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What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Prince Turns it Up
Friday, March 31, 2006
I'm a big fan of Prince, and his new record is a blast. Here's the review I wrote on Amazon; I said it was his best since Sign O' the Times, but I think maybe I need to amend that to, his best since Emancipation (3-CD, 1996):


I'm leery of the hype of this record as a return to 80s form, for the simple reason that Prince has never stopped recording and releasing outstanding music, never stopped evolving. Rainbow Children and the One Night Alone piano record, for example, are both fine records he's released within the past 5 years, and while his work may have lost consistency in the 90s, that was largely because he was putting out so much of it, not due to a decline in the quality of the best of it. The peaks were as high as always.

But indeed 3121 does hearken back to his classic middle-80s period, the run from Purple Rain through Sign O' the Times, when the music was as colorful as it ever was, and when Prince painted with his broadest palate. Here we combine the usual rock-solid funk, that glorious colorful music, and modern recording technology; this last point keeps the record from sounding like it was recorded back in the day, which is to say, it does not sound dated.

What we have here, basically, is a fresh and vibrant album that evokes the color and style of Prince's most prolific, best-loved era. 3121 is a return to a particular sound, style of work. The vocals are rich and layered, with a heavy sense of female presence (sometimes Tamar, sometimes Prince himself); the instrumental backing is invigorating and creative and lush, and the playing, as if this even needs to be said, is right in the pocket. Something about this music sounds "revolutionary" (wink, wink.) And it can't be a coincidence that recently he has played live with Wendy, Lisa and Sheila E.

I'd swear that was the old Prince alter ego Camille singing with him on this opening track "3121," a song that merges the insistent prince funk with the sonic colors of his mid-80s work, both released and unreleased. Dream Factory anyone? "Lolita" is a naughty call-and-response that invokes the Lovesexy album. "Te Amo Corazon" has gotten some lead play as a single, and it is smooth and easy on the ears, a little bit of Latin cool with lush orchestration and some tasteful Prince guitar.

"Black Sweat" is a funk groove that sounds a little like "Kiss," except that it stays on the one chord. Prince plays every instrument on this and several other tracks, and you can hear it. However, Prince (along with Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder) is one of the few musicians who has a distinct and articulate voice as a one-man studio band. He plays all the instruments, and he plays the studio. "Incense and Candles" is a breezy and confident piece that erupts into a sweet vocal burst at the end. "Love" is a tasty poppy trifle (a good thing) with funk guitar chords, burping synths, and handclaps, but at precisely 4:20 Prince says, "Let's skate," and the song flips over into a sweaty funk stomp, suddenly nasty, an extended playout that vaguely evokes "Le Freak." Both these two songs are all Prince, save for protégé Tamar on vocals. (After catching the Tamar gig featuring Prince at Nokia in NYC, I've already wishlisted the upcoming Tamar record.)

"Satisfied" is one of those falsetto Prince love song testimonies (e.g., "Slow Love"), and you know what I mean, and it'll give you chills; here the horn section is added to the mix. "Fury" is instantly recognizable as a Prince rocker, lush fervent keyboards laying out the groove, Prince's rock God guitar searing over the top. "The Word" hasn't yet grabbed me, although yet again, nice guitar work. But next up is the sublime "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed," his duet with Tamar, which can only be described as old school soul of the very finest kind. Just note-perfect from beginning to end.

"Dance" is a pleading, sad, haunting eminently listenable minor key tune that (a signature move) goes major on the chorus; like most of the record, just Prince on the track. The final track, "Get on the Boat," is a classic old school funk workout featuring a percolating drum and percussion section, and the stellar Maceo Parker on horn. This is a funk played live, not machine-made; the sound is different from much of the record because it features a full band. The brassy horn section and Latin groove of the percussion make this one feel like a dance party in your head.

I liked Musicology; and I really liked One Night Alone (the solo piano thing) and Rainbow Children. It is hard to be sure this soon, but I think this will wear as the most enduring and consistent Prince record since Sign O' the Times. So maybe it IS a return to something.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:06 AM  

At 4/02/2006 8:47 PM, Anonymous pia said...   

I was never a big Prince person, however Purple Rain, of course, played a big part in my life one year

Do know a teenage girl who will be sending you a thank you note tonight, maybe, if the homework gods let her ;-)

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