Art Official Plectrum of the Electrum Age #Prince
It’s Sunday night around eleven. I just started the shuffle of the pair of new Prince albums with ‘U Know’. It starts sinuous and sparse and blows up into big lush beauty. I’ve been living in these records for a week and they have been so good for my newpower soul; I have been one of the two million people who have bought every Prince album for over thirty years now and these are crazy amazing, the gold standard, indeed. I got the digital copies last Saturday and the discs came in the mail on Wednesday; I brought them over to Wendy’s to play for her but her computer doesn’t have a disc drive that could play a CD.
Thirty years ago Lara gave me ‘Purple Rain’ for Christmas on cassette and we played it at New Years in Paul’s yard on a boombox while we had a snowball fight. These albums address the distance between these moments in various ways including the artwork; the cover of ‘Art Official Age’ features Prince standing in front of what are clear vinyl lp’s from his Paisley Park label and the inside cover reverses the colors and replaces the lp’s with binary code. Time may be my favorite song as well as the theme that runs through both records. ‘Art Official Age’ looks forward to a timeless future and is linked by a loose concept that the Artist has awoken after 45 years in suspended animation; in this it is reminiscent of albums such as ‘Ƭ̵̬̊’ or the Gold Experience and provides opportunity for trippy operatic melodrama that cocoons very powerful personal expression such as ‘Way Back Home’ which evoked tears from me. ‘Art Official Age’ is a great modern r&b record in the same vein as ‘Controversy’; slick yet soulful with distinctly baroque production and melodic funk as sweet as it is nasty that has themes that embrace the spiritual and carnal with equal passion.
When I was fifteen my mom took my double cassette of ‘Controversy’/Dirty Mind’ and hid it because she heard ‘Sister’ from the ‘Dirty Mind’ side leaking out of my headphones. ‘Dirty Mind’ was a brilliant punk funk rock record that was a bunch of demos recorded while on tour and was as raw as ‘Controversy’ was sleek. Recorded without overdubs with 3rdEyeGirl, ‘Plectrum Electrum’ is is to ‘Dirty Mind’ as ‘Art Official Age’ is to ‘Controversy’ or any of the other gemini pairings that can be found throughout his career; the song FUNKNROLL shows up on both records in different forms, reminiscent of how ‘When 2 Are In Love’ tied together The Black Album and Lovesexy. While Prince can play the studio like an instrument, he is also the best bandleader of his age and 3rdEyeGirl is as great a band as he has ever assembled. He is generous with letting them shine and takes advantage of their vocal gifts. If you don’t enjoy Prince, I don’t know why you’re still reading this so I’ll just pretend you’re not; the rest of you, buy them both and shuffle them up and let them be your background for a bit. Let them soak in like a bubble bath where you keep your pants on, savor them with the exquisite taste of 100% Italian silk, imported Egyptian lace, wear them like Cynthia Rose’s happy face.