amount of style as he can.
Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance
With some sounds from his classics in the background, like a radio being scanned over, this one has a more stripped down texture, feeling a bit like his early era of music. This one shows off his party nature structure with style, the bass and drop beat groove taking the main emphasis of the number here.
A Million Days
This story of missing a love who is gone, starts slow, but quickly turns to a faster paced rock groove. This is a real winner. It's good to hear Prince back this strong! He cuts loose with some killer guitar riffing on this one, and includes some unusual changes in the arrangement. This is an incredibly strong cut.
Life 'O' the Party
Starting with female vocals going acapella, the beat drops after that point, and the groove is on. This is a killer party song that really works well. Prince can still hit all sorts of different musical styles with class. It seems he hasn't lost any of his ability over the years.
Call My Name
The first single from the disc, this is another great groove, and a killer slow jam. This gets very funky, and has some serious old school textures.
Cinnamon Girl
This is a highly effective rocker with some definite R & B leanings, but it's a lot closer to the Purple Rain rock era of Prince than his later more groove oriented stuff.
What Do U Want Me 2 Do?
This funky R & B number has a killer stuttering rhythm pattern and a slow burning understated vocal presence. This gets fairly jazzy at times.
The Marrying Kind
This cut is the hardest rocking one on the album, and really has a killer crunchy texture at times. It features some great changes and is another strong piece on a very consistent disc.
If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life
This one jumps right out of the previous piece, in classic Prince tradition. The vocal arrangement and funky R & B textures here are pretty awesome. A lyrical nod to Carly Simon is pretty cool, too. This one has some of the coolest sounds of the whole disc.
On the Couch
The riff that opens this one feels a lot like Frank Zappa, then the cut moves into a rather free form old school jazz jam, but Prince manages to find the chance to get some screaming guitar in. This is all a false start, though, as the song suddenly drops to a down and dirty slow bluesy jam. This cut feels hot and sweaty, and is a real meaty one.
Dear Mr. Man
This groove has a great retro texture, and is a very danceable number. This one is a fairly slow bluesy number, while still being funky. This one is just a scorcher. The textures here are very much in the 1970's fashion, and it is a stinging commentary of society. I have to say that this one is one of my favorites on the disc.
Reflection
This final track is a smooth and classy slow groove, and a satisfying way to end the album.
 
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