Prince-The Hits/ The B Sides
Paisley Park/Warner Brothers
When they write the big book on pop music, there will no doubt be a distinction made between successful performers and those who actually innovated. The new Prince album, The Hits/The B-Sides, shows that Prince will qualify on both accounts. While he often appears easily dismissable because of his sexual egoism, commercial bent and (let's face it) the Batdance episode, Prince has made many incredible musical statements. This album contains the songs that a generation has grown up with, and songs which push the limits of dance pop, electronic funk and censorship.
Rumors of his retirement not withstanding, what better way to demonstrate the last 15 years' achievement than a greatest hits retrospective?
This album delivers precisely what it promises: nearly every major hit on two discs, along with 20 B-sides. For the diehard fan, it is the third disc of singles that will be worth checking out. But there's a catch; while discs one and two are available separately, you can only get the third by buying the whole set. That said, it is still an excellent compilation, especially for the less-knowledgeable fan.
This album really is an excellent overview of Prince's entire career, reintroducing listeners to the music that they grew up with in the eighties. It also demonstrates Prince's ability to change his sound, his themes (although he never gets more than a few verses away from a reference to sex) and still permeate each track with his musical and emotional personality in a manner that invites comparisons to the late Miles Davis. Both men's music is characterized by a vision of diversity and immediacy which rarely sacrifices quality.
The Hits are precisely that--everything you remember from "When Doves Cry", and "Little Red Corvette" up until the recent "Diamonds and Pearls" and "7". And for the uninitiated there are the pleasant surprises, reclaimed versions of two Prince-penned tunes--"Nothing Compares 2 U" and "I Feel For You" (Remember Chaka Khan?).
The album reveals several striking things about Prince's career. Musically, many of the earlier songs reveal that Prince could not escape the banal rhythms of early-eighties pop. On the one hand there is the almost Van Halenesque synth and sequencer bass of "Dirty Mind" (and the groove on "1999" sounds suspiciously like "Jump".) The other early sound is the still-lingering presence of disco. Prince often verged on club music, but his best work owes more to other commercial styles like hip hop, funk and even rock. And just when the sound of drum machines and synthesizers starts to become tiresome on this album, tracks such as "Sexy M.F." and "Power Fantastic" show how Prince rescued himself by the addition of a horn section, more vocals and live drums-all elements that would have been apparent to any fans who caught a Prince show live, especially a club date.
For those thirsting for new material, the third disc should satisfy that urge. If your urges extend beyond simple musical desires, obscure tunes such as "I Love U in Me," and "Scarlet Pussy" leave little to the imagination. Somewhere in Prince's songs there are real lyrics floating around, but rather than try to unearth them, enjoy yourself by listening to all of the manifold ways in which he manages to express sexual desire as well as to well, express it. And although the album's tracks progress in no particular order, the extensive liner notes provide a useful play-by-play of Prince's recording history.
The Hits/The B-Sides ultimately is a great album to own, for the novice as well as the experienced Prince listener. Strangers to the Paisley Temple will enjoy good pop and dance tunes that testify to Prince's versatile songwriting abilities and original ensemble work. Old fans will enjoy picking out the subtle developments in Prince's music. Let's see what the next 15 years bring.
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