Sunday, October 26, 2014

Art Official Age, by Prince (Album of the Week)

Prince is back with a new album, Art Official Age, jam-packed with Prince’s unique personality and music.  If you don’t particularly like Prince, this album won’t win you over.  If you kind of like Prince, you’ll kind of like this album.  If you are one of the fortunate who recognize and celebrate Prince’s genius in both music and style, then this is an album to enjoy whole-heartedly. 

I’m a fan.  That said, he has released albums that even I cannot listen to.  Silly, self-indulgent, unlistenable crap.  But when Prince is on his game, he brings rhythm, funk and enjoyment, and he is definitely on his game in Art Official Age.

 Get it?  I didn’t catch the word play in the title.  But, then again, I struggle in Mad Gab.

The album is full of his royal silliness.  It starts off with “Art Official Cage”, which includes Danish lines over Prince’s sparkling guitar work.  The message – break out of the cages of the modern world – is borne out by the song’s use of disparate voices (including operatic), sonic references to waterboarding and electronic play.  They’ve never made a cage that encompasses Prince’s creativity, and he shows off from the start.

The next song is yet another sexual romp, broken up by the first example of the occasional concept pieces he includes.  It features a woman’s voice advising Mr. Nelson that he is being awakened from a 45 year suspended animation.  She reappears later in “affirmations”, and it’s part of the weirdness that makes Prince great.  No, they don’t really make a whole lot of sense, and they don’t really lead you to any great enlightenment, but they are Prince, and, if you’re like me, they’re part of the Prince experience. 

The next song is a sweet love song – Breakdown – in which he expresses his disillusionment with the party-life he once led, and thanks the woman who makes him give up his black book of phone numbers.  Solid work, and entirely conventional. 

There’s just a ton of fun on this album.  “The Gold Standard” is classic Prince dance music with the best bass sound around, and Prince’s crisp guitar blending with some great horn work. It’s pure enjoyment.   And so is “U Know”, which follows it on the album, and, for that matter, so is every other song on the album.

Prince is back to being his lewd self in many of these songs, and you can just appreciate how much fun he is having with the music, with the off-the-wall concept pieces, the sexual innuendo and word play.  I understand if Prince is not your cup of tea, but if you’re a fan, this is an album to celebrate.  If I were forced to complain, I would ask that he give us more of his guitar work. 

Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin agrees that this album is Prince being Prince, though she complains a bit about the length of some of the songs.  I disagree, but it’s a matter of taste.  Personally, I enjoy all the Prince he chooses to share.

Next up:  Hozier, by Hozier

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