Prince Delivers Four Instrumental Tracks, Each One 14 Minutes Long. Unbelieveable Packaging that is Designed to Mimic a Compass Opening Up to the Four Points. The Concept is that Information is Moving in all Directions Going to all Parts of the World. All Written, Produced and Directed by Prince and Recorded at Paisley Park Studios February 6, 2003.
Recorded in a single day at Paisley Park, Prince has confounded audiences yet again by recording a progressive jazz album with only four cuts--each named for a point on a compass--and clocking in at 14:00 minutes. If that wasnt enough, there isnt a single lyric on the almost hour-long disc. Like many before him, the musical savant has decided to let the music do the talking. But in Princes case it does so, brilliantly. He has fashioned a musical lattice of fascinating conversations that are both compelling and eccentric--veering from the anxious and menacing to the soothing and deeply rhythmic--at times conjuring the specters of Sun Ra
, at others, strangely Metallica
. Begun as a mere jam session among the latest members of NPG, Prince has made his most collaborative record ever as he mostly plays guitar and leads his deft-handed band from the One Nite Alone
tour into uncharted territory. They make seamless swings from "Norths" ambient cohesiveness--led masterfully by Rhonda Smiths liquid bass--to the almost head-banging lumbering beast of "East," into the smooth elegant jazz of "West," which freefalls from a sinuous rhythmic R&B groove into a majestic and almost funereal slice of brainy pomp rock, before scaling the slippery slope of space rock on "South." It would be tempting to say that this is Princes homage to his recently-deceased parents stint in the Prince Rogers Trio
, but it is far too forward sounding to only be a tribute. This is a brave step and it sounds remarkably like the future. --Jaan Uhelszki