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Funk - Released June 7, 2019 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Following the piano compositions from Piano & A Microphone 1983 released in 2018, we now have a second posthumous, princely album. Originals is centred around the 1981-1991 decade which was particularly prolific for Prince and so there is a beautiful unity throughout the album which mainly comprises of recordings of songs written for others. Rogers Nelson was first and foremost a very accomplished, versatile artist who could play all the instruments in Purple Rain just as well as he performed on stage, like his idol James Brown, for whom he composed numerous songs. He also composed songs for many other outstanding performers in the “Prince world” and among the fifteen tracks in this album are The Glamorous Life written for Sheila E, the Bangles’ Manic Monday, Martika’s Love Thy Will Be Done and You’re My Love for country crooner Kenny Rogers. With its priceless, unreleased tracks, Originals gives a sneak-peak behind the scenes of the studio in which this legendary icon produced some of the very best melodies and sang them with real panache, without really knowing what would become of them. The perfect example of this has to be Nothing Compares 2 U, the real emotional peak of this opus. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Funk - Released October 18, 2019 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Funk - Released November 20, 2001 | Legacy Recordings

Billed as Prince's most controversial album -- at least by his press agency and label -- upon its release in the fall of 2001, The Rainbow Children was arguably his most curious album to date, which isn't necessarily the same thing as controversial. It could have been controversial, that's for sure, given that it follows his conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses and that it trumpets his faith, over the most elastic, jazziest backing music he's made. If Prince hadn't marginalized himself through his record company battles, multi-disc sets, and botched superstar comebacks, this could have been genuinely controversial, since people would be paying attention to what he's doing. As of 2001, nobody outside of the diehards -- those who sign up for the Paisley Park subscription service and those that will seek out an album like The Rainbow Children, which was initially only available through the Internet -- was really paying enough attention to listen to this record, since they were the only ones to sit through the cascade of arcania he turned out after his liberation from Warner. Since they're so deeply immersed in this work, they would realize that musically The Rainbow Children is his most cohesive set since The Gold Experience, and the only one to really push past his traditional limits since then (which, admittedly, is still much more imaginative). And, you know, that's really too bad, because as a musical experience, this is pretty rich, demonstrating not just that Prince knows no borders, but that his music effortlessly mutates within the course of one song, perhaps drawing from his standard book of tricks -- jazz fusion, smooth soul, lite psychedelia, hard rock, and funk general weirdness -- but always sounding unpredictable and rewarding. It's too bad, then, that the very thing that inspired the album for its creator is what will turn off even those diehards that stuck with him this long, seeking out this album -- namely, its religious views. It's not that Prince has become a Jehovah's Witness -- any objective listener really wouldn't care -- but it's that his message doesn't support the music and doesn't fit with the sounds or the approach; it's hard to shut it out, not just because the words are so prominent, but because they're delivered in so many different voices (most distracting of all, the electronically altered basso profundo voice last heard on the decidedly secular "Bob George"), often in short, two-minute songs. This becomes a little overwhelming about halfway through, when the opera comes in on "Wedding Feast," reminding us that this is indeed a concept album, then delving into three eight-minute jams to conclude the record. It all winds up as a bit much, but it doesn't erase the musical facts: this is Prince at his most focused and rewarding in a long time, since Emancipation really. Too bad nobody outside of the diehards cares at this point. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Funk - Released March 29, 2004 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released March 29, 2004 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released March 17, 2014 | Epic

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Funk - Released January 1, 2003 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released December 12, 2015 | NPG Records

Following quickly on the heels of its companion, HITnRUN: Phase Two is more a complement to than a continuation of its predecessor. Prince ditches any of the lingering modern conveniences of HITnRUN: Phase One -- there's nary a suggestion of electronics and it's also surprisingly bereft of guitar pyrotechnics -- in favor of a streamlined, even subdued, soul album. Despite its stylistic coherence, Prince throws a few curve balls, tossing in a sly wink to "Kiss" on "Stare" and opening the album with "Baltimore," a Black Lives Matter protest anthem where his outrage is palpable even beneath the slow groove. That said, even the hardest-rocking tracks here -- that would be the glammy "Screwdriver," a track that would've been an outright guitar workout if cut with 3rdEyeGirl -- is more about the rhythm than the riff. Compared to the relative restlessness of HITnRUN: Phase One, not to mention the similarly rangy Art Official Age, this single-mindedness is initially overwhelming but like any good groove record, HITnRUN: Phase Two winds up working best over the long haul, providing elegant, supple mood music whose casualness plays in its favor. Prince isn't showing off, he's settling in, and there are considerable charms in hearing a master not trying so hard. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Funk - Released January 1, 1990 | Chrysalis Records

