Inveterate legend Prince released his 29th studio album, Hit N Run Phase I on September 15th after an exclusive streamed release on Tidal. The album was produced by both Prince and Joshua Welton and performed with his band 3rd Eye Girl. Hit N Run follows his prior 2014 release Plectrumelectrum. The new release pleasantly presents Prince’s most experimental but familiar disc in years.
I don’t think anyone at this point can truly add or detract from the myth and man that is his royal purple majesty Prince. He has conquered the peaks of musical stardom and public controversy in his almost four decades in the music business. His various incarnations and bands are legendary and include a period where he went from being called by his mononym handle to an unpronounceable symbol and back again. He pioneered the “Minneapolis sound” and has been an innovator in the genres of R&B, Rock, Soul, Funk, Hip-hop, Disco, Psychedelic, Jazz and Pop.
Prince has kicked over the traces as a leader in bringing notice to the inequities of the music industries’ treatment of performers. He most recently won a personal battle with Warner Bros as he again signed with the record company after an acrimonious 18 year split, gaining his long sought after desire to own all of his master recordings with the contract. My editor would look askance if I delved into all the twists and turns of Prince’s lengthy career and there is not enough room to list the wide array of instruments Prince has mastered; suffice it to say the man is a legend in his own time. Producing such a wide array of music that there is something out there for every listener, from gospel tinged confessions to some of the most titillating erotica every put on tape. Love him or hate him the man is a force of nature who refuses to be ignored.
All of this brings me to his latest release, Hit N Run Phase 1 which might indicate a phase 2 should follow or possibly not depending on Prince’s future whims. Prince on this release returns to form inhabiting familiar characters; in turns sensualist, dreamer, humorous observer of the most recent forms of insanity and funk master. Many die hard fans are hoping for another enduring classic and time will tell if this fits the bill. The album goes back to go forward teasing old timers like myself with a snippet of the intro to Lets Go Crazy, as the song Million Dollar $ Show goes from zero to sixty in no time flat. It is a funk driven top 40 ready song. Prince shows off all his storied skills in getting the listener’s butt moving. He combines a psychedelic Alice in Wonderland aura with driving bass funk; making for an eclectic engaging start to the disc.
Shut This Down blasts the listener with electronica driven erotica, I would have personally liked the heavy bass line that is Prince’s musical signature to be in at the start of the track but it does kick in effectively at the 1 minute mark. The song is unmistakably Prince. Ain’t About to Stop features Rita Ora and is another funk electronica explosion. There is a more off kilter feel to this track but it is not outside Prince’s spectrum of sound. I don’t know if I like all the vocal distortion of the song which can get tiresome, but you can just imagine the spectacle this song is when performed live. The lyrics are also catchy with insights like, “if your life is a b side, your dream is the a side.”
Like a Mack again features a guest contributor, Curly Fryz. This tune is simply best described as funk, funk, funk and more funk with amazing signature Prince guitar riffs. This track should satisfy legacy fans. The song This Could Be Us is a return to some of the memorable sensual blush inducing songs of Prince’s early releases. Here find Prince’s falsetto and the bump and grind that he does so well; “Sex with us is not enough that is why we have to do it metaphysically.” You get the picture. X’s Face rolls right along following Like A Mack and is another funk fest more in tune with the album Sign of the Times. This song should be very familiar to those who loved the 1999 era sound with appropriate modern production updates added.
HARD ROCK LOVER is probably the most hardcore classic Prince song of the disc. Prince uses his guitar to make his intended target female scream. He proceeds to lay down some serious guitar licks. The song is erotic and sensual and best described as Prince in Viagra pill form. X’s Face and HARD ROCK LOVER are my personal favorites of the album simply because they are what I imagine hearing when I think of Prince’s music. On Mr. Nelson Prince breaks from the outright erotic funk fest of the prior few songs into a smoother electronic influenced track. The song speeds up halfway through to an interstellar dance track. This selection features Lianna La Havas and like with all the other featured performers, when their vocals are blended with Prince’s vocals it makes for a pleasantly aural experience.
1000 X’s and O’s is a sublime track about hardworking lovers and tough times. There is a fantastic R&B laced sound. The song stresses that love is more important than money or success, “I will give you a thousand reasons why you need to be home.” The final song, June is a trance like psychedelic song that is bittersweet as Prince enters a confessional stream of conscious mood. Here he is caught wishing to have been an artist during the heyday of R&B and Motown. “Sometimes I feel I was born too late, should have been born on the Woodstock Stage.” June is a great and unexpected revelation.
In many ways this album has Prince casting backwards into his bag of skills to move forward. The result is that many listeners are either going to dismiss this album out of hand or really enjoy it. To relate to the record you have to suspend your preconceptions and when you do, Prince delivers a stellar accompaniment to your party. Everyone needs a little Prince and this is a nice injection of electro funk that scratches that itch. Hit N Miss Phase 1 ranks up there with some of Prince’s most pleasurable and enjoyable discs to date.