Prince’s “The Gold Experience” Reviewed
Prince’s genius always lay in glam soul bubblegum and funk work outs, what it didn’t lay in, and blame “Purple Rain” for the mistake, was high concept. Whenever he tried to move his music out of the recorded or live performed medium, and into movies, videos, really anything else, it was if not a disappointment, a needless distraction.
1995’s The Gold Experience, Prince’s 17th and final album for Warner Brothers for nineteen years, is a fine collection of pop and funk songs, wrapped around what appears to be a “Girl 6’ type satire on telephone services (those 1 900#s), inviting you into Prince’s world: “You’ve just accessed the beautiful experience, this experience covers friendship, sex, commitment…” This is neither high nor low concept, it isn’t even a concept concept. It just interferes with the songs.
More is the pity because there is one first tier funky rock groove, “Shy” (“the lips say no but the body says might”), one big time ballad “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”, the smart as a tack “Dolphin” and more. Two really terrific funk workouts, “Pussy Control” and “Endorphinmachine” before a slow jam burner “Shhh” to kick things off. The level of craftsmanship here is astounding, “I Hate You” –his ode to WB, uses his falsetto as well as the best moments of Come, the start of “Endorphinmachine” is the single best moment on the album. Towards the end, there is a funky, handclapping, horn ringing “Billy Jack Bitch”, and closer “Gold” –a big time seven minute extravaganza… a real goodie.
I’ve heard Prince sing better on lesser albums than he does on The Gold Experience; he didn’t seem to be really pushing himself, he kept firmly in the middle of his vocal range, a few flights of soaring beauty notwithstanding. Instrumentally, it is all keyboards and guitar, even the sax is a little on the backburner. That means that the funk sounds like a second cousin to the rock, maybe more than on his last couple of albums and more than that, it means it was more commercial sounding than usual.
In effect, TGE was as generic a Prince album as you’ll find but in a good way. Nothing bad, nothing great (except maybe the keyboards on “Gold”) , everything down the middle and everything very good. The concept is an irritant because nothing holds the songs together conceptually except it is Prince so sex plus a little personal politics for taste. Nothing special but nothing bad Prince, and nothing special but 1995’s .