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Pop - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

When Sheila Escovedo started going by Sheila E. and soared to the top of the R&B charts with 1984's "The Glamorous Life," those who didn't know anything about her background assumed that she was just another Vanity or another Apollonia -- in other words, a sexploitive Prince disciple who was entertaining but had limited ability as a vocalist. It's true that the singer/drummer/percussionist doesn't have a great voice, but anyone who was hip to her work with Azteca, Pete Escovedo (her father), and George Duke knew that she was an excellent musician. As a drummer/percussionist, Escovedo has major chops -- and even though she doesn't have a mind-blowing vocal range, she has no problem getting her points across on her debut solo album, The Glamorous Life. Produced by Prince, this is one of the best albums that came out of the Purple One's Minneapolis funk-rock empire in the 1980s. The hit title song is a classic, and the same goes for the quirky, new wave-ish "Oliver's House," the Latin-tinged "The Belle of St. Mark," and the funky instrumental "Shortberry Strawcake." Although Prince's stamp is all over this LP, Escovedo did most of the writing herself. The Glamorous Life isn't the only excellent album that Escovedo provided in the 1980s, but it's definitely the most essential. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Funk - Released May 26, 2003 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released March 29, 2004 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released April 20, 2004 | Legacy Recordings

Prince's star faded not long after he won emancipation from Warner Brothers in 1995, as he abandoned the mainstream so he could follow his whims however he liked. Which meant that he effectively started making records for nobody but himself, whether that meant triple-disc collections of new material or an all-instrumental smooth jazz album, and in short order, his fans started dwindling away to nothing but the hardcore, who themselves had their patience tried by such antics as Prince suing his own fanzine in the late '90s. It seemed that he was fated to permanently wander in the wilderness, making music for an ever more selective audience, until he suddenly decided in 2004 that he wanted to be back in the game, returning to the spotlight with acclaimed performances at the Grammys and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, announcing an all-hits tour, and releasing Musicology, his first major-label distributed album in five years. This flurry of activity suggests that Prince is treating this as an opportunity for a full-fledged comeback and, thankfully, he's seized this moment and delivered a vastly entertaining record. Unlike everything he's done since leaving Warner, Musicology doesn't alienate listeners; it's tight and lean, weighing in at 12 tracks and 47 minutes, yet that's still enough room for Prince to showcase his virtuoso versatility. He tries a little everything -- down and dirty funk jams, slow sensual grooves, and, happily, he revives the psychedelic pop of the mid-'80s with the deliriously catchy "Cinnamon Girl" -- but unlike on such overworked albums as Emancipation and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, it never feels like an attempt to dazzle or a series of stylistic exercises. That's because there's a clarity to his production -- dense, but never busy, proving once again that he's about the only musician who can make a one-man band sound as vibrant as a live nine-piece group -- and a focus to his writing that hasn't been heard in a long, long time. At its core, Musicology is essentially classicist Prince, as he makes a deliberate decision to play to all of his greatest strengths, but because it's been so long that he's made a record this confident and concise, it doesn't sound like a retreat. It sounds as if he's rediscovered his muse, which is quite a bit different than simply following his whims. Make no mistake, this isn't the second coming of Purple Rain or Sign 'o' the Times or even Parade -- in other words, it's not a masterpiece, more like a more confident and consistent Diamonds and Pearls without the hip-hop fixation -- but it's a strong album, one that impresses on the first listen and gets better with repeated plays. In short, it's the comeback that it was meant to be. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Funk - Released April 19, 2019 | Legacy Recordings

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Funk - Released March 21, 2006 | Legacy Recordings

