Prince’s “Xpectation” Reviewed
Let’s go along with the cognizant who are impressed with the effort on Prince’s 2003 27th release, Xpectation, an instrumental jazz album that fails in its attempt to… do what? Be an instrumental jazz album? Well, not so much experimental as derivative but, yes, it does do that. But what else? A way to expand his musical palate through his NPG Music Club, who were given it New Year’s Day (it was never officially released)? Well, it does that as well. Perhaps even this was Prince spreading his wings in the face of his Warner Brothers years, assessing and accepting the freedom to do quite anything he damn well pleases… and it does that.
But use the usual litmus test for these kinda things, if it was not Prince would you listen to it? Maybe, if it was playing in the background, but you could follow There’s A Riot Going On with Sign O’ The Times, and you couldn’t follow Bitches Brew with Xpectation, it just isn’t good enough. Remember when Michael Jordan decided to become a baseball player? That’s what this is like, Prince has the skills for jazz undoubtedly, and even manages to add more groove than we are used to towards the end It is admirable that Prince was using his freedom from major label interference to expand his horizon, yet from the silly use of one name beginning with a compounded “x”- avariant on princes endlessly irritating “eye” and “u”, to the slow fuse jazz sleepers that litter the album, there was no reason to bother. Not that it matters because the names mean nothing whatsoever.
If the first two songs, “Xhalation” and “Xcogitate” are borderline ambient snoozers, like getting stuck in an elevator while they pipe in music to keep you calmer than the carpenters could. After that the proceedings become jazzier and smooth: he should have piped in the sound of cutlery crashing and glasses tinkling because this is the definition of supper club music. It ranges forward from be-bop but doesn’t quite arrive, and while the horns are more virtuoso than the average jazz band for sure, the average jazz band at a restaurant are covering “Take Five” and nothing here compares.
I guess this is a genre exercise but it doesn’t really add Prince’s voice to that of the genre. There seems to be no reason for it, and it is hard to recommend it…except for the final track, “Xpedition” Finally, Prince takes off the gloves and performs a loud and energetic bopper: the track actually swings and the sax is a psud-Davis hard track with everything running at full steam, when it explodes it hints at what Prince could’ve done with jazz if he was interested enough. In my imaginary post-WB Prince greatest hits album, I could fit it in.