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The re-crowning of Prince

Prince - 3121
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 17, 2006

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Although many had counted Prince down and out after changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol and releasing a string of commercial bombs throughout the late 1990s/early 2000s, he did sizzle back into the spotlight with 2004's Musicology. Much of that record's attention came from a supporting tour, which included copies distributed to fans who purchased a ticket, though it had several degrees of disappointment (including derivative beats and less than stellar arrangements). But whatever was lacking on that resurfacing of sorts is corrected on 3121, re-crowning the dance/pop Prince while gleefully throwing back to his 80s heyday.

The Purple One achieves the delicate equilibrium by recalling his roots, but also staying plugged into the current times to avoid resting on his laurels. The title cut is a scintillating example of how retro nuances can coexist with steamy club rhythms, while the Latin tinged single "Te Amo Corazon" explores an entirely new dimension of his royalness. "Black Sweat" has also found favor on radio, arguably the album's strongest selection thanks to its funk slapped sexiness that struts with soulful confidence. "Fury" could be considered the most overt old school reference, quite possibly fitting in with the Sign 'O' the Times sessions, but without the dated production values.

On the other hand, "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed" lands in a neo-soul landscape, featuring the innovator's latest protege Tamar, who sounds steamy to say the least. Its follow-up "The Dance" is the closest Prince comes to a sleeper, but its casual jazz flavor is at least spiced up with classy piano pounding. Luckily it ends on a bang with "Get On the Boat," a sax smacked excursion carried by the legendary wind of Maceo Parker that's sure to make James Brown proud. And for patience tried fans who've longed for their favorite artist to get back on track, 3121 is an expression they can be proud of, further igniting interest towards a rumored road trip likely to breathe additional life in this certified comeback.

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