Musicology was a self-conscious comeback, a record designed to return Prince to the spotlight and the charts, and it worked: even if it spawned no big hits, the 2004 LP became his first album to crack the Billboard Top Ten since 1995's The Gold Experience, get a fair amount of radio play, and get a bunch of positive press, along with a well-received tour. Prince no longer seemed like an eccentric consigned to the fringes: he seemed like a savvy pro, reclaiming a reputation and respect that he'd lost. That he did it with an album that sounded uncannily like a deliberate return to classic Prince as performed by the New Power Generation was almost beside the point: it was enough that he sounded engaged, and that he made a focused, purposeful album. Its quickly delivered 2006 follow-up, 3121, proves that Musicology was no fluke. Like its predecessor, 3121 is tight and concise, offering 12 songs in 53 minutes, and it's classically structured, emphasizing shifting moods and textures between songs. It is an album, not a collection of songs, and you could even call it old-fashioned, but it feels fresher than Musicology, as if Prince had listened to enough Neptunes productions to understand how they've absorbed his music. That acknowledgement doesn't come often -- it's evident in the sly, sexy grooves of "Black Sweat" and the squealing synths of "Lolita" -- but since it's paired with an emphasis on dance tunes and a retreat from the enjoyable but endless NPG-styled vamping that characterized a good portion of Musicology, 3121 winds up sounding lively, varied, and, at its best, exciting. And at the beginning of the album, 3121 is quite exciting, as Prince revives his high-pitched alter ego Camille on the title track and dives head first into the electro-funk of "Lolita" and "Black Sweat," songs that recall such mid-period masterpieces as "Kiss" or "Sign 'O' the Times" without being rewrites. Nevertheless, the fact that the freshest sounding music here still has a direct line back to records Prince made 20 years prior is a good indication that the album, like Prince himself in the wake of hip-hop, is a little bit conservative, emphasizing funk of both the James Brown and George Clinton varieties, late-night slow jams, classic dance, and soul, instead of wrestling with modern music. While that may disappoint some listeners who yearn for the return of the trailblazing Prince of the '80s, when he reinvented himself with each record, it's hardly surprising that a 47-year-old musician is spending more time refining his palette than expanding it. What is a surprise is that Prince is in top form as both a writer and record-maker; perhaps the one-man-band nature of its recording doesn't mean the album is as gritty or raw as his reliably thrilling live performances, but 3121 crackles with excitement, filled with different sounds and styles. Best of all, this is filled with songs that hold their own as individual tunes, yet gel into a cohesive record that is thankfully devoid of an overarching concept, a problem that plagued his albums after Diamonds and Pearls. 3121 does fall short from being perfect -- there may be no bad songs, but the momentum slows ever so slightly on the second half -- yet it's something more valuable than being a one-off classic: it's proof that Prince has indeed returned as a vital, serious recording artist on his own terms. Maybe he's no longer breaking new ground, but his eccentricities are now an attribute, not a curse, which goes a long way in making his trademark blend of funk, pop, soul, and rock sound nearly as dazzling as it did at his popular and creative peak in the '80s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Funk - Released July 10, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Once again abandoning retailers for U.K. newspaper giveaways -- ever the eccentric, he’s the only artist who's seized upon this unconventional distribution method -- Prince continues his bold voyage into the past on 20Ten. Its title may celebrate the present but the music is all about the past, continuing the retro-shock of the MPLSound segment of 2009’s triple-disc set, reviving the synthetic funk of the pre-Purple Rain days while adding too heavy a dose of slow-burning grooves. The songs have more snap and polish than those on LotusFlow3r/MPLSound -- enough of a shape to be attractive from a distance, not enough to withstand closer scrutiny. Everything on 20Ten exists on the surface: hooks don’t sink in, funk jams are stuck in low gear, sensuality only simmers, the rhythms are somewhat stiff, and Prince’s deliberate mining of the past only highlights how he’s stripped the freakiness out of his entire persona. What’s left behind isn’t bad -- he is a master musician luxuriating in his comfort zone so naturally that there’s some pleasure to be had within 20Ten, but it’s a passive pleasure and one that is forgotten within a day, so perhaps it’s fitting that it was packaged with a newspaper. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

In 1985, a 25-year-old Sheila Escovedo, aka Sheila E., followed up her debut solo album, The Glamorous Life, with the equally Prince-influenced Romance 1600. The album cover found Escovedo and her band members sporting the attire of 17th century Europe, and the musicians were given such names as Dame Kelly, Benentino the Wizard, the Earl of Grey, and Sir Stephan. But once you get past the aristocratic imagery, Romance 1600 isn't much different from The Glamorous Life. Although Escovedo did most of the writing and producing herself, Prince's influence is strong throughout the album -- "Bedtime Story," "Sister Fate," and other selections all have that distinctive Minneapolis vibe. The only track that Prince co-wrote and co-produced with Escovedo is the funk gem "A Love Bizarre," which became a major hit and finds the two of them performing a vocal duet. As a vocalist, Escovedo never had Prince's range, but like Madonna and Janet Jackson, she demonstrates that singing can be meaningful even if the artist doesn't have the world's biggest voice. Although The Glamorous Life remains Escovedo's most essential album of the 1980s, Romance 1600 is a respectable follow-up and is also highly recommended to fans of Minneapolis funk-rock. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Funk - Released November 8, 2019 | Warner Records

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Funk - Released April 22, 2018 | Universal Music Australia Pty. Ltd.

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Funk - Released July 14, 2017 | OCA

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Prince in the magazine
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