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Prince - 'MPLSound,' 'Lotusflow3er' and 'Elixer'

Funky Creativity

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Prince has been in the music game for over 30 years now, but not only does he show no sign of slowing down, his music somehow manages to still sound as fresh as it did back in the early 1980s. On his latest work, a three-disc set that became available exclusively at Target stores on March 29, 2009, Prince proves that although he's in his 50s now, he still can be just as cutting edge and vibrant as he was 25 years ago. The three discs, Lotusflow3r (Lotus Flower), MPLSound, (Minneapolis Sound) and Elixer (Elixir), prove that he's still far more creative than maybe 95 percent of the artists making music today.

'MPLSound'

Of the three discs, it's the second one, the nine-song MPLSound, that should appeal most to fans of Prince's classic material and/or traditional R&B, so that's the disc that'll be reviewed here first. Much of the music is similar to that of Prince's late 1980s output, particularly the drum machine programming, synthesizers and chorus arrangements. But although Prince has been in the music game almost three decades now, he still manages to instill a youthful outlook and zest for life in his verses, such as the opening track on MPLSound, the up tempo "(There'll Never B) Another Like Me," when he sings "Walked in my closet, tryin' to find somethin' to wear/Then I check my email, see where the party be, change the names to protect the guilty, and get ready to creep." Now how many other 50-year-old men can you think of who could convincingly sing such lyrics? Probably not many, if any.

The next song, a funky track called "Chocolate Box," is sort of a bridge between old school and new. The drums and synths are straight out of the Purple Rain era, but two things signify this is a modern era song: one is Prince's light use of Auto-Tune for robotic vocal effects, and the other is the rapper Q-Tip, who makes a too-brief appearance on the track. Also among MPLSound's best songs are the funky "No More Candy 4 U," and "Better With Time," a tender, romantic ballad on which Prince, in his patented falsetto, gets all sentimental on us: "Anyone who's met you agrees that no one forgets you, most of all not me," he sings. This one's destined to be played at weddings for years to come.

'Lotusflow3r' and 'Elixer'

The album's first disc, Lotusflow3r, consists of 12 songs that experiment with pop, jazz, blues, funk and rock, many on the same track. Prince's guitar wizardry is on full display on the disc's second song, "Boom," which starts out as the sonic equivalent of a relaxing shoulder massage before metamorphasizing into a sort of musical thundershower. The following track, "The Morning After" is a Beatles-influenced pop ditty reminiscent of his 1985 album, Around the World In a Day; and another song, "Colonized Mind," is a melancholy, bluesy song that offers social commentary while acknowledging Prince's spirituality: "If you look, then surely you will find throughout mankind's history a colonized mind/The one in power makes law under which the colonized fall; without God, it's just the blind leadin' the blind." More commentary can also be heard on the Jimi Hendrix-ish "Dreamer," a funk-rock civil rights ode.

The third disc, Elixer, is technically the debut album by Prince protege Bria Valente, but the album's produced by Prince and he's also a featured performer. Much like some of Prince's other young female proteges - most famously Vanity and Appolonia - Bria looks great but isn't a great singer. Her paper-thin vocals on the 10 songs are disappointing, but the sultry, jazz-influenced production is indeed tight. The few standout tracks are the title song (which features Prince), the erotic "Something U Already Know," or the dance track "2Nite." Overall, this is by far the weakest of the three discs, but still worth hearing thanks to the Purple One's creative touch.

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