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Prince's Musicology--his first major-label release for some time--doesn't disappoint. Most of the songs are produced, arranged, composed and "per4med" by the artist himself, with the occasional musician chipping in here and there.
This complete control for the most part works to great effect but there are moments when it does dip into a mire of self-indulgence. The ballad "A Million Days" suffers from simply too much: too much fuzz guitar, too much "ooooooo" and way too much cheese--easily done with a slow song. Thankfully "Call My Name" doesn't follow the same route--Prince opts instead for the smooth soul that influenced latter-day artists such as D'Angelo.
The opener and title track is unabashed funk in a block-party style that the mainstream hasn't seen for many years. Namechecking Run DMC and Public Enemy while the music tips a nod to James Brown's backing band, the JBs, it already sounds like vintage rare groove. "Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance" sounds most like a session from the Revolution days, with a party vibe expressed in funky guitars, electro stabs and warm synths.
Like most Prince albums, when Musicology is good, it's incredible--when it's not, it just sounds like some recluse mucking about on his own in a recording studio. Thankfully, most of the twelve tracks fit into the former section. --David Trueman
OK, this may be a bit pretentious - well, it is Prince - but I think Prince is a bit like Mozart. They are both obviously musical geniuses.Musicology has more expression in the first note than I've heard from some artists in their entire careers. Both are incredibly prolific. Both had large egos and disputes with patrons who didn't understand them -Emperor Joseph II and Warner Bros respectively. But whereas Mozart died and was buried in an unmarked public grave, Prince set up a website and started releasing albums on the internet.
Musicology is Prince's first album back with a major and as the title suggests it's a bit of a stylistic retrospective. There's the James Brown influenced funk of the title track and"Life of the Party"Towards the middle of the album there's a nod to his literally purple patch of the mid 80s with"Call My Name","Cinnamon Girl"and"What Do You Want Me 2 Do".
He takes a stand against our society's current paranoia in a way only Prince could."They can bug my phone, people round my home, they'll only see you and me making love inside."
Sadly, Prince's tendency towards pretentious overly heavy rock opera also surfaces on a few tracks. If you want good opera stick with Mozart.
As a comeback of sorts Musicology may not set the world on fire but there's more than enough good music to download to your iPod. Also, it has made me realise a couple of things.
1. His name is Prince and he is still funky.
2. Can you imagine what Mozart might have achieved with a good ISP? --Jim Simmons (courtesy of 6 Music)
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The problem with Prince in the past was that he was often ahead of his time - creating new sounds that were unfamiliar, that took time to appreciate. I don't think that is the case any more. But what you get with a new Prince album is a uniquely Prince Sound with all his subtle trade marks from over the years thrown in.
Another feature of Prince's music is that it is constantly changing. Just when he releases an album you really like, the next one will be completely different. Personally, I don't mind this too much as it is interesting to see what he can do. The Rainbow Children and NEWS were definitely esoteric and more enjoyable from a musician's point of view, rather than pop records.
That's where Musicology differs. It is definitely more of a pop album and you don't necessarily have to have an acquired taste to enjoy it. In so many ways it has the feel of a "good old" Prince album. Not necessarily in sound, but in arrangement and choice of types of songs. It is new, but feels kind of familiar. So it is no wonder that is being heralded as a return to form.
So what is his form like then? When I first listened to this album the songs that stood out for me were, Musicology, A Million Days, and Call My Name. I quite liked, Cinnamon Girl, What do u Want me 2 Do and If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life. The rest really seemed like weak fillers, initially for me.
After repeated listening I managed not to skip over Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance and Life 'O' The Party. I really didn't like these songs at first, but after a while began to appreciate them for what they are. I also had difficulty with the last three song. I still don't like On the Couch, but think Reflection is a perfect end to the album with its gentle nostalgic vibe.
Now after a few weeks of listening, the album really flows right the way through. What makes it all hang together is the diversity of each song. This is a good album and it grows on you with time. As always all the instruments are performed superbly, with the usual nuances and touches you come to expect from Prince. There is something not quite there to make this an outstanding album . But overall I think this is a great album to own.
Track-by-track - It starts in a classic funk groove with Musicology.Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance is again funky, but with a nod to themodern urban sound. The 'songs' start with A Million Days which has alittle of that 'anthem' style heard in his 90s work, but it works. Life'O' Party returns to the ICP&C style, not a classic track, but enjoyable.With the funky party over, the lights go down with Call My Name - aclassic Prince ballad, a carefully crafted song and the next singlejudging by the sticker on the album. Cinnamon Girl is political and hencerocks it a little, like The Marrying Kind, which at times is slightlyreminiscent of the Purple Rain era. If I Was The Man in Your Lifecontinues in a similar vein. In between is What do u want me 2 do, alovely quirky number with a catchy chorus and great music. On the Couchhas a real old soul feel, demonstrating again how Prince can turn his handto most musical styles. Dear Mr Man is a decent laid back lyrical tunewith some nice horns and guitar. It stays laid back for the final track,Reflection (thankfully not one of those Queen style rock anthems seen inthe 90s) but a cool, classic Prince song which ends leaving you wantingmore.
Musicology is the most commercial, accessible and consistent Prince albumfor an age - with a mix of styles as always. As with all his recent albumsthe musicianship is exemplary - also worth a session with the headphonesto make sure you hear all that is going on in the production. Prince isback in the mainstream - but fanatics knew he'd never gone away, it wasjust a matter of time.
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