Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
For most of us, are favorite albums by our favorite bands came out when we were teenagers. I'm no exception. I can look back, and say something academically bullshit, like "Given the politics of the time, and the wide-ranging influence amongst his peers at the time, Prince's most important albums are inarguably blah blah blah who cares?" My favorite albums? Diamonds And Pearls and Love Symbol. Not only did they both come out when I was most musically impressionable, they're two very, very different albums.
I was at a middle school Halloween dance when I first heard "Cream". Somewhere, there is a photo of me, dressed as a monkey, my date dressed as Debbie Gibson, and my best friend at the time (who would start dating my date in a few days) dressed a bougie piece of shit in boat shoes (so, no costume). The song "Cream" is not playing in the background, but it will be soon. It will make dancing uncomfortable. Not because of any sitcom shenanigans, no one gets their first boner or period during the song, merely because none of us are cool enough to dance to this song. Or, really, any song, but this song in particular. Will we be someday? Probably not.
This is the first album with his new band, New Power Generation. And to celebrate it, I've mixed in NPG's first side album, Gold----a, as well as included a couple of tracks from Graffiti Bridge, which I consider Prince's first boring album. People like to separate the bomb of a movie from the soundtack, and claim that where the former fails, the latter is genius. They're entitled to that opinion. For me, the soundtrack sounds like Prince and some other talented artists inadvertantly making a Rocky Horror Picture Show era musical. Everything sounds dated, and kind of the same. And it sounded dated as soon as they recorded it. That it came out between Sign O The Times and Diamonds & Pearls baffles me.
But enough of the negativity. This album is a celebration of sex and decent hip hop (early 90s NPG was amazing).
A robot counts us down to out opening track, Live For Love, and doesn't even get to finish it before the drums kick in. There is obviously a new band on this album. But here's Prince in all of his Princeness with grungey guitar riffs, and an almost metal synth in the background. Prince performs the first two rap verses of the song, and it's better than his previous attempts, partly because it doesn't sound highly derivative of better 80s lyricists. The third rap is our real introduction to Tony M, the all-star collaborator of the New Power Generation. He is a revelation, and his voice is a great counterpoint to His Purpleness.
After a little segue about how much NPG hates record companies, it's time to get filthy. Screechy Prince is here to help you Gett Off. Prince's rap here ... is fine, but helped by Tony M and Rosie Gaines's vocals, and a flute. This song is a rescue of several lackluster songs from Graffiti Bridge and Lovesexy. And damn is it an improvement.
After some tinkling, it's time to get to Tony M's first moment to shine, as he explains the concept behind Gold----a in the eponymous track. The funk behind this song is stunning. It's a blaxpoitation theme song that Isaac Hayes probably envied. There is no Prince in the vocals of this song. It's fine. Tony M kills it here.
We get a little drum and synth breaking through the funk, and Prince is back for Thieves In The Temple. That's right, Prince, you better sing your ass off or Tony M is going to steal this album away from you! (Tony is low in the mix of this very early NPG song.)
A quick instrumental funk song to cleanse the pallete, Oilcan is a goddamned national treasure. And it leads into the 1950s nostalgic Strollin. Falsetto Prince reminisces about roller skating and ice cream, but does so in the present tense, as though he were still an obstreperous youth, and not a thirty-something year old mega rock star looking back at a time he didn't even live through. This is the 90s song most possible for Prince to have actually recorded on one of his 1970s albums. It's a nice throwback.
Here it comes. Orgasm Prince is here to shoot his Cream all over the 90s. Funk guitar riff with a little Bonnie Raitt twang. Filthy lyrics and innuendo. Prince claims he wrotes this song while masturbating. Oh, that silly, silly, purple pervert (not for masturbating, but for writing about his guitar while masturbating). The background vocals are also a fundamental part of why this song slays. I wish I could have done it justice on the dance floor when I first heard it. But if I could, I probably would have been expelled. Also, nice work, DJ, for playing this, as opposed to the Bryan Adams we obviously requested.
"Cream" segues into one of the four Prince songs I most often get stuck in my head, Diamonds And Pearls. If Tony M is the breakout star of the NPG, Rosie Gaines is the underrated superstar. D to the I to the A to the M / O to the N to the D to the pearls of love. This is another Prince talking about being too poor for the person he's in love with. But, unlike his earlier work, he never actually says it. He just infers it since he can't giver her diamonds and pearls, all he can do / is offer them his lo-ove.
From here, we get Mavis Staples intro-ing her own song from Graffiti Bridge, Melody Cool. Look, the movie is a mess, the soundtrack is underwhelming, but Mavis fucken Staples is the highlight reel of both. This definitely sounds more like a high school theater production than a track from a movie in the late 80s, but Mavis Staples sings as much hell as she can into it. The horns are fine. She also shouts out The New Power Generation. The scratching records and drum machine sound like an afterthought. The less said about the lyrics, the better.
Oh good, Tony M is back for Jughead. Honestly, this song really sounds like it would fit better on Love Symbol but this album needs it more. Some of the best funk rap hybrid of the 1990s, and it's from 1990. Prince, Kirk Jackson, and Rosie Gaines on background vocals, and Prince's rap verses are also excellent. The Tony M vs. a manager from the music industry intro is a hilarious precursor to Prince's future battle with Warner Brothers.
Tony M keeps it going on Deuce & A Quarter compares waiting for your music royalties to sucking a glass dick. O....k. The class warfare in the verses is sadly relevant right now.
The funk and Tony M move from money issues to love and lust issues for Part 2 of Gold----a. Seriously, you should get your hands on the full album. It's amazing.
Prince comes back, like he's walking through a beaded curtain, to ask The Question Of U. Luckily, he's brought his guitar with him, and has an almost metal 90s guitar solo. This might be Slash's favorite song on the album. It smokes. And the guitar should definitely have been wearing sunglasses for this track. How the hand claps work on this song is a mystery, but they do.
Drums and twangy bass lead us into Insatiable where falsetto Prince croons to his latest love, one of my favorite Doctor Who companions. How did he know, fifteen minutes before she appeared, how amazing Martha Jones would be? The outro is creepy sex to the max.
Thunder is straight fire from beginning to end. It certainly brings to mind ACDC before it steals some moves from more Eastern music. We're back to religious quandries, but this song is all about syncopation and the chorus. And thunder guitar.
Time for a soft funk ballad. Toni M takes lead vocals on 2gether. According to lore, this was the final song Prince wrote before changing his name to an unpronouncable love symbol. It's a love song about getting out of the street life.
Prince is Willing And Able to have a gospel background to this song about playing cards, which sounds nothing like any of his other songs, and yet is unmistakably Prince.
Our last funk track from this album is Toni M and Rosie Gaines sampling vocals for Goldie's Parade under immaculate horns and a bassline so sick, hospitals would straight up rule it a lost cause.
The final track for the album is Prince explaining how Money Don't Matter 2nite. It's also about playing cards (blackjack), and about lust, and the music industry. Shit, Prince, what a great way to tie a bow on this whole album, as it lets the synth fade it out.