Prince And The New Power Generation’s “Diamond And Pearls” Reviewed
1991 and album # 13 and forget the New Power Generation, a band aesthetic wasn’t so real with Prince, everybody was just session players by other names, and please please forget the awful rapping, not Prince but his sidekick Tony M -no rapper that guy, if Prince wanted to get with the zeitgeist he shoulda ponied up the dough and found a real rapper. But what Diamonds And Pearls was, was a great album and a real album, with four hit singles, lots of black and white mix and matches, and thirteen (aha) songs of consistent greatness.
In some way this is the most Prince-ly of Prince albums, except for the rap (and New Jack Swing), it is a timeless yet straightforward take, fifteen months after his last one, it isn’t a soundtrack, isn’t a quickie follow up to a shelved move, isn’t the greatest album of all time. There is no sexual politicising, it stands on its own two feet, with nothing between the singer and the songs.
In another way, it is majorly depressing, two years from now he would be writing Slave on his face and changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, on an album I remember as a bummer but haven’t returned to so I will wait and see next week how it stands up. But Diamonds And Pearls, a huge hit, was Prince as an everyman rock and roll god, it is as solid as a rock album, with great hit songs, “Gett Off” and “Cream” -the latter as genius a Marc Bolan rip as you will ever hear.
And then when you get in closer, “Thunder” is thunderous, “Diamonds And Pearls” (the stage names of two of his dancers) is glorious, and the two Rosie Gaines co-written songs are so good you will wonder why she never broke through (no, wait, I am keen to guess). All the funk workouts work, but “Push” has everything and a rotten rap…. I wish he had done a deluxe version with all the raps taken off, the way he did with “Cream” on Ultimate. What else? Did I mention “Money Don’t Matter 2 Nite”? One of the Rosie songs and killer. I wonder why he didn’t release “Insatiable” as a single…
Diamonds And Pearls is a future Prince chose to sidestep, where he could have released,smart, beautiful, brilliant albums every other year forever. It is an album where you don’t skip a song and while the critics weren’t crazy about it, it was crazy great. It was a job well done, its artistry is in its self-control, the way in which, for once, it was exactly what it was: a funk pop hybrid nobody else did because no one else knew how to do it. Listening to it today, I am surprised I only remembered the hits. This is a triumph.