Artist: Prince Title: Symbol Year: 1992 Tracklist: My Name Is Prince 06:39 Sexy M.F. 05:25 Love 2 The 9's 05:45 The Morning Papers 03:57 The Max 04:30 segue 00:21 Blue Light 04:38 Eye Wanna Melt With U 03:50 Sweet Baby 04:01 The Continental 05:31 Damn U 04:25 Arrogance 01:35 The Flow 02:26 7 05:13 And God Created Woman 03:18 3 Chains O' Gold 06:03 segue 01:30 The Sacrifice Of Victor 05:41

HIS NAME IS PRINCE, and he is funky -- funkier, in fact, than he's been in ages. Through the first dozen or so songs on 0{+>, Prince and the N.P.G. offer a balance between rhythmic insistence and instrumental showmanship that at its best recalls the glory days of James Brown and the JB's.
Granted, it doesn't hurt that most of the songs concern Prince's favorite subject -- sex. But what makes the material kick isn't the way "The Continental" climaxes with his female lead's lubricious reply to the musical question "How U wanna be done?" No, what puts the album over is that Prince and his crew back those words with music that's just as physical as the lyrics are suggestive. "Sexy M.F.," for example, is a wonderfully hyped-up take on Seventies funk, all jabbing brass and jangling guitar, while "My Name Is Prince" boasts a drum-driven pulse so potent it makes moving to the beat involuntary.
Even better, Prince maintains the music's intensity no matter how he changes the beat. He effortlessly shifts from the jovial reggae of "Blue Light" to the techno thump of "I Wanna Melt With U" and slides from the semi-industrial grind of "The Continental" into the lithe, string-cushioned balladry of "Damn U"; rarely has his protean musicality been more pleasurable.

 

Had he stopped there, 0{+> would have been an uncomplicated delight -- even with its indecipherable title. But Prince, apparently convinced that he's as great a moralist as he is a musician, spends the last seven songs wrestling with sex, stardom, sacrifice and salvation -- the same hodgepodge that made Sign o' the Times so incomprehensible.
A pity, because the music on these songs -- like "The Flow," with its jazzy trombone break, or the richly textured ensemble work on "3 Chains o' Gold" -- ranks among the album's finest. But as usual, ambition gets the better of him, and Prince ends up turning what might have been simple fun into a high-concept muddle.
-- J.D. CONSIDINE
ROLLING STONE, NOVEMBER 26TH, 1992