Soul

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Polly Coufos

Hit N Run Phase Two Prince NPG Records

Orig­i­nally avail­able only in dig­i­tal for­mats, Hit N Run Phase Two was pressed and given away to at­ten­dees of the Aus­tralian leg of Prince’s Pi­ano and a Mi­cro­phone tour. The ti­tle says much about the tour and the way it was an­nounced and per­formed in a mat­ter of weeks. It was a great way to bring at­ten­tion to a new al­bum, but some­where in the midst of the hul­la­baloo the mu­sic got over­looked.

More than any­thing Hit N Run Phase Two (Phase One was re­leased last year) sounds like a man with some­thing to prove. He cer­tainly hasn’t ap­peared to be try­ing so hard to im­press since Pur­ple Rain. If there were any ques­tions about the 57-year-old’s abil­i­ties to match his hey­day they are an­swered time and again. This is the al­bum fans have been wait­ing for since at least 2004’s Mu­si­col­ogy and maybe much longer.

When he’s on best form, as he is on al­most ev­ery­thing here, it seems so ef­fort­less. Each song is crammed with ideas. It’s a dizzy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where pop hooks vie for at­ten­tion with funky bass, horn lines, massed back­ing vo­cals and lash­ings of the Pur­ple One’s gui­tar. None get in the other’s way. The cred­its don’t make it clear who is play­ing what and how much the New Power Gen­er­a­tion con­trib­uted but whether there are 10 play­ers or they are per­formed by a one­man band the re­sults are stun­ning.

He re­vis­its a cou­ple of his most fa­mous licks in Rock­n­roll Loveaf­fair and Stare. The lat­ter also con­tains a nod to some ques­tion­able gear of yes­ter­year when he re­calls when “we used to go on stage in our un­der­wear”. He may be dress­ing more con­ser­va­tively th­ese days but When She Comes and Screw­driver shows he main­tains his di­rect ap­proach to writ­ing about sex.

It’s not all so play­ful. The ar­rest­ing Bal­ti­more is Prince’s re­sponse to the deaths of Michael Brown and Fred­die Gray and the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. The chant “if there ain’t no jus­tice, there ain’t no peace” states his feel­ings clearly. He has cre­ated a clas­sic 1970s soul sound, in­clud­ing a siz­zling string sec­tion, that harks back to the time of the civil rights move­ment. Like the al­bum, Bal­ti­more speaks of the time­less­ness of the man’s mu­sic. Who knew he had an­other stone clas­sic in him?

BAL­TI­MORE IS PRINCE’S RE­SPONSE TO THE DEATHS OF MICHAEL BROWN AND FRED­DIE GRAY

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