ARJANWRITES.COM – The ever-elusive Prince is back with the release of the instrumental “N.E.W.S,” an acronym that refers to the album’s four 14-minute songs “North,” “East,” “West,” and “South.”
Once a member of pop culture’s elite, Prince has struggled to remain in the public eye and to stay relevant. After his success in the ’80s, the artist underwent a series of bizarre image transformations and public quarrels with his record label, creating a disconnect between his artistic instincts and commercial viability.
In recent years, Prince has chosen to unveil some of his new music exclusively on his NPGmusiclub.com Web site before making it available for purchase in record stores.
His latest effort features Prince on guitar and Fender Rhodes on electric piano, keyboards and percussion. He is joined by Renato Neto on piano and synthesizers, Rhonda Smith on bass, John Blackwell on drums and Eric Leeds on saxophone.
The songs are a departure from the artist’s previous funk rock. Instead, the album’s atmospheric jazz improvisations invoke memories of Prince’s longtime idols John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.
The record’s studio jamming and improvising shows off fine musical ability with Smith’s deep bass jolting and Blackwell’s climatic drum play. However, “N.E.W.S.” does not provide the sizzle we have come to expect and hope for from Prince.
The exception is a two-minute section of “East,” which lays out a playful groove that features a Middle Eastern ambience that includes powerful, fragmented guitar riffs.
Despite Prince’s successful record of experimentation, this record’s tame jazz grooves are simplistic and could easily be produced by any studio band warming up for the real thing. The artist once more does not show listeners much originality, again raising the question about his lack of direction.
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