Okay, let’s get this straight. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince will continue to release albums, some of them featuring early, unreleased material, under his former name on his old label, Warner Bros., while (Prince symbol appears here) will unleash his latest creations on his own NPG Records. Under normal circumstances, music is left in the can for good reason. But then, (Prince symbol appears here) isn’t exactly average, and neither, thankfully, is Come, the latest album attributed to, simply, Prince.
For one thing, Come (which announces ”Prince 1958-1993” on its cover) is a light, frothy throwaway, and it’s about time. Comprised of undated recordings (probably earlier this year) with a pared-down version of the New Power Generation, it sets aside confusing album concepts and instead re-creates the relaxed, moony-voiced musical pillow talk of his Dirty Mind era. But Come isn’t about nostalgia; ”Loose!” is a sure-handed shot at techno, and the title song, the album’s centerpiece, finds him merrily scatting and vamping (”you can always change your underwear”) over a comforter-soft horn arrangement that proves how skilled he’s become at intricate arrangements. Prince, or whomever, eventually weirds out as always, from a stark parental-abuse narrative, ”Papa,” to an exceedingly florid ballad cowritten with Broadway composer David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly). But its first half shows no one, er, does it better.
(Prince symbol appears here) also makes a few cameos as arranger and writer on 1-800-New Funk, a compilation of artists formerly known as Paisley Park contractees before that label collapsed last fall. The album amounts to unintentional evidence of why the company failed. Except for vets like Mavis Staples, none of the new blood, including his latest protegee, Mayte, distinguish themselves; they could just as well be secretaries and bodyguards at his compound. Knowing what we do about (Prince symbol appears here), they may just be. 1-800-New Funk: C+