Like millions of others, I (broke the habit of a lifetime and) bought The Mail on Sunday yesterday... for the one-and-only reason that contained within its plastic wrapper was the new CD by the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince... a.k.a. Prince.
I've never been a massive Prince fan, but I must admit he wrote some pretty damn good songs back in the 80s - 'Sign o' the Times', 'I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man', 'The Cross', 'Alphabet Street' and 'When Doves Cry' to name just a few.
Since those halcyon days however, Prince's career has gone a bit tits-up. Personally, I'd say that the turning point was around the time that he did the soundtrack for one of those shitty Batman movies. But nonetheless, I've still got enough respect for his back catalogue to be interested in what he's getting up to nowadays.
Particularly as it's free anyway... Well, not free exactly, because I wouldn't normally buy the Mail on Sunday, so it effectively cost me £1.40.
And yes, as expected, the whole newspaper-giveaway thing has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. There was 'fury' reported among music retailers - I would guess that this isn't so much because of the loss of profits from this particular album (Prince not being a huge seller these days), but more because of the precedent it sets for others who may want to follow suit. Hey, this is the modern way, I reckon. Adapt or die. Downloads and file-sharing should be teaching retailers that little lesson.
Back to the actual music... My verdict is that it's OK...ish.
Although bookended by a couple of worthy songs about the ecological disaster facing the world, the lyrical preoccupation of most of Planet Earth is - not surprisingly - women. And this is fine by me. The fairer sex have been a reliable muse for Prince over the years; plus, I reckon that listening to too many songs about our imminent destruction would start to bum me out after a while.
Prince's voice remains as distinctive as ever, and there are also couple of tracks showcasing some pretty tasty guitar licks too (presumably his)... but ultimately the music - as it shifts from slow jam to uptempo funky workout and back again - is rather undistinguished and (most damningly of all) easy-listening.
I must confess that when I was trying to think of adjectives with which to describe this CD, the word "inoffensive" kept popping into my head...
And, for the creator of Sign o' the Times, this is more than a little sad.