Artist: Prince Title: Musicology Year: 2004 Tracklist: Musicology Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance A Million Days Life O the Party Call My Name Cinnamon Girl What Do U Want Me 2 Do The Marrying Kind If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life On the Couch Dear Mr. Man Reflection



A review by Anthony Decurtis and an article by Edna Gundersen USA TODAY
BY ANTHONY DECURTIS
Starting somewhere in the early Nineties, he seemed to disappear into his own bizarre obsessions -- the muddled jazz-fusion spirituality of The Rainbow Children (2001) and the instrumental meanderings of N.E.W.S. (2003) being only the most recent excesses. But then, late last year, his election to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame made you remember just how potent, irresistible and groundbreaking a force he once was. Then, his commanding performance with Beyonce to open the Grammys proved that he could still thrill in such a high-pressure spot. And that solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony? Devastating.
Now comes Musicology , as appealing, focused and straight-up satisfying an album as Prince has made since who can remember when. It's open, easygoing and inclusive, the sort of album anyone might like.

Musicology - New Musical Express

Review publication date: Online

There must have been some kind of weird astral alignment going on back in 1958. That year saw the births of not one, not two, but three certifiable American pop geniuses in the shapes of Michael Jackson, Madonna Louise Ciccione and Prince Rogers Nelson - a superhuman triumvirate who by the end of the 1980s had amassed more cultural currency and broken more new musical ground than any act since The Beatles. Yet, just as they were tied together by birth, so were they tied together by failure in the wilderness years of the 1990s - Jackson was the first to go, as child abuse allegations and their subsequent out-of-court settlements crippled his once-infallible empire. Madonna contented herself with an embarrassing movie career and an even more embarrassing conversion to full-blown Anglophile. However, it was Prince's own career implosion that was the most wilful, down to bloody-mindedness rather than dubious accusations or dubious acting.

Prince spent the 1990s on a musical journey that he found his fanbase was unwilling to undertake with him, encompassing as it did ridiculous name changes and fairly abominable records. It was a lesson in how to waste talent from arguably the most talented US pop star in decades. It's a lesson that still may not yet be over; as, according to reports, the one-time Sexy MF is now simply the Infuriating MF, spending his spare time going door to door in his native Minneapolis handing out pamphlets for the Jehovah's Witnesses.

And so the battle lines are drawn for 'Musicology', Prince's first major-label album in almost a decade, and the long-rumoured return to 'proper' pop music - you know, no symbols, no pulpit preaching, no triple-CD musical odysseys, that sort of thing. And on that level, 'Musicology' works perfectly well. It's a welcome return to the music that made him a superstar, and it's not just wishful thinking to say that 'Musicology''s better moments are worthy of a place on era-defining classics like 'Purple Rain' or 'Sign O' The Times'. Sadly, it is just wishful thinking to harbour hope that 'Musicology' could be Prince's first wholly satisfying album since his '80s heyday.

It starts off well. The James Brown-fuelled funk of the title track and the cinematic sweep of 'A Million Days' are the best things he's done in ages - the latter in particular seeming certain to yield his first actual hit in years. Bookending the dirty jamming of the brilliantly-titled 'Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance', as an opening salvo it's sexy, sassy and funky - sexier, sassier and funkier than any album by a hardline Jehovah's Witness has any right to be - and the funk-rock-soul amalgam that made him so exciting in the first place has rarely sounded so potent.

Sadly, it can't last. Though untroubled by the pretentiousness that has marred his recent releases, too often on 'Musicology' Prince reverts to formula as opposed to inverting it - the schmaltzy identikit R&B of 'Call My Name' sounds like a Boyz II Men B-side written to order by Lionel Richie. It's honestly that shit. 'Dear Mr Man''s hamfisted social commentary not only feels laboured, it's spectacularly out of sync with an album that's completely unconcerned with its themes.

Yet there's real genius at work here - from 'If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life''s inspired bling-bling piano lines, to the slow-burning, seductive 'On The Couch' (sample lyric: "I wanna go down south, baby") which serves to remind us that while there are Pygmy tribes in Africa who have a sly snigger at his height, he remains a giant of sex, with come-to-bed falsettos and the original superstar booty.

Ultimately, 'Musicology' is a kind of flawed redemption, neither inspired enough to be a true classic, nor insipid enough to make it unworthy of your attention. There are moments on here, however fleeting, that prove Prince Rogers Nelson will never lose the ability to surprise and astonish, and there are moments that likewise suggest he'll never lose the ability to frustrate and confound his audience. Nevertheless, at least one of the class of '58's most prodigal of sons has finally returned to something like form.

