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Prince’s “Lotusflower” Reviewed

2009’s Lotusflower is Prince’s 36th release and how you feel about it will set you straight for the final record releases of his life. The triple album (though I will only discuss two of the three because the third doesn’t feature Prince) has sexiness and groove, it sounds awesome and may well be his best album album ever. But what it doesn’t have is songs and the proof is a cover of “Crimson And Clover” that stands up to Tommy James and the Shondells original and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts take –all three versions are just terrific and Prince is right there with it, he gives a soft psychedelic bubblegum gloss that erupts into fire and brimstone guitar sparks… you know what I mean, his Hendrix impression. Of the other 20 songs (I won’t be reviewing Bria Valente’s third album of the triple), it all sounds good and the Prince that we were seeing on stage around this time is well represented. “Chocolate Box” is one of his better forays into hip hop (Q-Tip is featured), “Dreamer” isn’t borderline metal, it is really metal, and throughout Prince jumps on groove on track after track, and rides em cowboy. “Valentina” sounds like macarina. The verse off “Wild Thing” is a highlight. The ballads drag, the cutesiness nauseates (I’m looking at you $), and the jazz sucks. The performanes aren’t the problems. The songs are. Neither album is much better than the other one, I guess album two mplsound is the weirder of the two.

By 2009 there was no way round it: Prince had lost the gift entirely, crossover pop and funk were beyond his skills and the song quality was resolutely terrible and with the exception of a song here and a song there, it was over. Prince had become what he would remain: one of the great live performers, a funk maestro equal to the best of Funkadelic, mentionable in the same breathe as Sly stone, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, and Michael Jackson: a superstar he strode through pop music like a Black Bowie, or a white James brown, he crossed and crossed again sexual and racial barriers almost at will. But by 2009 his recorded output was not good enough.

Going through Prince’s albums can be a little upsetting. For all his take on slavery and recording for major labels, the Warner brothers albums were superior to the NPG albums, Prince’s entire legacy can’t be heard on a Lotusflower, despite his obvious greatness. But the Jehovah’s Witness Paisley Park master of ceremonies forgot how to write great pop songs, he could work out a bassline and groove it into the light fantastic but there was no “Dirty Mind” or “Kiss” or… you choose one, left in his arsenal, he couldn’t do it when he tried, and he didn’t do it when he didn’t try. What Prince seemed to want to do in 2009 is invite some friends to the Park and jam on a hard dance track or doodle on a jazz sound for hours and hours. That’s cool but it isn’t song.

Grade: C+

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