Every great artist goes through creative lulls. Unfortunately, for Prince this lull has lasted pretty much since he became a glyph (or the Artist Formerly Known As…). There’s been many a joke made about that decision, the most disparaging joke I recall was the “Artist Formerly Known As: Good.” What’s most disturbing about that punch line was that it was, for the most part, spot on.
Prince is one of the most talented musicians ever. Ever. That’s what makes his late career swoon so frustrating. Fans know, we just know in our hearts that he will one day create another masterpiece ala Purple Rain or Sign O’ The Times. Well, we are going on a couple decades now with that desired result unfulfilled. This time Prince gives us two albums (plus a third delivered by debut artist, Bria Valente) to mull over. The result, if you’re keeping score at home, is another patented mess: brilliant guitar workouts in songs that don’t call for it, up-tempo songs that could use a little guitar to funk up the proceedings followed by songs that would be best left to impromptu jam sessions; in short, another palette of unfulfilling art from the world’s most talented recording artist.
On LOtUSFLOW3R, Prince at least connects on a few tunes but for the most part this is his “Secret Life of Plants,” a concept album that is far more convoluted than conceptual. It even sounds like Stevie’s “Secret Life of Plants” in some areas only I don’t think Prince would regard this as a career departure (to be fair, considering an album a departure should result in one departing from something. In that case, Prince has been on a departure since 1991). For Stevie Wonder, “Secret Life of Plants” came after an unprecedented string of brilliant albums and was just the kind of idiosyncratic statement his career didn’t need. He’s yet to regain the success he had in the 70’s much like Prince has yet to recapture the magic he made in the 80’s.
But Prince does give you hints that the creative dry spell may be over, especially on the exquisite “Crimson and Clover” and the virtuosic “Colonized Mind.” Surely, this is his best guitar work in ages. Overall, it’s not a bad album by any means, but MPLsound is (save for a couple gems) and Bria’s effort, Elixer is completely forgettable. As a three disc set, the compilation is just a tad overindulgent, but it does come cheap at Target if that’s any consolation.
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