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