Prince’s “The Love Symbol” Reviewed
How strange is that “3 Chains O’ Gold”? It is Prince meets the Delfonics meets Queen meets Puccini meets a prog rock superstar on the guitar: a bizarre melange near the edge of the album which harks to its rock soap opera (can’t make out the storyline but something to do with reincarnation of an Egyptian Prince as a Minneapolis unpronounceable ankh symbol gone off the deep end) origins, the song sounds great without being specifically great…. much like the army.
Prince’s album # 14 (or 15 of you include The Black Album, which I do) and his second and last album with the New Power Generation, generally considered his best backing band ever, especially drummer Michael Bland and percussionist Kirk Johnson, with one an anchor and the other lithe and on his stomach, fuel an album that is as terrific a funk out with forays just about everywhere but especially his royal badness white bubblegum jones. The two song opening, “My Name Is Prince” followed by “Sexy M.F.” and for the bubblegum fans, the top ten hit “7” is waiting long enough.
The year was 1992 and while (the artist formerly known as Prince) was going to war with Warner Brothers, it wasn’t Neil Young’s Trans, was not trying to lose fans and the album, despite annoying voice segues by Kirsty Alley and despite the serious length at 78 minutes, was the definition of a crowd pleaser, one first rate funk after another: “Love To The 9s”, “Max” -and that is four of the first five songs on the album.
The lyrics aren’t much, but Prince’s voice is excellent, he uses that falsetto to wonderful effect and if the ballads are second tier, as albums go this is about the fast dance tracks and they are great. It feels like a masterclass in funk, it leaves New Jack trembling in its wake and Funkadelic (not to mention whoever James Brown was working with) looking behind their shoulders.
Prince jumps through the usual genres, funk, soul, pop, some jazz inflections, his own personal rapper Tony M, Philly soul, and always the funk, always the workout. I’m sure you know the hits, but search out the gorgeous “Blue Light” -a lovers rock rhythm added to a pop melody that is the definition of ear candy.
But there is something missing and that is an intelligent and sustaining vision, and that wouldn’t matter except it seems to have one, it is a vision, it is part of a destructed rock opera, and the songs are intellectually wobbly and fragile.
It is a shame because I really wouldn’t have minded discovering how the entire album coalesced into a story, as it is there is a silliness Prince can’t jump over.
Not that I care THAT much.