4/5/09 Diamonds & Pearls

1) I realize this is my second post today, but somehow, I feel like I can’t help but do so. Not after this trip.
2) 4+5=9 …just realized that

When I go through the 90’s this time around, I’ll try not to diss the NPG so much. I know I’m partial to The Revolution, which by this point was so four years ago. In the end, I can see this particular band becoming the 2nd greatest band he’s had, tied with the “extended” Revolution line up (which included saxophones, trumpents and Jerome Benton with two other back-up dancers).

Except for a few high points (as in adrenaline-high), this album is probably one of those works good to chill out with on an weekend afternoon. (In my case, a Sunday evening). Through the whole thing, the vibe and tone is very subdued and relaxed.

“Thunder” begins the album on a high-note and this is one of those tracks where you see Prince’s genius come through. The story the lyrics tell us eludes to an awakening of consciousness, similar to or the same as the one from December 1987. We get the emergence of love (or through the transitive property, God– love is God, God is love, etc.), a shaking bed, possibly the devil in disguise, the coming and going of a seductress who gives the message “only the children born of me will remain.” Music is the legacy that he will leave behind.
Then we get “thunder” within the clashing keyboards and synthesizers that make up the rest of the song. It could be a battle between good & evil, as I had mentioned some time ago and I can leave it at that. But the way this whole battle is orchestrated, every note is precisely where it should be, does what its meant to do. Only a person who knows the words spoken by the music could paint such a picture. Since this is story he knows so well, this was a solo project with all of the vocals and instruments belonging to him.

“Daddy Pop” involves the embracement of a positive attitude no matter what the critics/nay-sayers try to communicate. Although the vocals for the NPG members were recorded separately, this introduces the band as a funky group that wants to spread positivity and downsize negativity because it gets in the way of living a full and happy life.

“Diamonds & Pearls,” as always, is beautiful. The melody played through this song is the combination of the high end of one keyboard, the low end of another and the subtle beating of dreams from Michael Bland. I suppose it could be dismissed as elevator music until we get to the climax where horns and electric guitar are introduced for a short period. But that portion turns this into somewhat of a theatrical work. The last verse is full of promises for whoever the audience is (one person or a group of them or everybody) about blowing your mind, finding everything you look for and you’ll be color-blind from everything that shines. Whether or not he’s entailing that HE’LL be the one who causes all of these things to happen, I’m not entirely sure.
It’s a wonderful duet between him and Rosie Gaines because they play off each other so well. He goes with the baritone range or even bass, which he rarely uses and she goes as far as high soprano towards the end.

“Cream,” like so many other songs here, is good to sing along with. The lyrics are catchy and easy to remember. The funny thing with this one is the number of unusual instruments in the background that make this unique and I can’t pinpoint what any of them are (except for the organ and drums, obviously).

“Strollin'” is more like elevator music than “Diamonds & Pearls,” as I mentioned earlier. It stays on one level the whole time, has a steady and relaxed pace and a nice set of staccato falsetto vocals from Prince. It goes to show that even he believes its good to take a time out from work every once in a while to have time for yourself.

“Willing & Able” has some promise as a song thanks to how the beat is somewhat accelerated halfway through and the back-up vocals from the Steeles and Rosie Gaines. Subject-wise, this song is nothing more than Prince saying that he’s got his eye on somebody and he’s opened himself up to them. Looking at where he is now, its funny he should say he’s “feeling kinda stale.” Stale at age 31? What are you gonna do when you reach 50 and are still unattached? (That’s something he’s still figuring out apparently, but seems to be doing perfectly fine on his own).

“Gett off” is unique so many ways. It fits in with some of the other R&B/rap type tracks on the album, but not so much with everything else. We get a little more of an electric guitar here, Eric Leeds makes a guest appearance with a flute and the percussion sounds like something from a garage band. Very polished garage band. The lyrics leave nothing to the imagination because it’s all set up in front of you.
I get the feeling that I shouldn’t be having quite as much fun singing with this as I do… outrageously filthy lyrics… but I’m beyond the point where they gave me trouble.

“Walk, Don’t Walk” is another track promoting positvity, not listening to what others want you to do. This makes me think of an interview I read where Prince said during the last 2 albums, he spent a lot of time keeping to himself and wanted to put himself out there more. With this album, he seems to be doing that, letting his band take care of a lot of things for him (back-up vocals and instruments included). I don’t think he fully embraced this until recently with his recent JW conversion and he moved out to LA to be around people like him. I guess he won’t be returning to Paisley Park for a while then…

Not seeming to care either way, I listened to the album in its entirity. I still don’t get the idea behind “Jughead.” I realized coming into it that this was another one of those dances Prince was trying to teach us… this one didn’t work out, I believe. I suppose this is about “dancing like the idiot you are.” I don’t believe the message (if there was one) comes through until the conversion between Steve Farnogli and Tony. The whole business about not needing managers because they’re blood-suckers, taking money from your albums even years after the contract is up.
And this all happens a couple of years before the famous record label battle.

“Money don’t matter 2night” is still very sound, very classy, very subdued and just amazing. The beat is soft enough so you can just hear it and the lyrics get heard so they can be understood. The back-up vocals here are AMAZING, making this one of the best on the album. Funny as it sounds, it seems like its becoming more valid every year with the state of the economy and such.

We moved from insanity with “Jughead” to reality with this song… now we’re back to upbeat dancing with slightly less insanity in “Push.” Here, positivity is being promoted once again. Not letting anyone else get you down and asking why people try to bring others down in the first place. Each member of the NPG that has lead vocals on this album has their say here whether its looking at the big picture or talking about their views from their experiences.

“Insatiable” is an updated and more personal version of “Do me baby,” which was released on Controversy 10 years ago. Again, this is a solo production to get in touch with the emotions needed for this to be beliveable and for other people to respond to it. In an odd way, it sounds like he’s talking about making a personal sex tape if you look into the lyrics, but he approaches it in a delicate way. This whole album has been beautiful, this track included.

“Live 4 Love,” I always look forward to towards the end. The overall message is: “live 4 love, w/o love u don’t live.” Through the whole song, Prince asks how he can live for love when everything around him is going wrong and gets in touch with his conscience (personified by Tony) to find the answers he seeks. This is the sole effort of Prince proving what an amazing guitarist he is because he makes it do so much.
Given the plane metaphor (final words from the cockpit… is part of the song’s title), it sounds the plane is fighting all kinds of opposition. When the plane gets “hit” during the song halfway through, the guitar makes it sound like its out of control and any pilot would be shouting “mayday” rather than giving one last speech. When the back-up singers start singing “live 4 love” after Tony’s rap, you hear the guitar savor the moment as if it found that something was going right.
During the last minute of the song, you can hear it “rise” and “fall” in the sky as it tries to stabilize under pressure. Then it slowly comes down for a landing and when the drums are played, that’s when it lands and is coming to a stop.

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