Barry Nicolson

 

Most notably, Musicology restores a refreshing sense of songcraft to Prince's writing. Rather than seeming like mere sketches, as so much of his recent work has, each track on the album is distinct, coherent and rigorously uncluttered -- whether it's a bluesy lament such as "On the Couch," a lovelorn meditation like "A Million Days" or a stop-time jam such as "If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life." And the singer makes it clear that he has learned that rigor from the masters. "Wish I had a dollar for every time you say/'Don't you miss the feeling music gave you back in the day?' " he sings over an insinuating bass line on the title track. Then, like Arthur Conley calling out to the R&B pantheon in his 1967 hit "Sweet Soul Music," Prince names names: " 'Let's Groove,' 'September' -- Earth, Wind and Fire/'Hot Pants,' by James/Sly's gonna take you higher."
Now forty-five, Prince realizes -- and repeatedly declares -- that his tastes are "old-school." On "Reflection," one of several ballads that float by on a sweet musical breeze reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, memory sweeps Prince away: "Remember all the way back in the day/When we would compare whose Afro was the roundest?" Moments like this rescue Prince from his eccentricities and make him recognizable again. On the sizzling funk track "Life 'O' the Party," he wryly mimics his old rival Michael Jackson ("My voice is getting higher/I ain't never had my nose done"), as if to emphasize his distance from the only pop-culture figure perceived as weirder than he is.
Its relative clarity aside, Musicology is still a Prince album, so it hardly lacks bold ideas. "Cinnamon Girl" borrows a title from Neil Young and a deft hook from the mid-Eighties to explore racial and ethnic differences in a post-9/11 world. Other songs sprinkle offhand references to the Iraq war, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Bible, numerology and the corrupting power of greed. Prince -- who is now a Jehovah's Witness -- has dialed his trademark sexual explicitness way down. But that restraint works, too. With its sinuous grooves and effortless swing -- not to mention Prince's seductive vocals -- Musicology simmers with a submerged erotic tension.
Finally, of all things, the album is a hymn to marriage -- not the frisky fantasy stuff of "Let's Pretend We're Married" but the real domestic deal. "Did we remember to water the plants today?" the singer asks on "Reflection," Musicology 's closing song, finding the secret life of love in a quotidian detail. That's an example of how Prince, who claimed that Musicology would take everyone back to school, is really the one who has understood an essential lesson: Less can be so much more.
Article by Edna Gundersen USA TODAY

Nothing compares to a Prince concert By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY LOS ANGELES Pop royalty is looking pretty shabby these days. Michael Jackson crowned himself King of Pop, but he's a pretender to the throne. The taped vocals and robotic choreography of Britney Spears indicate the empress has no clothes (metaphorically and very nearly literally). An American Idol coronation seems premature, especially since the show's latest hitmaker is jester William Hung.
Finding a pre-eminent performer would be a royal pain if not for music's enduring Purple reign.
Prince rules. That became apparent during an explosive concert ( * * * * out of four ) Monday at the Staples Center, second stop on Prince's funk-freighted Musicology Tour.
At 45, Prince is foreshadowing what looks to be the reigning trend for touring '80s rock royalty, Madonna and Van Halen among them: a comprehensive re-examination of the past. With interest rekindled via powerful Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy performances, and with new album Musicology (dispensed free to concertgoers and in stores April 20) to promote, the time is right for Prince to highlight his strengths.
The tour, his first in six years with the vibrant New Power Generation, opens with the new album's title track, a fiendishly catchy funk jam that poses the rhetorical question, "Don't you miss the feeling music gave you back in the day?"
Those happening days are here again. Prince is endlessly original, yet with a bloodline traceable to James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, George Clinton and Miles Davis.
"We don't believe in lip-syncing," Prince announced to the hip-shaking full house. "This is real music by real musicians." True enough. Brawny drums, a rubbery bass and the squawking saxophones of Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer bolstered Prince's fluid, searing guitar solos and limber vocals through a stylish and sweaty 2½-hour romp.
Though he avoided such bawdy favorites as Darling Nikki , Gett Off and Sexy M.F. , Prince plucked a dazzling range of tunes, transforming the arena into a roadhouse, a garage, a jazz den, a burlesque theater and a revival tent. (At one point he commanded the congregation to "open up your Bibles!")
He moved with frenetic booty-rocking abandon in Kiss , I Would Die 4 U and Take Me With U , then parked on a swiveling stool for an acoustic Little Red Corvette and fragile ballad Sometimes It Snows in April . He glided from lusty growl to agile croon to angelic falsetto, often within the same song.
His most stinging guitar licks sprang from Sign 'o' the Times , Let's Go Crazy and extended finale Purple Rain . That last signature from Prince's 1984 commercial peak was a dramatic crowd-pleaser but nowhere near as powerful as some of the night's less frantic displays.
The emotional highlight came in a pair of ballads: After a languid interlude of sax and piano, Prince sang the aching Beautiful Ones before segueing into the gorgeous, anguished Nothing Compares 2 U .
Though hits drew the loudest roars, new tunes Life 'o' the Party and On the Couch , a sly and bawdy blues ramble, measured up to the set list's crown jewels. Born with a name that defines his place in the pop hierarchy, Prince has the charisma and astonishing versatility to weather his synthetic challengers.